The dogs are barking at Rosewood Winery. Bill Chambers leaves the cellar door visitor with the distinct impression that he is one of the genuine gentle men of the Australian wine scene.
The dogs are barking at Rosewood Winery. Bill Chambers leaves the cellar door visitor with the distinct impression that he is one of the genuine gentle men of the Australian wine scene. There is a quiet grace about the man which is in no need of promotional airs. The winery itself is a rambling organic assemblage of rusting tin sheds which haven't changed much over the last twenty years. There's been the odd addition of a tasting shed complete with storage areas while the new generation of underfed and undefended feral cats seem to be more paranoid than usual.
One of the more enduring themes of a visit to Rosewood is the relationship between Bill and his feral cats. You see he doesn't have much time for cats of any description but after twenty years he's beginning to recognise that the D.O.G. master plan for their control is not really working.
"Bloody cats, can't get close enough to shoot 'em, and there's no use starvin' 'em out. Run rings around them dopey dogs. Might as well bark at 'em myself"
Rosewood seems to be more nooks and crannies than regimented industrial production space and as a consequence there is no shortage of sanctuary for the hasty retreat and, no doubt, subsequent lazy reproduction of multicultural cats under its eaves. The introduction of a couple of highly fed and underbred kelpie cattle dog cross whippets to the scene hasn't helped much. Oh they bark all right! In fact on the early Sunday morning I visited there were three of them in various states of disrepair doing an Australian Workplace Relations amount of non-directional barking and R.A.D.A. snarling. Two of them would rush about the place in parallel abandon occasionally giving each other a half-hearted nip on the flanks while the third old arthritic grey beard would whine encouragement from the shade of a three rail fence. As part of the corporate inspired tourist routine, an extraordinarily in-bred ginger feral tom would lugubriously meander out from the gloom of the winery into the luxurious sunshine of the courtyard only to be argued back into the darkness by the parallel persecutions of the demented duo. This went on more or less unabated as the God fearing residents of Rutherglen passed in newly polished church bound automobiles and the Sunday morning winery walkabout crowd gave up on Bill and headed off toward Jones' Winery up the track.
"Yeah I know we're s'posed to be here at 10,.. but the missus wanted some straw carted for her vege patch, so's I was a bit late."
"Still Bill, it's too good a day to spend in bed, isn't it"
"I wouldn't go that far," says Bill, "there's no day too good for that"
You couldn't say there is no mischief in those aging sky blue eyes, but you would be hard pressed to find any meanness. Bill's wine tastings are legendary and have always been on the generous side. I counted thirty five wines on offer at the last visit, from $6.00 1987 Rieslings to $75.00 half bottles of very old world class Tokay. All were open for tasting, and it was simply a matter of helping yourself. Bill retired to assemble a few boxes in the background while fielding questions with a laconic honesty which is truly disarming.
"Those little Muscat bottles are a bit expensive" he volunteered. "Most people don't like the idea of spending $75.00 on their tummies. Still, (waving a directional arm at the casually assembled legions of half full bottles) youse can all wipe yourselves out on that lot"
Then there is the famous story of the "Floor Muscat" which ended up with the gold medal at the Melbourne Show. Apparently Bill had to attend a local grape grower's meeting during vintage, when the unspeakable happened. His best cask of newly fermenting muscat sprung a stave and spilled on to the floor of the winery. In true Chamber's style, the wayward brew was sponged up into another cask, fortified with fearsome brandy spirit and forgotten until it ended up winning a gold medal at the Melbourne show. That's the stuff of wine industry legend, and although Bill couldn't give a stuff about legends it is what Bill Chambers and Rosewood is all about.
As for the dogs, well under their localized Australian Workplace Agreement they kept barking and snarling and spitting and rushing about the place until they heard Bills car approaching, whereupon they completely clammed up and wandered off to lay down grinning in their appointed dog holes against the warm tin of the winery walls.
"Call 'em bloody watch dogs" says Bill..".they wouldn't know which end of a cat was meant for chasin'!!"