Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day. It commemorates the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. The raising of the Union Jack there symbolised the beginning of the British occupation of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on 22nd August, 1770.
Australia Day has become a community day. There are still formal ceremonies throughout the country including flag raising, citizenship confirmations and the presentation of important community awards, but 26th January has become much more for the average Australian. Celebrations now include a strong festive aspect with special events, particularly in Sydney, encouraging the participation of the entire family and all members of a community.

However, Aboriginal Australians have continued to feel excluded from what has long been a British pioneering settler celebration, symbolised by the raising of the Union Jack and later the Australian flag which bears the British flag. Some even call it Invasion Day. Debate over the date and nature of Australia Day continues as the National Australia Day Council seeks to meet the challenge of making 26th January a day all Australians can accept and enjoy.
The grapes are looking good. The continued dry weather has them disease free. Berry size is small which should see high quality juice but low yield. We should be starting harvest in the middle of February with Pinot Noir (currently 11.5 deg Baume') and then continue on until mid April when the Cabernet Sauvignon should be ready.

The 11th annual South Coast Wine Show was its usual success. We had 164 entries from 25 wineries which is a record. I did my usual glass washing duties with my perennial partner in crime, Peter. We managed to fit in a few private tastings of our own during the day.
Calculation: 164 entries X (3 judges + 1 associate judge) + 10 re pours + 40 backroom boys' tastings = 736 glasses washed and dried! None broken.
Judging took most of the day and the medal tally ended up 7 gold, 15 silver, 65 bronze.
The backroom boys' assessment of the Wine of Show Award did not agree with that of the judges but when challenged they were quite gracious in telling us how wrong we were.
er....no, we weren't!
We all relaxed at the Judges' Dinner at Cupitt’s Winery that night. Everyone investigates the dark recesses of their cellars for a special bottle for this occasion and we had some wonderful wines with a lovely meal. I managed to find an 8 year old Hunter Valley Shiraz of very high alcohol, 15.6%, which wasn't very popular. I didn't like it much either any more. It was the however my last bottle. It's amazing how your palate changes over the years.
Saturday saw the public tasting of all the show wines taking place with a smaller than usual crowd turning up for that. Presentation of awards are on the 5th February at Cuppits.
The event has become popular with the local media which makes my job as publicity officer easier. I did a few local radio interviews and the national broadcaster ABC Illawarra 97.3 FM sent down presenter Nick Rheinburger who did a 'live' tasting with chief judge, David Morris.
Rural Australia has always had a tendency to install quirky letterboxes. These are usually gathered together at the end of roads servicing small communities. Up until now we had a converted kerosene tin as our letterbox. This was a legacy of the previous owner. But time and the weather have taken their toll and rust has eventually won out. Our replacement is quite traditional and now stands out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the group at the end of our road.

Preparation is under way to send off my five bulls to market. Apart from the water shortage, they have become a bit of a handful, especially the oldest one who has taken to ‘visiting’ the cows next door for conjugal rights. This is not a problem for my neighbour who appreciates the free servicing of her herd (and has had success with my bull before) but it puts a lot of pressure on the fences. We have had other bull calves in recent times so it’s not as though I won’t be able to continue the ‘breeding program’ in the future. But as with all things these days, the process is not a simple one. There is a mountain of paperwork to do as well as organise accreditation and electronic ear tags. Luckily I don’t have to put these in; the sale yard will do that for me.
So that will leave me with 5 cows and three calves ie. less pressure on water, grass and fences.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Welcome 2010!

We managed to make it to around 9:30pm on New Years Eve but at least we were able to hit the surf early the next morning with a clear head for an swim on a basically deserted beach which is unusual for this time of year. Considering the 'condition' of some of the beach goers we came across asleep in the sand dunes or struggling down later, I think we may have made the right decision not to party all night.
We have slipped into our summer routine without much hassle. Early trips into town for groceries and other essentials, early visits to the beach and then quiet afternoons doing a bit around the place or watching some cricket on TV. 'Holiday Hermits' is the local expression.
We have been having regular thunderstorms most afternoons. Lots of thunder and lightning and short torrential downpours dumping about 2mm over 10 minutes. Then nothing!
At least the grass is turning greener and getting longer each day. This has brought the kangaroos and wallabies in and they are now constant companions around the house. They love the fresh green shoots. Lucky the vines are netted as they love those too.

The daughter arrives today for a week's visit. We have planned some lunches out and some good dinners in. Other than that I think she will be happy to hit the beach, read, veg out and chill after what has been a busy year. Working and doing a university course at the same time doesn't allow much time off. She and TTP have plans to visit Vanuatu next month and the USA east coast later in the year. Our travel plans look to be on hold for 2010. We have visitors from codriverland coming in March and September which is usually our travel time so instead we may take the opportunity to see some of our own country for a change this year.
A close inspection of all three vineyard blocks over the last week showed that despite some old leaf fall due to the drought, they are not in too bad a state. The Pinot Noir and Tempranillo are in the veraison stage. Hopefully the shoots will have enough leaves left on them to ripen the fruit to a reasonable level. There was little sign of disease and no sign of any pests.
Could be a low yield high quality vintage!