One of the great things about changing where you live is the opportunity to begin new traditions, new habits to look forward to each year, each season. Such was the case this weekend attending the Wangaratta Jazz Festival in, you guessed it, beautiful Wang-ga-ratta! Settled thoughtfully amongst several rivers, the residents of Wang seem to have not paid sufficient attention regarding their waterway naming, affixing illuminating and mysterious (insert sarcasm here) titles to their water bodies. Driving through town we passed Fifteen Mile Creek, Three Mile Creek and One Mile Creek. So you might understand my considerable excitement upon finally encountering the town’s principal waterway, the Ovens River. During Jazz Fest that main streets are closed off, stages erected and wine tasting stalls abound everywhere in Wangs compact town center. Locals and visitors alike wander around sampling food, beverages and listening to music in that casual way not typical in discerning jazz circles. Perhaps the calls of, “Blow man, blow,” and “That cat sure made love to that trumpet” are reserved for the ticketed performances, long four hour solos of improvisation by an emaciated coke head and his or her backing band.
Our taste was satisfied by public performances, casual and convenient to the food stalls and wine. Good food and wine is often seen as a birth-right to most people from this part of Victoria as, I suspect, it is for many other Australians lucky enough to hail from rural areas dominated by vineyards, cheese factories, olive groves, mustard farms and orchards, as we are here in the North-East. After a wander around the market stalls, dragging Ashley away from whatever tie-dyed, homemade, little girl’s outfit (that some senior citizen had created in her backyard and hoped to sell at inflated prices) that caught her eye, we found our way to two stalls worthy of admiration. In addition to stocking fine handmade cheeses, Boosey (pronounced boozy) Creek Cheese won a place in our heart by supplying, for the credible sum of 3 dollars, a picnic plate comprising of the aforementioned plate, knife, napkins and roll of fine crackers. After being sure to taste all of Boosey Creek’s wonderful fare we selected a slice of Tungamah Tasty (handmade cheddar) and the wonderful, beguiling Boosey Blue (a soft wax-aged blue vein cheese).
Taking our coagulated (I have always wanted to use that word in a post) milk product and picnic plate with us we repaired to the venerable vintners , John Gerhig and Sons (or maybe daughter – not really sure. They produce wonderful wine in a tin-shed beside their house). I was delighted to find that the organizing body of the Wangaratta Jazz Festival has hit upon a brilliant notion. All wine was served as Allah intended, in stemmed glass-wear. If the discerning Aussie imbiber didn’t want to go home with said glass he or she could return it for a nominal refund. This, I believe, is a notion that will land the council of the Rural City of Wangaratta in heaven for all eternity; you don’t expect us Aussies to drink our wine in plastic cups do you? What do you think we are, a bunch of filthy navvies? Although I have a deep and abiding passion for John Gerhig’s 2006 RG Durif (a wine described to me by the winemaker’s wife as… like a cat’s arse; insert pursed lips here!) it was a glass of their fine Pinot Noir for me and Chenin Blanc for the ladies.
Sitting at a sunny table we sipped our wine, munched on the cheese and watched the passing scene. Jazz wannabes in skinny ties, jeans and hats one size to small for their heads sauntered amongst the crowd, casually snapping their fingers to the music and occasionally closing their eyes and displaying that dreamy look that only jazz aficionados can do when listening to nothing that resembles music. Blue shirted, salt of the earth types sat with their wives and debated the various favorable attributes of this year’s vintages; only in Australia does this happen without people looking around for the candid camera. The only disturbance to our deep state of contentment was a sudden gust of wind that uplifted a neighboring umbrella and deposited it on top of my wife and mother. Fortunately, although also violently jostling our table it did not spill my wine, and it was with considerable relief that I glanced knowingly at our neighbors as if to say, “Wasn’t that close?” They nodded, and then got up to help extricate Ashley and my mother from the umbrella. Wang Jazz Fest will be our culture location of choice for years to come!