Saturday, December 31, 2011

That Was The Year That Was

Happy New Year to all my readers!
For us 2011 started with a pretty difficult vintage. Continuous wet weather made fungus control very uncertain and we paid the price when our Semillon "went to God" in spring. The reds seem to be faring better so far.
The strange weather continued all year under the influence of La Nina and it was officially the coldest start to summer in 50 years. In fact we had our first swim of the season on Christmas day!

On the positive weather side, there were no huge wind storms, damaging thunder storms or bush fires in our area this year.
The same can't be said for northern Australia, especially Queensland, with some disastrous cyclones (hurricanes) and wide spread flooding at the beginning of the year.
The house got a new roof as well as some remedial structural work and we are pleased the leaks have stopped. Worth every dollar.

The cattle got through winter in good condition on supplementary feed and produced 5 calves in the spring. Sadly, one didn't make it (no, not the assisted birther) but that's life on the land. Snake bite? Who knows.
There was a bit of a health scare mid year but things are now going well and all that has been put behind us.
The trip to the USA in September was great. New York, Washington DC and Nashville were all new destinations for us and we saw and did lots. Catching up with family in South Dakota was, as usual, also fun.

We are now at the end of the festive season but summer holidays for the bulk of Australians will continue for another month. After they have all gone home our lives will return to normal ie. quiet and peaceful, on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales.
Plans for 2012?
Travel wise, we will probably stay 'home'. A trip to Melbourne via the Snowy Mountains and back along the coast road is in the final planning stage. The co driver wants to attend a yoga festival in the Victorian capital and I can more than fill in my time in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula wine regions.
Tasmania in spring for a few weeks is also a possibility.

Other than that we are gearing up for the 2012 vintage which will start in February.
The vines are thriving under the damp, coolish conditions but seem to have produced a lot of leaves and not the normal fruit load. Hopefully the quality will make up for the lower yield.
It's hard to believe that this blog is over seven years old now and has had over 22,000 hits in the last 4 years. Written mainly for family and friends, the geographical diversity of readership always amazes me.
Hopefully you will all be with me for another seven...or more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

After opening presents, we had our traditional breakfast of pancakes and then headed for the beach.
It was a warm sunny morning with not many people around. The water was a bit cool to start with but we soon got used to it. This was our first swim of the season. We had the pleasure of sharing the surf with a pod of about ten dolphins which came quite close.

Then it was back home to prepare for Christmas lunch. The daughter had brought down a bottle of Pol Roger champagne so we started with that. Then it was the choice of oysters natural or oysters kilpatrick followed by fresh tiger prawns.

We then put some fresh mussels on the BBQ to open and had them with a spicey home made Italian tomato sauce. All this was washed down with Margan's Hunter Valley Semillon and/or Verdelho.

After a bit of a rest, we bbq'd some lamb filets and had them with a feta, oregano and olive oil sauce together with grilled tomatoes and cauliflower au gratin. I found a bottle of Wynns Coonawarra Alex 88 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 in my secret stash to go with this.
You would think this was enough, but no.
Dessert was a choice of ice cream with home made chocolate sauce or plum pudding, vanilla custard and ice cream.
We all then raised the white flag!
And a short sleep during what was left of the afternoon was in order.
No dinner (big surprise!) but a quiet evening in front of the TV finished a great day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve dawned with a thick pea soup fog.
It was still hanging around mid morning but cleared to a bright sunny warm day.
At last summer appeared to be here.
The co-driver, daughter and I headed down the beach for a walk and a sit on the rocks.
The beaches have a few more people than normal on them but it will be Boxing Day when the hoards of touros arrive for their holidays.
Town was busier than normal on Friday when we did our Christmas grocery shopping but hadn't reached the frenzy we know will happen on the following weeks.

So, touros, some advice for the following four weeks.
We know you only have a limited time away from work and we know you want to fit as much as possible into your holiday, but....
  • running your shopping trolley into the back of my legs while standing in the supermarket queue won't make it go any faster.
  • the people who live here full time know most everyone else including the check out chicks and store owners. If we have our normal 30 second chat during and after getting served, no need to tut tut and roll your eyes at the delay in your getting served.
  • I know you don't think the 'dogs on leads' sign at the beach means you and that you think it's ok for your dog to crap and wee everywhere and hunt down the new hatched and endangered hooded plover chicks in the sand dunes but at least take a bag and clean up after it.
  • realize that our beaches are quite long and relatively uncrowded. No need to park yourself and your sprogs one meter from us at the far end of the beach, turn up your music and kick soccer balls/play volley ball/play beach cricket/play badminton on top of us. And please take your empty bottles and cans with you when you leave.
  • surfboards can be dangerous weapons. Don't ride them in amongst swimmers.
  • beach umbrellas have steel spikes on their ends. These become spears when the wind catches them and they cartwheel down the sand. How about making sure they are safe and secure before heading into the water. No one wants to see child shish kebab.
  • yes, our roads are narrow and get quite busy at this time of year. No need to tail gate us and participate in outrageously dangerous passing maneuvers to get to the beach 10 seconds before us.
I know all this will fall on deaf ears but at least I feel better now. As one of our shop owners said to us "it's good that they bring their money with them every year, pity they leave their good manners at home".
Anyway we are off to see some friends who own a local winery for a few drinks.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Valley Christmas Party

