Past the soggy green parklands, past the jolly ol’ Garden carnies, past the line-up at The Stag, the smokers in the alley next to Cocolat, and well, well past the fat man with the flute you’ll find a cobblestone yard full of stuff.
Roughed-up Chesterfield couches, chocolate leather armchairs, and odd-bod teeny tables and crates are arranged in make-shift lounge rooms. A retired park bench, thirsty for a good oiling, sits snuggly in the corner, and admires all his other wooden chair friends that have been lovingly placed throughout the L-shaped yard. And the Vinteloper Urban Winery Project, all gritty and tousled and sexy, glows with the help of lit up lamp shades, and strings of globes enveloped by upside down wicker baskets. It’s the kind of eclectic décor you might expect at Aunt Mavis’ unit at the retirement village. Of course, that’s where the similarities stop (unless your aunt is a raging alcoholic who fancies making her own brew and then there’s probably a few more).
There’s plenty to see in Adelaide in the month of March – everyone knows this (except drunk Aunt Mavis). So why on earth would you bring your dirty, stinkin’ winery and set it up in an already culturally crammed East End? Because you’re a bloody genius, that’s why. At the VUWP, David Bowley is doing the Adelaide masses a service. I’m from a winemaking family so I’m lucky to have experienced the buzz that comes from vintage; the picking, the crushing, the blending, and the wonderful mess. Here, in the CBD, in this yard, Bowley has created a mini winery – a place where one can crush grapes until their hands and feet stain purple – and a cellar door – where there’s plenty of wine for the tasting, and bottles to buy and take home.
Standing in the entrance at 188 Grenfell St, looking past the first few lounge room groupings of pre-loved furniture, peering to the back of the yard, and just to the right of the bar, you can spot a few large, square white bins. It’s in these bins that grape juice is made with feet. On this particular night, however, in the holy glow of lamp shades, there’s no crushing, just savouring and socialising.
For 15 big ones you can get yourself 5 tastings. The friendly folk behind the bar hand over a tasting card; a little piece of stationery where ‘WOW!’ and ‘Hard work award’ stamps are used to keep track of wines you’ve tasted. The cards of patrons past are pegged to string and hung above the bar. So, you stamp your stationery, you take your tasting, and plonk yourself somewhere. The Vinteloper set up is all about the experience. Stamp by stamp and sip by sip there’s more to savour; the drop, be it cleansing, or rounded, or a punch in the face; the tunes, with the chill-out bass or big band brass; and the company, whether it’s your pal sitting across the table, or the hipster with the hat perched under the free-standing gas heater. And you sit on the couch and savour, then stand and stamp, and sit and savour again until you’ve simply had enough awesome for the night.
For the purpose of this blog, and as a nod to my philosophy of life, I find the process of tastings magical. Yes, it’s true - you can’t buy a whole glass of wine here at the VUWP. But get over it, Aunt Mavis. It’s not the point. While the chaps next door at the Cranker are getting sloshed, the patrons at VUWP are sober enough to enjoy everything this cobbled yard has to offer; not just the wine for trying and buying, but the funky furniture, the funny-looking wine making tools, the mood-elevating tunes, and most of all, the people they have the pleasure of sitting with.
It’s the project that plays hard to get; so mysterious and enticing that you’ll want to come back to taste more, to see more, to get some more damn stamps, and maybe just to sit and enjoy what is a rare quality experience. And chances are on the way back to your car, past the street spill-out from the pub, and the giggly friends dining on Rundle, you’ll pass a few drunks, and as they stumble and slurr, it’s quite easy to see that they’ve had their quantity. But you’ve had your quality, and in my opinion, that’s heaps better.