I wish I’d stayed in England. Or in bed. Or something to that effect. I am imagining what might have gone through poor Hugh Proby’s mind as he was washed off his horse in the swollen torrent. A violent thunderstorm had struck at Kanyaka and the cattle had bolted. Hugh and his aboriginal stockman went out to bring them in but sadly for Hugh he was washed off his horse in the creek and drowned.
We have stopped off at the ruins of Kanyaka Station enroute to the Barossa Valley. The name Kanyaka is derived from an aboriginal word meaning “place of stone”. This place is remarkably well preserved despite its exposure to the harsh elements due to its sandstone construction. Hugh Proby established the beginnings of the station a year after emigrating from England. He started off with 2400 head of cattle spread over two leases in February of 1852 and a few months later had employed some men to help expand an existing hut and start on a new one. He never got to see the station built to its completion due to him meeting his demise in August of that same year.
After the death of Proby, the station was sold to Alexander Grant. He settled on another lease that Proby had owned nearby, and his brother James Grant was to take up the lease at Kanyaka. James and a friend set out for Kanyaka but they made two fateful mistakes, travelling a long distance on horseback in Summer and then getting lost. They both perished in the dry, arid and unforgiving country and their remains were found one year later. The lease was taken over by John Phillips who replaced the cattle with sheep.
Phillips built the property up, complete with a 16 room homestead, servants quarters, stables, blacksmith sheds and woolshed. Kanyaka was also a postal service point and in 1862 records show some 23,000 letters were received and 22,000 sent. The station was booming and had one of the biggest woolsheds in the state with enough room for 24 blade shearers. The property was also on a main dray route, so Phillips built a eating house for the teamsters and travelers a few kilometers to the north. This went onto become the Great Northern Hotel. Things were going well.
By the late 1860’s things began to get tough for Phillips. The area was in the fierce grip of drought and they lost over 20,000 sheep. They had a few good seasons that followed and they were on the way to recovery when the pastoral leases in the area were resumed for wheat farming in the 1870’s. It all proved too much and the station was taken over by a company. This was the beginning of the end. The construction of a new railway station 10kms away meant that travelers stopped coming via Kanyaka, and by 1881 the Great Northern Hotel closed it’s doors.
As we walk around I imagine what life would have been like at Kanyaka for the 70 families who lived and worked here. The station was largely self sufficient due to its isolation and grew most of its own fruit and vegetables and animals for slaughter. It is such beautiful country out here but the Europeans really never had any idea of how to live on this land. Aboriginal people lived here for thousands of years and the Europeans lasted 30 years. As much as they tried to tame the country here they couldn’t. They didn’t have any concept of 6 seasons a year rather than four, or how to look after the land so it looks after you.
The landscape becomes flatter as we head south towards the Clare Valley. I turn and look over my shoulder and watch the Flinders Ranges disappear into the distance. I have left Kanyaka in a reflective mood and determined to come back to this country again in the future.
We have had a quick stop at Jim Barry wines where we tasted some lovely rieslings and filled our bellies with lunch at a bakery cafe in Clare. There are many great wineries that I would like to visit here in the Clare Valley but as we are only here for a lunch time stop we can only squeeze in two. I picked Jim Barry and Chris has chosen Annies Lane.
The cellar door is located in the heritage listed Quelltaler Estate dating back to 1863. The winery gets its name from Annie Wayman who got her horse and cart stuck in the muddy lane while delivering lunch to the workers pruning the vines back in the early days of wine making in the region. There is a little historical museum inside and lovely grounds outside where you can bring your own food to have a picnic.
We have drunk Annies Lanes core range on many occasions, with both of us favouring their riesling and the cabernet merlot, the later definitely tasting so much better if you let it cellar for a couple of years. So today we are really here to try their cellar door only wines and they don’t disappoint. The Quelltaler Watervale riesling is just how I like a riesling, zesty with lemon and lime yet not too acidic. The Winemakers Blend Cabernet is full of fruit with a hint of chocolate but the 2010 Quelltaler Watervale shiraz cabernet with its plum, blackcurrant, spice and fine tannins wins us both over as our favourite today,with its quality and value for money. We are lucky enough to get to try the Coppertail Shiraz as they opened it the day before and still have some left to taste. It is delicious but out of our price range for this trip.
Sadly that is all we have time for here in Clare, but I am sure we will get to taste some amazing wines over our few days in the Barossa Valley. South Australia is certainly turning out to be an interesting travel destination. With a variety of landscapes and plenty of good walks and wine, I can’t wait to see what else we will discover in this fabulous state.
At a Glance
Annies Lane Wines
124 km from Adelaide. Quelltaler Road Watervale, South Australia
Open Mon – Fri 9am-5pm Sat, Sun Public Holidays 10am-4pm
Jim Barry Wines
33 Craig Hill Road, Clare South Australia 5453
Kanyaka Station Ruins
40 km north-north-east of Quorn, South Australia, along Hawker-Stirling North Road (B83)