Sold! To the community with the big heart

steepleA month ago young Ike Zerk collapsed at footy training in Williamstown. He died that night. A beautiful kid, dead at 14. The son of a fifth-generation Lyndoch grapegrower. A shrine appeared at the farm gate: footy jumper, messages, flags, motorbike, helmet. He was a popular lad. Hit the community hard. The valley grieved. Last Friday, the Barossa wine fraternity downed tools and came together to break bread at a wine auction at Wolf Blass. There was a priority parking area for ‘Mercedes owners’. Muddy white utes parked in the second row. A sleek silver Merc was strategically positioned in the courtyard where anyone with coin could perve on it. The odd brown autumn leaf blew in the breeze. The crowd rolled in: city-looking people with city-looking haircuts mixed with farmers, growers and barrel-makers. The auction items and lunch wines were donated. The fruit-inspired table decorations were immaculate – the tiny cute pears were surely not real. They were. Only in the Barossa.


Dave Lehmann brought his good stuff in an old blue esky that has seen a few campaigns; held the odd yabby, probably. He sat with his brother, Phil, and mum, Margaret. They donated precious wines from PL’s cellar. James Halliday shuffled in. In a stirring speech he sang the praises of the region. It was bleak outside, but the barrel hall was warm and friendly. Echoed with fun and laughter – and the occasional semi-trailer rumbling along Sturt Highway. Tables swapped Shiraz with one another. A winemaker snuck up behind a neighbour and whispered, “Here, try this.” Not contraband, just the latest vintage. With 400 bottles open, the aroma was something to behold. The entree arrived: mettwurst, mini gherkins and real bread and butter. The bidding was frantic. Getting drinks into the crowd early and a long lunch was a masterstroke. Auctioneer Andrew Caillard called eight Melbourne Cups and six Golden Slippers in three hours and still found time to drop 27 dry one-liners. He went red in the face, then blue, and finally lost his voice. A hunk of tender beef arrived and a bowl of green stuff. A Beijing restaurateur bought an imperial of Bin 95 Grange 2009 for $46,000; he and the friends on his table chinked glasses and took selfies.


The unprecedented prices paid for Riesling was the story of the day. Six bottles of Steingarten = $900. Seven-bottle vertical of Wigan Riesling = $800. Is Rizza back? Within the industry, it’s never gone away. An emotional Charlie Melton took the stage and talked about his old mate, Bob McLean, who died last week. With the generosity of spirit in the joint, it was a McLean kinda day. Every auction lot exceeded expectations, raising serious amounts for the beloved Vintage Festival and local charities. The cheese arrived. Characterful and richly flavoured, like the sausage. They raffled a 2005 Grange. Winemaker Lou Miranda won it and donated it back to the auction. It went for $1,900. The money will go to HeartKids SA, which has been kind to Ike Zerk and his family; 430 people clapped. The room emptied. Caillard had a Bex and a lie-down. The stragglers had one last red. A winemaker told Phil Lehmann his mum was waiting out the front and he’d better hurry if he wanted a lift. He smiled and left. All the Mercedes zoomed back to the big smoke; the utes to the muddy vine-lined driveways. Another day, another dollar or two for local charities. A convivial gathering out in the sticks showcasing all that is good about a community including a beautiful little gesture to honour the life of young Ike Zerk.





Anthony Madigan

Reproduced with kind permission from



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