Whenever I go away on an overnight walk I always thoroughly research where I’m going. I read track notes, blogs, the weather bureau’s website, so I’m prepared as much as possible for any eventuality.
But for the recent Queen’s Birthday long weekend I didn’t think to apply my usual practice – unfortunately.
My fiancée and I rarely get a long weekend off together so when we learnt we both had the time off we made a snap decision to head to Beechworth, in northern Victoria to explore and sample the area’s wineries, especially at nearby Rutherglen, famous for its ports and muscats and durifs.
But when we got there, we learned that Rutherglen held its Winery Walkabout event on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. We were totally unprepared for it. Thousands of people in buses and cars descend on the wineries, with many dressing up in costumes – superheroes, animals or Wally of “Where’s Wally” fame – to guzzle their way around the cellar doors. While we had no problem with that, what we were shocked by was being turned away from some cellar doors because we weren’t part of the Walkabout.
To join the Walkabout you had to buy a special glass for $25. But my fiancée and I didn’t want to do that because we only wanted to sample a few wines at a few wineries. We didn’t want to drink as much as we could and get smashed as it was obvious many on the Walkabout were there to do. But we were flat out told by a couple of wineries we were not allowed to taste their wines because we didn’t have a Walkabout glass. We were appalled that they or the organisers couldn’t think ahead that there might be some people in the area, tourists like ourselves, on this particular weekend that might not want to join in the Walkabout. It left us feeling quite deflated.
Fortunately we found a couple of wineries that did welcome us. Vintara, which was part of the Walkabout, was happy to have us. Olive Hills Estate wasn’t part of the event and actually felt like a haven for those avoiding the Walkabout crowds. They both had very nice wine and very friendly dogs to pat too and we’ll happily buy more of their wine in future.
So, the lesson I took from the weekend was, next time we go anywhere, we’ll check for events that might be on that could affect our plans.
Another lesson was to make sure any wine we buy is stored securely. I had a few bottles sitting on the back seat and at one point braked suddenly, causing them to roll onto the floor where one bottle smashed on the wheel lock I’d left there. My car now smells like a winery. Which isn’t that bad actually.