Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Westward Ho

With two previous trips to Australia under my belt, I'd managed to put check marks besides many of the country's major attractions and cities. I'd never made it out to Perth before though and I was particularly pleased that we'd managed to fit what writer, Bill Bryson, calls "the most isolated city in the world" into our itinerary this time around since two of my favourite facets of Aussie life are best found here - Margaret River wines and the West Coast Eagles.

Our flight from Adelaide was delayed an hour and a bit; so, we arrived in Perth sometime mid-afternoon. Just in time to check in at our B&B and wander some in the city's Central Business District (CBD). There were plenty of folks milling about but not much happening in the way of activity since it was ANZAC Day - a national holiday in the country - and most of the shops were closed. I'm not sure if it was appropriate (given that ANZAC Day honours fallen Australian soldiers) or just ironic, but it was abundantly apparent that there was an American Navy aircraft carrier in port. Many a sailor - and their admirers - were taking in the sights just like us. Particularly if those sights featured the sale of beer.

We'd allowed ourselves a couple of days to take in Perth and environs; then we were to be joined by Merlot Boy and Margarita. It didn't take a lot of coaxing on our part to talk our long-distance drinking buddies into flying out from Melbourne so that we could all take a bit of road trip down to wine country and re-live some of our team adventures from New Orleans last November.

Perth apparently has a bit of a reputation among cosmopolitan Sydneysiders and Melbournians. The big city folk often tell you that Adelaide is what Sydney and Melbourne were 20 years ago and that Perth is another 20 years behind Adelaide. Whether there's any truth to Perth's backward standing and redneck reputation, it is still the fourth biggest city in Australia with a population of 1.75 million - and, of all cities Down Under, it's got a boom town mentality going on because of all the mining activity that's going gangbuster in Western Australia.

None of that provincial squabbling was evident to Boo and I though. Our goal was to simply take it easy for those couple of days until the kids arrived for the weekend. Richard, our B&B host, tipped us off to some daytime activities and we opted to hop down to Freemantle for part of the day. After all, how could we pass up on a destination that lists harbour restaurants and the Capuccino Strip as two of its foremost highlights. That definitely sounded like the city was planned with Boo and I in mind.

On the way home from Freemantle, we took in Cottesloe, one of area's most famous beaches. Taking a dip in the Indian ocean was one of Boo's biggest desires for the trip and Cottesloe is as nice a strip of sand as you're going to find. It might not have been a classic beach day for the locals but it would seem that sad beach weather in Oz can still top water temperatures back home in Vancouver. I even had to break out the sunscreen for a bit.

It had been a fairly tame couple of days, but you know that, ultimately, I had to get back to the task at hand and add another bottle to The List. Going any longer than 40 hours without a glass of wine - while on vacation none-the-less - might just send my poor old body into shock.

1120. 2011 Fifth Leg Rosé (Western Australia)

Following our splash in the ocean, Richard pointed us in the direction of a restaurant that specializes in chili mussels - a local specialty. Sounded pretty tasty to us - even though we had to trust his word when we saw that we were the only table seated in the entire restaurant. The wine list was rather limited; so, we decided to go with our first local wine - and a rosé at that.

I'm not exactly exploring new shores too much here. We run across - and have enjoyed - Fifth Leg on occasion back home but the thought of rosé and mussels seemed so South of France-ish that it was an easy request of our server. Fifth Leg is a second label of Devil's Lair winery meant to be an accessible, easy-drinking wine - and it was.

Our Rosé wasn't shy in any way. A blend of Shiraz, Cab Sauv and Merlot; it's not a rosé pedigree we'd likely find back home. It started with big red fruit - almost to the point of talking strawberry wine - but a bracing acidity kicked in at the finish. Luckily for us, it worked with the heat and spiciness of our mussels. I don't know that a dry red or white would have been as welcome with this meal, but I'm not sure I'd want to drink a bottle on its own.

Ordering it also pointed out that we were going to be surprised at everything that we didn't know about wines in the region. The label says that this is a Western Australia wine - as it was made from grapes sourced from both Margaret River and Geographe - two of nine wine regions in Western Australia. I think I'd maybe heard of three or four before we arrived in Perth but we don't really see many wines from Western Australia back home and I wasn't aware of the fact that regionality was going to play such a big role in the wines out West.

Our wine certainly rocked the colour palate as well. Talk about your bright pink. We might have wanted to take another bottle along with us for the evening since, following dinner, we headed off to play a little drag queen bingo at a local watering hole. No strangers to gay bingo back home, we thought we might get a kick out of seeing what a Down Under version would be like. Our hostess, Hannah Conda, was a no nonsense, "get your bingo on" kind of gal with some of the biggest hair I'd ever seen. Very welcoming to out-of-town sailors too. Surprise, surprise.

To top off the evening, I won the last game of the evening. Thankfully, I got the gift certificate for a burger restaurant and not the rather endowed dildo. I'm sure the gal that was awarded that prize could put it to better use than me and I wouldn't have wanted to explain yet another noticeable souvenir to Canada Customs on top of all the wine we'd be taking home.

Next up, Merlot Boy and Margarita take us out to the ball game.

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