Each year one of the families in the valley hosts our little community’s Christmas party.
This year it was our turn.
It’s a very informal affair with BYO food and grog and a plate to share.
Seven of the eight families turned up with the valley matriarch, Norma, unfortunately still in hospital. She assured us in a phone call during the evening she would be there next year.
With the weather forecast to be iffy, we set up in the car port, aka ‘the winery’, with the BBQ’s nearby.
We needn’t have worried as the rain stayed away but being protected from the unseasonably cool wind was a bonus.
The mutually owned Christmas lights were strung up and we minimally decorated with some bits and pieces that had been stored away, forgotten, for many years in the shed.

The unofficial mayor, neighbour Bob, attempted as usual to get some community projects discussed eg. cattle grid maintenance at the entry to our road plus a few other things.
It’s been the same agenda for as long as I can remember and discussions always get diverted and Bob in the end gives up and postpones them until next year.
I decided to have a bit of a retro starters menu. So out came the party pies, sausage rolls and cheerios (no, not the cereal, but cocktail sausages), all party food of my childhood. All were scoffed down.
I had also ducked into the German supermarket chain Aldi in town to see what seasonal German delights I could find as a reminder of spending two Christmases in that country.
I picked up some Pfeffernuesse and Lebkuchen as well as some marshmallow snowmen. They had all sorts of familiar goodies there but we didn’t want to go overboard! These were pretty popular too.
So with the odd Christmas song amongst the 60s and 70s music on the play list and lots of good food, the evening flew by.

There were lots of different salads and hot dishes to go with BBQ meat and a variety of desserts.
Norma had delegated the co driver to make sure that her pavlovas were on hand as usual. So under the watchful eye of neighbour Jude, the co driver, who had never made this traditional Australian (New Zealand?) dessert before, put together two beauties.
Both were quickly devoured.
So that was it for 2011.
We are lucky to be living along side such a great group of people.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Better Luck Next Time

In February this year I wrote about the upcoming 2011 harvest “another problem fungus is botrytis or grey rot or bunch rot. Botrytis cinerea results in a disintegration of grape berry structure and creates the ideal conditions for the infection of the fruit with yeasts and bacteria which increase volatile acidity and laccase activity.
The musts obtained from infected grapes are strongly compromised both microbiologically and chemically. This shows up as laccase enzymes, a high concentration of apiculated yeasts, acetic bacteria, lactic bacteria and high concentrations of gluconic and acetic acid.
The most important wine making problems are caused by the presence of laccase, an enzyme that oxidises wine polyphenols.
As an indirect consequence it causes the production of acetaldehyde, the reduction of the free sulphur dioxide, an increase in "faded" aromatics, the loss of primary aromas, the darkening of white wines, and an increase of orange notes in red wines.
So we have a bit of a battle on our hands this vintage to produce reasonable wine”

Then in March, post harvest, I wrote about the Semillon, “the fruit has been affected by botrytis much of which we managed to manually sort through and discard. It will be interesting to see if that fungus has any affect on the resultant wine quality particularly its oxidation 'resistance'.”
Well the chickens have well and truly come home to roost.
Despite increased levels of sulphur, maintenance of a low pH and as best as possible reducing the exposure of the wine to air during the various production procedures, the smell of acetaldehyde (sherry like) and a noticeable browning in colour is obvious.
The wine has become victim of oxidation almost surely caused by laccase enzyme activity.
Unfortunately it has become undrinkable and will have to be poured into the ground.
That’s the risk of a Vin de Garage operation with no real sophisticated quality control equipment available.
Better luck in 2012.
And for all those inquiring about the welfare of the 'assisted birth' calf I blogged about last month, I have included a pic taken a few days ago.
Both baby and mother are doing well. So that more than cancels out the disappointment of the loss of the wine.