In the Media

McLaren Vale-based winemaker and viticulturist Jodie Armstrong prefers not to charge through life in a straight line. Instead, she meanders with her beloved donkeys by her side. Armstrong is on a mission to help others to do the same with her Walking Donkey Wine Tours. Participants feed donkeys Agatha and Winsome before leading them past vineyards and through evocative Blewitt Springs landscape. There’s wine, of course, including Armstrong’s Journey Home drops, and a long lunch to wrap things up. The pace is slow and the experience mindful. People talk about how much they enjoyed the food, but the thing that really moves them is how good they feel after being out in nature with the donkeys.

Sure, New Zealand has wine to write home about, but the McLaren Vale wine region in South Australia is worth leaving home for, writes Alex Mitcheson.

Visiting wine country is a great way to spend time away from it all. Moods are high, the backdrops beautiful, and you’re never far from a full glass of wine. Spoilt as we are, New Zealand has some of the most pristine and green-leaning wine regions in the New World. Still, for the wine lover willing to travel, South Australia’s McLaren Vale is packed with passionate vintners and gorgeous wineries vying for you to cross the Ditch. And it has the title of being the country’s most sustainable wine region — as if you needed further encouragement. But what outstanding inclusions should you have pencilled in?

Meandering through elegant rows of manicured vines is a popular and tranquil undertaking. And particularly for those who like a holistic overview and understanding of how what they find in their glass got there. For the audacious-minded and those perpetually open to spicing things up, you can add some affably-natured donkeys to the equation. Guests at Journey Home Vineyard are called upon to take the reins of either Agatha or Winsome while Jodie Armstrong, your host-cum-viticulturist and small-batch winemaker, guides you through varying vineyards. The pace is slow and the ambience is irrefutably bucolic as you learn and hear about the different soil types and growing aspects from a seasoned winemaking veteran. You’ll bump into fellow winemakers and take in all sorts of flora and fauna — such as kangaroos thundering their way through neighbouring paddocks — with perfectly placed stops to sample a glass or two from the vines you’ve been walking among. 

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Tourists flock to the McLaren Vale wine region in South Australia. An estimated 160 vineyards and 80 cellar doors combine world-class wines and local produce from pristine seas and land. Bounded by hills to the east and 20 miles of glorious coastline to the west, the backdrops of the sun setting over the gulf are endless. This is one of Australia’s prettiest, most progressive, and environmentally conscious wine regions.

Known primarily for producing Shiraz, it was during the region’s celebrations of their Grenache when my interest in a unique tour was piqued. Little did I realize how much I would learn when I booked a tour to roam Grenache vineyards with donkeys, visit a cellar door, and have a farmhouse lunch paired with a range of Grenache. All this was conducted by Jodie, a local viticulturalist and small-batch winemaker. 

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The new 10-day festival is all about showing off McLaren Vale with dinners, lunches, wine tastings and more. Our pick? A tour of cellar doors with two donkeys, and a 10-course dinner at d’Arenberg’s Cube among 360-degree virtual vines.

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Agatha has been a part of the Journey Home Wines family since she was just nine months old. Sweet and thoughtful, she has become a valued and loved member of the team, always making new friends and happily showing them through the vineyards. As a donkey, however, Agatha is more partial to new friends when they come bearing gifts in the form of carrots.

Along with her good friend and fellow donkey, Winsome, the pair are the main attraction at the McLaren Vale winery, one of the only places in South Australia where you can explore the vineyards by way of donkey.

Viticulturist and (human) host of the cellar door, Jodie Armstrong, began the Walking Donkey Wine Tours at Journey Home Wines as a unique way for guests to learn about the world-famous wine-making region and get up close and personal with the people (and animals) behind it all.

Read the full article here.