In the Basket Range, on the edge of suburban Adelaide, a very hip community of natural winemakers has captured the imagination of the wine world with their natural and low-intervention wine.
They’ve been hard at work for the last few months, but now it’s time to celebrate the end of vintage. So they put out the word that we were all invited to join the tight-knit community for a day and celebrate (7 April).
Most people caught a bus up from town. But a small group of us decided to walk through the undulating Adelaide foothills, past seas of vines and trees that are just beginning to turn yellow and red.
It’s a picturesque area, and there’s perhaps no better place to enjoy it than from the rise overlooking the local cricket oval – surely one of the most beautiful sporting grounds in the country.
As we check out the view, Aidan ‘Jazzy’ Jones’ foot-stomping folk and gypsy jazz resonates around us in the perfect welcome.
The flat expanse of the oval has a stage at one end, and in the middle several large tents under which the winemakers are clustered for tastings and inevitable purchases of their very reasonably priced wares.
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, most of the crowd is gathered around these tents or sheltering in the patches of shade on the edge of the oval.
After doing some quick research, I to park myself in the shade with a refreshing glass of pet nat as Naomi Keyte and her band take the stage. Her debut album 'Malaleuca' was launched just down the road and the warm folksy songs carry a hint of melancholy that’s perfectly matched to the turning of the seasons.
The four-piece band builds and releases tension throughout the set, but the highlights come when she allows her voice to really soar, as on the stunning 'Somebody Else’s House'.
A crowd slowly forms in front of the stage and soon we’re surrounded by old and new friends as The Festival begins to resemble a particularly expansive and well-curated backyard party.
In between acts it sounds like a brass band is playing an impromptu rendition of the 'Grease Megamix', but I need to get something to eat.
The food stalls are well stocked to avoid a repeat of last year, when the options ran out early, and soon I have a plate of succulent roast lamb and fresh greens from Ngeringa Farm, a little further into the Adelaide Hills.
Later, as the stars come out, The Maraby Band brings the day to a close. They’ve expanded to a nine-piece outfit for this show, including a surprise appearance from Adelaide’s friendliest man Brad Cameron, who’s in an expansive mood on the congas.
But the ringleader is Dave Blumberg, who turns the psych-pop rock opera ‘Gertrude’ into a classic rock & roll dream, air kicks and stage invasions included.
Blumberg is a fixture at The Exeter Hotel, and if that venue is Adelaide’s living room then for one day the Basket Range Oval is our collective backyard, where the party goes on, the conversation grows loose and new friendships are forged.