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Published November 13th 2015
The unforgettable wines of the forgotten town
When a local wine makes it on to the Qantas International wine list, it must be doing something good. Chain of Ponds' Black Thursday is one such a wine, and after treating myself when on board a flight recently, I thought a visit to the Winery was in order.
The Chain of Ponds Winery is located a few kilometres west of Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills. The Winery is named after the ill-fated township of Chain of Ponds which was compulsorily acquired by the Government in the early 1970's and subsequently demolished due to the alleged pollution it was causing to the Millbrook Reservoir and Adelaide's drinking water.
The Winery, cellar door and restaurant were established in the late 1980's and sit alongside a beautiful old building which now serves as a bed and breakfast cottage. With four double rooms, this historic 1880 stone cottage has been carefully restored and retains the old charm of yesteryear in a peaceful setting amongst vines, Australian gums and a sea of deciduous green and gold trees.
Between the Cottage and the Cellar Door is a memorial pergola with several interpretive signs describing the history of the Chain of Ponds township from its founding in 1850 to its eventual acquisition and demise during the 1970's. While progress is inevitable, the philosophical debate continues as to whether Adelaide's water supply is any better as a result of the town's closure.
Beyond the pergola, the Balcony Café is adjacent to the cellar door, with 3 eating areas catering for every climate. The menu is quaint with a range of gourmet homemade pies served with salad, Chain of Ponds vinaigrette and a Beerenberg condiment. The pies sounded great, and then looked great on another table, so the Butter Chicken Pie, and the Pork and Sage Sausage Roll were our choices. We were not disappointed.
With a good range of wines, the selection decision was tough. We settled on the Amelia's Letter Pinot Grigio and I couldn't go past yet another glass of Black Thursday Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were appropriate for a warming afternoon. Italian varietals were introduced in to the Adelaide Hills late last century with the Pinot Grigio being perfectly suited to this cool climate region. Delicate fruit flavours are balanced with a citrus undertone to leave a sense of interest in the mouth long after the wine is swallowed.
Amelia's Letter was named after James Caust, the Chain of Ponds blacksmith and wheelwright, who wrote a beautiful letter to his youngest daughter, Amelia on a trip back to the UK after the death of his wife and her mother in 1882. Amelia settled and stayed in and around Chain of Ponds for her whole life, and her gravestone still remains in place today in the old Chain of Ponds cemetery on the edge of the Millbrook Reservoir, one of the only pieces of the old Chain of Ponds township that is still standing.
Black Thursday was launched in 1996 and has quickly become Chain of Ponds biggest selling and multi-award winning wine. With Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills coming in to its own in terms of quality, tropical fruity complexity and zesty, crisp finishes, it is little wonder that the New Zealanders are taking a keen interest in to the Australian methods of grape growing.
Black Thursday vintages have been collecting awards since 2006 which is a fantastic achievement and a credit to the class and consistency of this wine. Black Thursday derives its name from the Black Thursday bushfire in 1991 when the vineyard saved the small sub-township on the edge of Gumeracha. While this bushfire may be a distant memory for many, a quick look across the Torrens Valley to the north reveals the extent of the 2015 Sampson Flat fire and how close it came to Chain of Ponds Winery, and repeating history.
Chain of Ponds Winery is a great place to stay, or an ideal place for an afternoon's escape. The Winery is just over 30kms from the City and is open from 11am to 4pm from Friday to Sunday. Further details are available from their website or their facebook page. The former Chain of Ponds township and Cemetery is located 4km west of the Winery, and is also worthy of a short visit.
For a touch of history, and some great drops of wine, why not call in and let the afternoon while away.