Sunday, 11 March 2018

There's gold in them there hills ... or in them there plains.

On Friday night, the Great Dane and I went to a wine tasting night at Wedderburn.

'Where on earth is Wedderburn?' I hear you ask.

Good question.

It's north-west of Bendigo. 
About a thousand miles through desert and prickly pears and ghost towns and tumbleweed.

Just kidding. 

But it's a bit of a hike from where we live, so not the sort of place you just scoot over to, like you might just scoot down to the neighbour's dam to catch a yabby or two for dinner. 
From Bendigo, you have to drive for an hour.
And you do travel through some very dry, flat terrain and pass a paddock full of prickly pears - so I'm not getting totally carried away,  just because I know that I'm protected by the Poetic Licence Act of 2018.***

But it's worth the drive.
Wedderburn, although a tiny town with just 660 residents, has spades of charm.
Gold rush charm. 
Shops with verandas.
Wobbly old timber houses.
Red brick cottages.
A Methodist church that is only marginally bigger than an outhouse  but built so sturdily that it could withstand fire, flood, tornado and earthquake - all at once.
Main street, Wedderburn.
Picture-postcard pretty.
Furthermore, there are places to dine, places to sleep, a beautiful swimming pool, a shady green park and shops. Between the supermarket and the hardware store alone you can  purchase everything you need to wet your whistle, fill your belly, trim your toenails, mark your lambs and build and decorate a house. (Our good friends Jenni and Leigh own the supermarket and hardware store, so I have to give it a plug! And my claim to fame is that I painted the orange poles in Wedderburn Hardware - so make sure you take time to appreciate the fine brushwork if you do go in to buy your lamb-marking rings.)

ALL your  needs met in two great stores!

In short, Wedderburn is the duck's guts.
And, for me, it felt a little bit like home, being so very much like the little country town in NSW in which I grew up.

The wine tasting, however, hit a whole new high.
The Wedderburn Wine Tasting was the duck's guts with bells on.
Set in the Senior Citizen's Hall, there were four local wine producers, one beer brewing couple, one dog and approximately fifty tasters.
I met locals and ring-ins. 
And everyone was delightfully friendly. 
Especially the dog. He almost wore a hole in the floor with his tail-wagging.
It was incredible to step into a new venue and instantly feel such warmth.

But what I loved most of all was that everyone seemed to have a  story to tell. A great story. Not a yawner in earshot!
And, of course, being a writer, I'm a sucker for a yarn.

For the wine growers, it wasn't just about the wine but the story of the wine and the vines and the family and, in one case, the dog.

The story behind Burnt Acres you can probably guess - the first harvest ... a primitive barbeque lit between the vines, ready for cooking the lunchtime sausage sangas ... a bit of a breeze ... AAAAH! 
There were tales of naive young couples in love with each other and the idea of producing their own wine, grape growing deals struck over casual dinners, and trips to the Trappist breweries of Belgium and the wineries of Provence.

I chatted with a lovely local who had just been to Finland. She'd met, for the very first time, a woman who had been her penfriend for more than thirty years. And it had felt like meeting a long lost sister. How wonderful!

But my favourite story was the one behind the group of eight middle-aged men. 
These guys were all dressed alike - in high-vis-yellow bucket hats  and T-shirts with a skull on the front. 
They called themselves The Darkside. 
And, yet, they looked like the sweetest group of men you'd ever see. 

Drawn to their warmth and jollity, and the idea that they might have been family rather than a club group, I went over to say hello. 
I mean, who wouldn't want to know the story behind a family who called themselves The Darkside? 
There'd be a novel in there, surely!

Turns out, The Darkside are a group of metal detector enthusiasts. (I didn't see that one coming!) They found each other through an online forum for people who  share a passion for running around the countryside with their metal detectors, looking for gold. Or, sometimes - as in the case of Wedderburn Detectors' Jamboree - they run around paddocks searching for  metal discs that have been buried by competition organisers. The one who finds the most discs is the winner. 


I love meeting enthusiasts and hearing them speak about their passion, whatever it may be - train modelling, chocolate making, rock climbing, poetry writing, poodle grooming ...
Passion is inspiring.

But these guys were extra special, because their passion had led them to become such a close and caring group of friends. So much so that, when one of their number became desperately ill, they all travelled to his bedside - from Geelong, Melbourne, regional Victoria and South Australia, to cheer him up. The patient made the grim joke that they'd come from the dark side and so the name was born - a scary tag for a warm and wonderful group of friends.

So there you have it!
Wedderburn Wine Tasting turned out to be a place as rich in tipples, friendship and great stories as the town used to be in gold.
If you find yourself looking for something to do next year on the Friday night of the Labour Day Weekend , head out to Wedderburn Senior Citizen's Hall.
There's gold in them there hills ... or, at least, in them there plains ... and in that there Senior Citizen's Hall!

The Great Dane and me with our friends Jenni
and Leigh - at the 2018 Wedderburn Wine Tasting.

*** Okay, so there is no Poetic Licence Act of 2018. I'm just saying that because I know I'm protected by the Bare-faced Lying in the Name  of a Good Story Act of 1987.

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