we were cruising along toward broke on the morning of feb. 12, when pernille suggested a detour.
we had been invited to attend the opening of an art gallery in a danish-owned vineyard just beyond broke (pop. 292), in the hunter valley, australia’s oldest and one of its finest wine growing regions. it’s a bit northwest of sydney.
a colleague had told pernille if we were headed that way, it might be worth a side stop at the jenolan caves.
frankly, i hadn’t heard of jenolan caves, but what the heck. we still had some change jingling in our pockets (not broke yet), so…
recalculating our GPS, we took off down the back roads of new south wales, and up, and down again, and around harrowing hairpin turns that could have given new meaning to broke if we’d missed one. then down some more. and within three hours or so i had absolutely no idea where we were. except we were in a wonderland. and closer to broke.
we got just a taste of the big sensual feast that is the jenolan caves complex in the couple hours we were there. now we know the place requires at least a weekend. we’re already plotting our return. but this bite of the apple was enough to understand why jenolan caves is new south wales’s top country attraction. (there are some city attractions, but this is breathtaking).
and we didn’t even see the caves. that requires reservations. so in the brief moment available, we explored the arches. you can see why carlotta’s arch is a popular wedding photo spot. strangely, it’s divided into two parts: new car-lotta (first marriages) and pre-owned car-lotta (subsequent hookups).
then there’s the lodge.
pictures speak louder than words, so i’ll reserve further comment on the lodge. it ain’t broke, so we won’t try to fix it until there’s time for a proper visit. suffice to say it’s on our bucket (seat) list with a bullet. but now, we’re going for broke.
beyond broke, to be precise, just a few kilometers past the broke village store you’ll find the winmark vineyards, identifiable by the danish and australian flags waving side by side at the entrance.
the centerpiece of the winmark estate’s expansive lawn is david ball’s intriguing “biosis” sculpture, which karin purchased shortly before ball won the “sculpture by the sea” bondi major prize in 2017. now he’s big, but not so big that he couldn’t attend the gallery opening.
just inside the fence, the iconic “poole’s rock” attests to the presence of aboriginal people on the land long before europeans arrived with their grapevines.
the same cannot be said about richard poole, the 19th century convict after whom the cave is named. local lore has it that poole used to sleep in a hollow in the cave, which was probably hewn by aboriginals. the new york times reported that poole sent his regrets.
as australia’s reputation for superb wines has spread across the globe, thousands of wineries have sprung up across the country’s temperate southern; more than 200 in hunter valley alone. but winmark distinguishes itself with its unique aboriginal heritage, its magnificent location at the foot of the yellow rock state forest, fabulous guest houses dotting the estate, its collection of sculpture and wall art, and its dedication to making a single green grape masterpiece.
the animating force behind winmark the trademark from denmark is karin enemark adcock.
karin bought the old poole’s rock estate in 2016, after it had fallen into disuse under ownership of an energy company with no passion for wine. the place was in need of vision, and karin found herself in the visionary position, from which greatness often comes.
five years in, karin’s dream is bearing fruit, literally. nowadays, just like jeremiah the frog in the old three dog night classic “joy to the world“, she always has some mighty fine wine. (if you’re not old enough (or too old) to remember jeremiah, click on the link. it’s fun.)
karin has assembled a team of renowned viticulturists and winemakers to get the best from the fertile hunter valley soil. winmark’s main claim to fame is rusty’s run, a fragrant, refreshing vintage that harkens back to the days before someone decided the reason to drink wine was to get hammered.
rusty is actually karin’s dog, a kelpie that says, ‘mark, mark’, instead of ‘bark, bark’, except when you ask him about the covering over the cellar door in which case he answers, ‘roof roof’. (truthfully, we must admit we made that up. we’re not the new york times, you know)
the journey hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, although sunshine is essential to a great vintage, and rose bushes bookend end each row of winmark’s vineyard, serving double duty as both an artistic touch and an early warning system for fungus. you won’t find rosé here, however. winmark’s signature is exclusively chardonnay, which is not coincidentally the world’s most popular white wine.
