Photo credit: Kate Bowman

The way Geoff Weaver paints it, you might think the Cudlee Creek bushfire of 20 December 2019 was a bothersome inconvenience to an otherwise unremarkable day, rather than an unstoppable force that raced through his Adelaide Hills vineyard, claiming Weaver’s prized grapes, sheds, car, machinery, tractor, sprayer, his treasured landscape paintings, and very nearly his life. Trapped by flames, Weaver made dash for his dam as fuel drums and air compressors exploded around him, sheltering for hours with a kangaroo for company, until a fire truck finally picked him up. “It was very kind of them,” he says.

The 73-year-old crafts his wine the way he paints his landscapes, with an artist’s eye for colour and texture, and he nuances of the seasons, absorbing a sense of place and wringing from it exquisite flavours, into the bottle and onto the canvas. He’s philosophical, optimistic, a flute half-full kind of guy, who quotes from Desiderata (“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings…”) and looks back on the fire without bitterness, or even sadness. He says: “I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me.”

The fire struck on a Friday. At 9am on the Monday Weaver was at the door of the shed factory. “I thought there might be a queue,” he explains. By 10am he had two sheds designed and ordered. By the end February they were up. “I bought a second-hand tractor and got to work. I just thought, ‘well, this has happened, let’s get on with it.’ But everyone’s different and you can’t discount how it will affect other people.”

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