To Great Western, rissoles and bubbles

Day 8 Monday 7/2/22, Avoca to Great Western, hot 31

Last night The Prado’s were worried that their hot water service was giving problems. Later Elle noticed that the fridge was leaking water. This morning the stove wouldn’t light…uh oh the gas bottle was empty. As Elle said, “Like hello”. And then as we drive off The Prado’s tell us that I’ve left the roof hatch open. You’d reckon we were new to this caper wouldn’t you?

It’s a lovely drive through the hamlets of Amphitheatre and Elmhurst to Ararat, acres of wheatfields and old volcanoes. We grab a few necessities at Aldi in Ararat which kindly provides caravan parking on the road out front.

Westwards we go again to the little town with a big name, Great Western. This time we don’t see the town as we turn off beforehand to the racecourse and recreation reserve which is located behind Seppelts Great Western cellars. Great Western made the news only a few weeks ago when 20 cars were burnt in a fire at the annual race day. We pull in and two charred cars are on our left. We wait for volunteer Wendy to drop in and show us the ropes. There are some good sites with power and water is only a gallop away. We have a shady spot with views across the straight to the Grampians/ Gariwerd. Then we stuff around a lot, as we always do when there’s a choice of sites, even parking too far from the power box.

The aftermath of the Great Western race meeting, crikey I’m glad we weren’t here for that.
The microwave might work if we move a little closer to the power box

After gulping down a quick lunch we toddle through the back gate and into Seppelts winery. We were here in 2019 on our ‘Up the Guts’ trip to Darwin which ended in disaster when the car blew its engine a day later and nowhere near Darwin. As we walk in the cellar door we realise that we have only one mask between the 3 of us. Woody, being the fit one scampers back to the van to grab a few spares.

The tour is brilliant, but it is disappointing to learn that they no longer process or store wines here, all that is done in South Australia. Boardroom decisions no longer involve passion, romance or history it seems. Seppelts Great Western is synonymous with sparkling wines and the underground cellars or drives as they are known were dug by gold miners. The winery has been here since 1865 when it was established by Best brothers. These days Best Wines are known for their vineyard on the other side of town. Without going into a lot of who bought what and when history, the business at one time was owned by Hans Irvine who employed Charles Pierlot a winemaker from the House of Pommery to produce champagne-style wines. Thus, it was here in 1890 that Australian drinking history was to become unique. The drives were extended to 3 kilometres but they weren’t growing the right grapes for ‘champagne’. Pierlot experimented with the shiraz grapes on hand instead and the rest was history. Oh, thank you Charles Pierlot for creating a foaming drop that just screams ‘Christmas in Summer’. Seppelts as it later became known went on to become a household name for sparkling wines both white and red.

View down one of the drives an old ‘champagne’ shaker table on the left
pick marks in the roof of the cellars
Harmless mould on the stored wine bottles
The Brandy Nook, locked private collections, elegance and an earthen floor

At happy hour we just have to crack open a sparkling shiraz. We cook rissoles in the evening and kangaroos come down to graze on the green grass of the racetrack.

Thank goodness the rissoles were beef!

Accom: $10.00

Towing Kms: 79kms

Footnote: Many years ago, before drink driving laws, we toured the Great Western drives. The winery was in full production and the wine bottles were turned regularly in a process called riddling. The after-tour tasting involved emptying all open bottles before closing time and was followed by sleeping it off in a canvas tent, a duck being shot and a woefully bad cook who forgot to remove the buckshot from the bird but I’ll leave that story for another day.

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