Sunday, August 25, 2013

RIP Peter Lehmann 18.08.1930 – 28.06.2013

Hook, Line & Sinker

The truth is, we were lucky not to lose PL more than 20 years ago when a surgical slip during a bowel cancer operation cost him a kidney. The complications that followed almost knocked him over. It gave him a sniff of his mortality. If he hadn’t snapped the hobbles on June 28th, PL would have celebrated his 83rd birthday on August 18th, 2013.

There are a lot of family, friends and colleagues around the world who are and will continue to be sad for a very long time because of his death - none more so than wife Margaret and their immediate and wonderful family.

I count myself fortunate to be a member of the wider PL ‘family’. This story isn’t about PL the so-called wine making ‘legend’, a term Margaret dislikes with a passion – along with icon and numerous other overblown descriptions. Outstanding tributes and recognition of his significant and life long contribution to the Australian wine industry and his passion for the Barossa are to be found elsewhere.

Wine, Barossa Music Festivals and Gourmet Weekends, the Birdsville Track mailman Tom Kruse doco and filming Tasting Australia for ABC TV, wonderful long lunches in the Lehmann kitchen and the occasional sleepover may have been how and why my wife Jane and I met Peter and Margaret, but it was around other shared interests that our friendship developed.

PL really enjoyed growing things as well grapes. Who knew mangoes and avocados thrived at Tanunda! He would fish just about anywhere and he loved a punt on useless four legged grass burners. He followed a couple of trainers, with the Hayes family at the top of the list.

Our Saturday afternoons together were usually in the kitchen with Sky Racing on the screen and the TAB page from the local rag on the table, while Jane and Margaret discussed the weighty issues of the world.

PL also owned a number of trotters that occasionally won at better than 15/1. Of course he wouldn’t tell you it was going around until 20 minutes after the race – because he didn’t think it was a chance.

In recent years, as his remaining kidney steadily lost function and needed to be hooked up to a dialysis machine in Adelaide three days a week, he kept his punting cash in his pocket. He knew what we part-time punters finally work out – it’s a mug’s game and he loved it.

PL also enjoyed wetting a line. From the early 90s, we’d work on a plan to go somewhere a bit different every year to catch a fish.

Garfish – on a moonless night with Department of Ag agronomist Bob Haggerstrom in his four metre tinny, catching net and underwater light in hand at American River on Kangaroo Island. There could only be two at a time onboard. This meant Margaret and I would be on the jetty with a warming glass or two of some Lehmann deliciousness. We’d swap over every 20 minutes. We quickly learnt that you’ve got to get the small catching net on the end of the hand held pole in front of a garfish. They are impossible to scoop up from behind. They’re too fast!

Snapper – off the bottom of Yorke Peninsula with Dave Burge from Coober Pedy and his motley crew in vessels of questionable seaworthiness. From time to time we slept in swags. When PL rolled out of bed on day two of the snapper expedition, after a particularly rough night, he swore that his swag days were over – indeed he never swagged it again.

King George Whiting - at Coffin Bay, off Farm Beach and around the Sir Joseph Banks Group of Islands off Tumby Bay on Eastern Eyre Peninsula with Ken Scott. I now have in my boat a GPS mark off Farm Beach named Lehmann. PL cleaned up with a bag of 40 + cm KG whiting. It’s the spot where he showed me how to skin a leather jacket (a much underrated fish in his view) with the back of a hacksaw blade. He liked the flavor of the fish and skin, lightly fried in butter with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of cracked pepper.

Mulloway & Coorong Mullet – in the Coorong (caught with square hooks – read net) after a failed attempt to land a Coorong mullet with a line. Lakes and Coorong fishers Gary Hera-Singh and Henry Jones were wonderful hosts and enjoyed the PLW Port and being walloped by Margaret at crib.

There are numerous trophies and remarkable photographs in the wondrous Lehmann home in the Barossa. They recognize the PL and Margaret story and his outstanding wine making successes and contribution to the industry nationally and internationally.

Among a pile of lists, photos and stuff stuck with magnets to the fridge in the kitchen is a pic that brings a smile to my face every time I see it. It was taken in 1995 of a couple of daggy blokes with a couple of mulloway. The location is Gary Hera-Singh’s fishing shack on the Coorong. Peter in a crappy jumper remarkably without a fag and me in a bucket hat - with a fag. Margaret reckons I look like Andy Capp and loves the shot. The above shot is of the four of us in the Lehmann kitchen a month or so before he died.

PL wasn’t the greatest fisherman but he was a really good bloke – Jane and I miss him.

Ian Doyle
August 2013

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