The Fruitful Pursuit isn’t your average wine tour. It’s a behind-the-scenes experience of winery life, warts, insects, pets and all. “We create very in-depth wine experiences,” says founder James Hopkins. “A more intimate, hands-on connection.”
Think grape picking in Basket Range hilltops, walking through vines with Whistler Wines’ winemaker Josh Pfeiffer, or eating bowls of paella cooked by chef Billy Dohnt, while chatting with winemaker James Erskine.
“We've been so spoiled,” Hopkins says. “Winemakers are the most wonderful and generous people you'll ever meet. The raw notion of a 'cellar door' embodies that generosity, and I think many locals undervalue this privilege.”
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The focus is on the next generation of South Australian wines, small-scale operators and forward thinkers who make organic, biodynamic, natural and minimal-intervention wines.
Hopkins’ personal relationship with the people behind the wines means his customers enjoy rare, behind-the-scenes access to the properties.
Not bad for a UK-born, Queensland-raised lad who “bounced around a lot before landing in Adelaide in 2002.”
Hopkins got into wine after an ex-girlfriend dragged him along on tours through McLaren Vale.
He now works in the hospitality industry – you can spot him pouring the good stuff at Ballaboosta and Mother Vine.
He's noticed that locals seemed to take the stuff in their glass for granted. “We've just got it too bloody good down here,” he says. So, he gathered a small gang of likeminded friends and hospo workers who wanted to see more, learn more, and engage on a deeper level with South Australian food and wine. “It swelled into a movement,” he says, “a collective of incredibly passionate humans, who love sharing the finer things in life.”
The first hush-hush tour coincided with an Ochota Barrels' Spring Release shindig at Fall From Grace – the Aldinga wine bar that also offers classes and tastings – in August 2014. Word spread, and tickets, offered through a closed Facebook group were coveted.
“The nature of what we do commands it,” Hopkins says of the exclusivity. “It's all about that hand-to-hand connection. The thing I'm most afraid of is diluting what we create.”
Seats on a bus are still limited, but Hopkins recently opened up the service to the public. The Fruitful Pursuit officially launches in May as part of Tasting Australia. The two-day event features 24 “renegade” winemakers at Fall From Grace.
“There are some very exciting regions we've yet to explore, and some borders we may have to cross,” he says. The hearty, shared meals are all very informal and an extensive knowledge of wine wankery is not essential. “[Winemaker] Justin Lane, taught me that the most common misconception about wine is that you need to know something about it, to enjoy it," says Hopkins.
“We intend to stay under every pour and savour it all.”
Tasting Australia presents The Fruitful Pursuit at Fall From Grace, 22 Old Coach Road, Aldinga, May 7–8, 2pm–8pm. Tickets are $65/day ($85 with city transfer) from Tasting Australia.