Inkwell Wines and Hotel California... stolen a piece of my heart.

Inkwell Wines and Hotel California is in McLaren Vale. I went to photograph it for Fleurieu Living Magazine recently. Made from shipping containers, my camera (and I) love all the architectural design and vineyard views, snapping away in the cellar door and on the viewing deck above.

But, it’s when I go down to the micro hotel of ‘Hotel California’ that I’m audibly going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’. The baths hook me. Deep, freestanding and open to the views of the vineyard. There are only 3 suites, so the likelihood of someone seeing you taking a dip is, well, lower. And hey, all part of the fun?

Inkwell releases single vineyard wines which express the "fingerprint of place" from its iconic Mclaren Vale vineyard winery. By fermenting without additions, we produce age-worthy wines that retain natural freshness and intensity. We are the only winery in McLaren Vale to produce estate-only wines in this way. But, we keep things simple: one tractor, one de-stemmer, one press, small fermenters and one dog.  We've removed as much of the “man-made” from Inkwell’s sustainable wine-growing and wine-making as we sensibly can so you can share in the fruit of our special site and labor for years to come.

Gorgeous Festival - a day away from our kids.

A date without kids, with my bestie, and our men. Wow. This has not happened since…. err… umm… I can't remember if this has ever happened since having kids. The crowd.

Chilling in the shade

Cheers to plastic glasses...

Festival at night

Crowd at night

Ferris wheel and stage

Ferris wheel

Food line ups

Ben pulls me up for a dance to The Timbers, love 'em. We are doing our shin-dig-jive when, BAM, I cop a frisbee to the back of the head. While I'm still rubbing it, and wondering if I'm bleeding, BAM, the frisbee hits me again, on my forehead. Ouch. I boot scoot it away from the stage so quick, hearing the lead singer casually saying 'hope no one has got hurt'.

I'm shocked but I have to laugh about it. I'm one of those people who will walk into doorways or trip over a mat that hundreds of people have walked over before me with no problems.

It's 32 degrees, but by about 4pm, cloud has come over, and it's beautifully overcast. Perfect. We have squeezed in among the crowd under the shade of the big gum trees, and have found more friends. Band after band are on stage, entertaining us with the chilled tunes. And we don't drink too much either… with a wait of half an hour or more for the bar, who could. We are also not going to get fat here, lines for the food, which have half sold out by the time we get to the front, are at least half an hour also.

But you know what, it is a great day, and it doesn't bother me.

Nothing is bothering me today. We sit and chat, we sit and listen, we sip wine, we wander, we even giggle on the ferris wheel (Ben hates heights). Life without kids. Every parent needs to do this for at least one day every few months, I reckon.

Well, nothing bothers me until we want to go home. Our taxi driver this morning suggested we book the return home during the day, to make sure the wait isn't too long. We listen, but decide to book just before wanting to leave, purely because, we didn't know when we wanted to leave. We ring Yellow Taxis, they confirm our booking, and then we wait. And wait. And wait. We try to call back. Always engaged. We call another taxi company to book. They are engaged too. We call Yellow Taxis again. Still no answer.

We booked our taxi at 11.30pm, and by 1am, we are still waiting. It's getting mildly cold. Everyone else is leaving - minus a few who are waiting for their taxis also. We are growing impatient. I'm getting very tired. Ben is getting hungry and grumpy. We've had enough. We ring my besties mum. She comes to get us.

Teenagers. We feel like teenagers again, having to call our parents to come get us. Shameful… What a crap ending to an awesome festival. But hey, a day without the kids. Bliss.

Stevens Wines, McLaren Vale

Stevens Wines Graham Stevens greeting

Graham Steven

Carolyn, Grahams daughter at Stevens Wines

McLaren Vale. It's home to some very decent wines. It's the secret sister to the Barossa. Especially on International Tourists radars. I'd say it's time for the world to know how good it is, but then, I kind of want to keep it to myself.

Only 20 minutes from our home, it's bordered by the rotund Willunga Hills, white sand and untamed beaches of Port Willunga, Maslins and Aldinga, and the countryside of Onkaparinga Hills.

The wineries that are here range from contemporary, to boutique, to home grown basics. Stevens Wines is nothing spectacular in terms of wine tasting ambience and scene setting. But what it does do well, is give you the authentic meet the winemaker experience. We are met by Graham himself, opening the door wide to the cellar door. I see a family man, a hard worker, and an honest man written on his face. Speaking to him, I also find out he has quite some humour. I guess you have to when working with winery tour participants. Graham has lived grapes and wine his whole life - having won the first vine pruning trophy at just nine years old. I guess you could say he knows a thing or two about making a good drop.

And his hard work and knowledge has payed off. For a small winery, with production of very few wines, it certainly pours a fine glass. At Australian Wine Shows, Stevens Wines has already won more than 50 awards, in just 2 seasons.

So, next time you are in McLaren Vale, don't just head to the big boys. Take a punt, and take the next turn off. You never know what treasures you may find.

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