Friday, September 17, 2004

Pinot Noir: The King of Winegrapes

We have started planting the Pinot Noir. There is some budswell and even budburst on some of rootlings so we have to be careful not to knock the emerging shoots off while planting. The soil in this block is quite moist and not as sandy as in the Semillon block. The down side was the number of rock floaters. We came across them in nearly every hole dug so was quite an effort to get them out. Elbow grease and a crow bar do wonders.
Spacing within the row is 1m. This is very close on a high potential site. But I am experimenting with close planting to see if competition between vines will reduce any potentially unwanted vigor.

Pinot Noir Block
Pinot Noir is very sensitive to crop load and any overcropping reduces flavor intensity. So hopefully the vines will be balanced (vegetative growth /fruit load ratio) under this system and the resultant wine will have some typical varietal properties.
This is NOT the climate for Pinot Noir ( too warm!) but it is a challenge to try to grow some of reasonable quality. OK, it's a whim!
Opened a bottle of my 2004 rose' made from Cabernet Sauvignon last night. I was pleasantly surprised. The wine was a vibrant pink with no indication of oxidization and dry, in the Rioja style it was made, but still fruity and with some residual spritz. Will be great with lunch (prawns!) during those upcoming hot summer days.
Pity there is not much of it.
With the pending growth of Tempranillo as well Pinot Noir in 2006 there is some potential to increase rose' production. It's a much maligned and forgotten wine style in Australia which is a shame.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Vineyard Work Continues

All the Tempranillo is now planted.

The Semillon/Tempranillo Block
But today we have extremely strong westerly winds which are causing some damage to the block.
Vineguards are being ripped from the wires and young shoots are being knocked off the vines. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to prevent this. Luckily I have retained some spare rootlings of both Semillon and Tempranillo in case of such an event. This would mean planting the replacements as "green tops" when the time comes ie. after the threat of strong Spring winds is over. There is some risk of vine mortality using this method but it can generally be done safely with a little care.
Now attention will turn to planting the Pinot Noir. As soon as the winds abate this will get done.
Almost all the Cabernet Sauvignon has been pruned. One row to go.

Pruned Cabernet Sauvignon Block
Have been able to begin to replace some of the cordons that succumbed to the last years of drought. Have also been a little ruthless cutting out old spurs, mainly those that are too high on the cordon and those that cause shoot crowding during the growing season. Hopefully this reduction in bud numbers won't cause a a lot of watershoot production during the season. I also hope that the fruit gets better exposure with resultant better colour and sugar levels. The vines are planted on a high potential site at a 1.5m spacing. Experience has shown that maybe 2.0m would have been better to allow the vines to be better balanced. A radical move would be to grub out every second vine but this is a little too traumatic for me to do after nursing this vineyard along for the last 10 years.

Spur Pruned Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2004 wine needs to be racked one last time and sulphur level adjusted. Then it will be ready for bottling.

Friday, September 03, 2004

In the Vineyard

I pruned a few rows of Cabernet Sauvignon. There is some evidence of "bleeding" so the sap is running but there is no sign of budswell as yet. This allows me to concentrate on the new vineyard block where the Semillon is showing some sign of budswell and the Tempranillo in the seed bed is already in bud burst.
The first job was to eliminate the poor Semillon performers from the previous season and replace them with good "spares" grown in the same block. This poor performance can be blamed almost exlusively on the soil environment where there is inadequate moisture retention. This is due to the soil structure (sandy), the lack of organic matter and the proximity of some large trees which take all available soil water.
Current drought conditions have exacerbated this problem.
The row positions of the bad performers were noted and the poor soil environment will either be ameliorated with the addition of organic compost (1:1) and/or the application of additional water during the growing season.
This transfer of vines took two days to complete but we should now have four good rows of Semillon ready for growing season. The first crop is expected in 2006, albeit a small one.
Despite the hard work it was nice to be in the warm sun under a bright blue sky, sans shirt, for a few hours of the day. Spring is well and truly here. A number of species of wattle trees (acacia sp.) are in full bloom and looking good.
My attention has now turned to planting four rows of Tempranillo. This has to be done urgently before bud burst progresses much further. One down, three to go! A row a day seems to be the limit.
Of concern is evidence of rabbit activity as well as that of wallabies in the vineyard area. We have been free of rabbits for quite some time now due to the calici virus but obviously resistance is building and new warrens are being established. Vineguards will protect the new vine growth from the rabbits but it will soon be time to seek out their habitats and apply the usual poison to keep numbers down. The wallabies are more of a problem. The vineyard will need to be protected by a sophisticated electric fence system. But as they will only be a nuisance once vine growth emerges from the guards, I have time to think about how the fence needs to be configured.
In the meantime, the cattle have started to improve in condition due to the additional hay ration. All have obviously begun to put on some weight and produce additional milk for their calves. Milton continues to be hand fed once a day and is looking fine.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


The first thing I noticed as I drove south was how dry the country was.
Drought is still with us on the coast. This is the third year in a row.
The bad situation was confirmed as I drove in through the front gate of the property.
Apart from the brown grass, my top dam was bone dry and both bottom dams were less than half full.
Luckily my house tanks are almost full from the little bit of rain that has fallen in the last 3 months. My visitors did a good job of water conservation during their house sitting duties.
I have had an increase in my cattle population while I was away.
Four new calves, two bulls and two heifers.
Unfortunately one of the cows had died shortly afer giving birth. It is a bit sad as she was one of my orginal breeders but guess she was getting on and may have been in bad condition due to the poor weather conditions and a lack of good feed. This is the first fatality I have had in 12 years of breeding so guess that is not too bad a record.
Her calf is fine but has to be hand fed. Thankfully my neighbor was a dairy farmer in a past life and knew exactly how to handle the situation.
I have now taken over the feeding with 4L of warm (he doesn't like it cold) milk formula a day. He is also eating hay so is loooking quite healthy. He goes by the name of Milton.
The cows are being "dragged down" by their calves and were looking a bit poor. My neighbor had been rationing the hay due to a shortage of feed in the district generally but increasing the portion as winter went on. I ordered another 10 bales despite the high price and have decided to feed them twice a day in order to get them in better condition so they can look after their offsprings better. Hopefully with a bit of rain the pasture will start to grow again and reduce the dependance on "imported" feed. But the weather forecast is not encouraging. Dry and warm is the prognosis.
The grapevines all looked fine. Of course they have been dormant during winter.
I need to prune the Cabernet Sauvignon soon as well as replant some Semillon. I also have to plant out the Tempranillo from the seed bed. Then there is the Pinot Noir!
The weather is warm and this with bring on bud burst prematurely so need to do these tasks urgently. In fact this has been the second warmest winter on record.
So I am fighting jet lag and trying to get chores done.
Life wasn't meant to be easy!