Frolic with an arty playmate

Meme Thorne and her personalized license plate near Willunga, South Australia.

I met Mémé my first week in Willunga. It was an opening for Aboriginal artist Gavin Wanganeen at Willunga Gallery, mounted at Hardy’s Tintara Cellar Door (winery).

Mémé Thorne is a well-established actor in Australia. She’s also an arts enthusiast, and at the Wanganeen opening she promised she’d introduce me to life in the area once she got back from a hiking expedition in Asia.

New Year’s Day I received a text from Mémé. She wanted to know if I was ready to visit some winery cellar doors to ring in the new year? I said Yes and she arrived in 15 minutes.

Magpie Springs and Small World

I climbed into Mémé’s custom-plated Honda and we headed to Avril Thomas’s Magpie Springs. Avril made us coffee and opened the gallery space just for us. It’s currently exhibiting Small World, a collection of 240 postcard-sized works by 200 artists from around the world. The show closes January 15, 2017.

Small World, curated by Avril Thomas, owner owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia.
Small World, curated by Avril Thomas, owner owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia.

The works are an even mix of local and international artists working in water colours, oil, acrylic, pencil, mixed media, and other media. It includes a beautiful piece by Avril Thomas, herself a portrait artist.

Paradox, a portrait by Avril Thomas, curator of Small World and owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia. )
Paradox, a 4×6-inch portrait by Avril Thomas, curator of Small World and owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia.

Avril toured Mémé and me around the property, including her studio. There she showed us all the envelopes that the small works arrived in, including a stamp-covered envelope from the USA.

Avril Thomas, curator of Small World and owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia.
Avril Thomas, curator of Small World and owner of Magpie Springs in Willunga, South Australia.

Magpie Spring’s cellar door was not open for business, but Avril did show us a surprise in the corner of the property: an impressive bouldering/climbing wall. I used to live with a climber, and Devin would have been smacking his lips at this wall.

Climbing and bouldering wall at Magpie Springs near McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Climbing and bouldering wall at Magpie Springs near McLaren Vale, South Australia.

K1 Geoff Hardy Wines and D’Arenberg

We did a sticky beak at nearby the K1 Geoff Hardy Wines cellar door but they were closed for New Year’s Day.

“I want to see the Cube,” Mémé enthused as she steered her car north on Olivers Road. “I’m hoping it might be open by now.”

The D’Arenberg Cube is a radical structure that D’Arenberg Winery has almost completed. It sits atop acres of vineyards and it looks like a Rubik’s Cube, mid-roll. Adelaide’s InDaily.com.au calls it a “Willy Wonka’s Wine Factory.”

The Cube, a venue structure at D'Arenberg cellar door and winery near McLaren Vale, South Australia.
The Cube, a venue structure at D’Arenberg cellar door and winery near McLaren Vale, South Australia.

D’Arenberg wasn’t open either, but Mémé recommended I return there with someone willing to buy me a posh lunch.

Coriole Vineyards and Samuel’s Gorge

We had better luck at our next two stops. Coriole Vineyards‘ terrace restaurant was hopping and I was able to catch a few tastes of Coriole’s rosé and Fiano—an Italian-style white wine I hadn’t heard of before.

Coriole Cellar Door winery in McLaren Vale area, South Australia.
Coriole Cellar Door winery in McLaren Vale area, South Australia.

A few vineyards over, we parked under a tree at Samuel’s Gorge winery, named for the serpentine Onkaparinga Gorge that it perches over. It was busy here too, but I managed to sample a few reds including their Grenache, Tempranillo, and Mourverdre.

Staff pouring tastings at Samuel's Gorge cellar door and wintery in McLaren Vale area, South Australia.
Staff pouring tastings at Samuel’s Gorge cellar door and winery in McLaren Vale area, South Australia.

Red Poles (Brick Kiln Shiraz)

Ready for a snack to accompany our next tasting, Mémé and I rounded off the day with a garden table at Red Poles (Brick Kiln Shiraz). It’s a woody, funky, relaxed place with cheese and paté platters and a very tasty sparkling Shiraz.

Ulrike and Meme at Red Polles winery near McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Ulrike and Meme at Red Polles winery near McLaren Vale, South Australia.

As we chatted and chewed, Leith from a nearby table came over to say hello. He introduced himself as the Willunga Postmaster and said he and his partner Sue lived in Willunga’s old Post Office and Telegraph building. He invited Mémé and me for coffee the next morning and we gladly accepted.

The next morning that coffee date would lead us to more sparkling wine, homemade quince jam, a ride on a Harley-Davidson, and a gift of a nine-foot snake skin

(View these wineries on a map.)

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