sunshine was in short supply the day of the gallery opening. as dawn broke over broke, a gloomy mist shrouded the valley, and a drizzly downpour was forecast. nevertheless, we found karin out in the vineyard at first light, harvesting roses to brighten the mood.
hours later, a refreshed and radiant karin was at the cellar door to welcome the 300 guests who braved the downpour to celebrate another hunter valley milestone, a gallery featuring some of australia’s – and denmark’s – most talented artists. many were there for the party.
fittingly, gavi duncan, an elder of the awaba gameroi people, began the event with an aboriginal prayer, a song, a blast on his didgeridoo, and a brief explanation of the significance of this ground to the legend of creation held dear by the region’s indigenous people.
according to the dreaming story, baiame (or bayami), the morning star/father; and yhi, the evening star/mother, gave birth to the surrounding mountains and valleys and rivers. the nearby baiame cave is considered sacred, and contains ancient wall art depicting the creator.
then it was pernille’s turn. as the representative of denmark, she officially opened the gallery, and a small plaque on the wall attests to that fact. as the president of her fan club, i probably should not characterize her speech. but i did bust the buttons on my shirt.
and when pernille was done, karin gave her the bird. (smile emoji here) and what a bird it was. a rebecca pierce original.
even i, an art moron, was blown away by this exquisite piece. rebecca pierce is not an artist to sneeze at (though i had forgotten my allergy medicine). a picture of this bird is posted below. but like all of rebecca’s works, photographs don’t do it justice. you have to see it, feel the texture, in person, to understand her talent.
this bird of color has assumed a prominent position in our home. you should come feel it yourself. better yet, head to winmark gallery next time you’re in the neighborhood and see the collection.
as luck would have it, the next day was bright and sunny, as is almost every other day in this warm-climate wine growing region. before heading back to canberra, we accepted an invitation from our new friend phil hele for lunch with his family at their hunter valley resort.
of course there was a danish connection. phil’s mom, anni comes from a long line of distinguished copenhagen hoteliers. she’s another on a growing list of ambitious danes we’ve met who have come to australia to realize their dreams…and succeeded.
i wish i’d had the presence of mind to take a picture of the slab of salmon anni’s husband julian prepared for our lunch on the back deck of their home overlooking the sprawling resort. julian’s culinary talent is legendary.
(update: a photograph of the salmon was forwarded to me after original publication, courtesy of the hele family. the other two photos were lifted from the resort website, as my brain was off duty that day.)
it was heartening to see that the hunter valley resort includes a brew pub. according to phil hele, the establishment of a beer hall/brewery created a frothy fizz among the local winemakers when it opened a few years back. “it takes a lot of beer to make great wine,” explains phil in defense.
my sympathies are with phil. i’m a beer guy.
Pete, My wife and I love your blog…..she taught school in Sydney for 2 yrs in the 70’s and is crazy about Australia as am I. It seems as though you have led a very interesting life since leaving El Paso, when you have a few minutes, would you please let me know what your career path has been since graduating from UTEP, I’m most interested. It’s not everyone who is married to a Danish ambassador. Thanks and can’t wait for your next blog. Most appreciatively, Dennis
Pete and Pernille: good to hear from you. Cheers, Frank
thanks, frank. i’m happy to have located your email address. i’ll try to keep you posted on our blog posts. cheers. pete
Another excellent story of your adventures Down Under!!
Pete, since we spoke, I re-read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, to familiarize myself with Australia. It is a fascinating country. And, your stories are as good as those told by Bryson…..maybe better.
So, keep traveling around and writing about your adventures and we’ll keep enjoying them!!
that’s encouraging, kim. thanks. i’ve just received in a sunburned country myself, and have taken a few peeks. can’t wait to dig in. cheers. pete
Dear Peter, I just read “going for broke ” and I think it was great, just long enough. Your “bird” or should I say Pernille’s bird is gorgeous. The country is lovely. Talk to you soon . I love you. . MOM
What a beautiful journey
thanks, patty. glad to have you as a reader