Monteperle, The Pearly Gates On God’s Hill

The name was perhaps inspired by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:21: “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl.” Their logo indeed hints at the twelve gates making up the sun as the gateway to heaven. The winery is situated on Gods Hill Road, Lyndoch, in the Barossa Valley. My brother-in-law recently befriended Louis Liu who runs Monteperle Wines. I did not hesitate when asked if I wanted to join him on a visit to the 26 hectare winery in the Barossa. When we arrived at the gate, I was immediately enthralled by the heavenly beauty of the vineyard. It was as if we had veered off course and landed in paradise. Strikingly pretty, I suddenly realised there is no need for me to fulfil my dream to visit Tuscany. This place is certainly as magical and romantic. So different from the rest of Australia right at that moment. Much of the country has been scorched by a prolonged drought extending from Queensland right through to New South Wales and northern Victoria on the eastern seaboard. The bushfires have raged on for over two months, making it the most catastrophic the nation has ever experienced. Nine boutique wineries have burnt to the ground in the Adelaide Hills in recent weeks and Kangaroo Island in South Australia has seen some ferocious fires overnight also. Only the Northern Territory has been spared, with a national tally of 25 deaths and over 1500 homes lost so far. People are resigned to expect more severe fires as this is just the beginning of a long summer.

Yet, there on God’s Hill, I was held breathless, captivated by the natural beauty and serenity as we passed through the gate. After a long spell of hot and dry days since Christmas, the sudden change to a cool 14 degree day was a welcome reprieve. From the grounds of the steel-clad fireproof building, it was the vast expanse of mocha-coloured hills in the distance that caught my eye. Immediately below the light bluish grey sky, the rolling hills seemed to be waving at me. In summer, they turned mocha in colour and the green of the gum leaves appeared more grey instead. Immediately below the hills were the straw-coloured valley of dry grass and remnants of summer crops. Closer to the property, the darkish green tops of gum trees broke up the vastness of the landscape which then transformed to shades of beautiful green vineyards closer to where I was standing. As we crunched on sun-baked leaves and dead grass, I was impressed by the countless rows of vines with the healthiest green tops that seemed to extend as far as my eyes could see from left to right.

Grenache vines at Monteperle Winery

On their Gods Hill Road vineyards, four varieties of vines are cultivated by Monteperle. Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon. The GSM was their flagship for 2018. The nose is delightfully strong and intense, and its palate is round, full and complex. Being of a young vintage, it was surprisingly not astringent. Give it a few more years and it will become a really superb wine. It did not surprise me to learn it earned 96 points in the 2019 Cairn Show Wine Awards. Tony Carapetis, their wine maker, take a bow!

We enjoyed a barbeque which was personally prepared and cooked by Louis. If that was not special enough, the succulent lamb cutlets and Wagyu eye fillets from a local farmer certainly were. To top it all off, we had our first tasting of the 2018 GSM. The Shiraz in the GSM comes from the same Syrah grape vines that Penfolds used to procure for their Grange production prior to 2014. I am worried this secret will not be well kept for long. This was my first wine-tasting experience that polished off two full bottles of the same wine. Yes, that was how good their GSM was! On our way to Gods Hill Road, my brother-in-law received shocking news that his elder brother’s wife had suddenly passed away earlier in the morning. We made a toast to honour the memory of her life. Elton John was right. Life is like a candle in the wind. “To Stephanie”, we cried out amidst the clinking of Riedel glasses. The tradition of clinking glasses is about connections – establishing, honouring, celebrating and remembering them. May Stephanie be in a good place now; hopefully, somewhere as beautiful as Gods Hill Road. Whilst the glasses were clinking, I quietly made a toast to Ludwig van Beethoven in my heart. Coincidentally, both Stephanie and Beethoven died at age 56. Life is short. Life is uncertain.

She was a buddhist. May her rebirth or renewal be to a better place. The buddhists believe that unlike the pearls in a pearl necklace which are held together by a string – the ‘soul,’ which passes through all the pearls – successive existences in a series of rebirths are piled one on top of the other. Each rebirth is separate, but it supports the one above it, with which it is functionally connected. Life continues after death. And for those of us who are left behind, life goes on.

Beethoven’s life was short too but his memory lives on. His 250th birthday anniversary will be on December 16 2020, but the whole world will undoubtedly be celebrating his birth right throughout the year. I will remind myself to leave a bottle of the GSM for his birthday bash in December.

Celebrating rebirths and renewals, my visit to Monteperle Winery reminded me of the wisdom of looking at life as an ongoing cycle of renewals. Life goes on, let us make ourselves better human beings and in doing so, we will make life better.
In winter, it is the vines that will turn red and lose their leaves whereas in the distance, the straw-coloured valley will become a lush green full of renewed life and promise of a great harvest. Thank you, Monteperle. Apart from experiencing their top tier wines, the “mountain of pearls” has been a worthwhile visit for my soul too. Pearls are a symbol of wisdom that is acquired through experience. Some believe that their calming influence can balance our karma, strengthen relationships, and keep us safe. They also symbolise purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty. As I raised my glass to thank our host for the wonderful afternoon, I became acutely aware that at Monteperle Vineyards on Gods Hill Road, what I experienced was much more than a glass of fine red wine. It was the revelation that wine symbolises transformation, from grapes into wine through fermentation. A symbol of divine grace and intimate love. A rebirth.

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