Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kiama / A Date Day

We travelled north about 90 minutes to Kiama to meet up with friends of mine who were holidaying there with their daughter and her twins (visiting from New York) and one of their sons.
I have known them for 50 years.
On the way we stopped off in Nowra (two quilt/fabric stores) and Berry (two quilt/fabric stores, one book shop and one of our favorite coffee stops). I somehow resisted a visit to the eclectic wine store in that town.
They always have a great range of little known New Zealand Pinot Noirs to choose from.
Kiama was always a favourite holiday destination for those living in southern Sydney. Easts Beach which was overlooked by our host's rental house was the place to go. Back then it was a camping and caravan park. Now it seems to be filled with cabins.

Better roads and an electrified train link has turned the town into a easy day trip from Sydney and even a dormitory suburb of Wollongong and probably, for some, Sydney.
The main tourist attraction has always been the blow hole.
It turns on a spectacular display when the sea conditions are right.
But Kiama has a interesting history as well.
In the early 1800s cedar getters arrived to harvest timber from the dense temperate rain forests that covered rolling hills. When this was gone settlers tried their hand at wheat farming on the 'denuded' landscape which failed. Dairying then became the mainstay. Some dairy farms remain to this day.

Kiama sits on a bed of basalt formed by two volcanic eruptions 240 million years and 66 million years ago and was a valuable commodity for a growing colony with the blue metal used to pave Sydney's roads and as ballast for its railways.
In the early 20th century it became a rollicking mining town with the basalt being shipped north to Sydney from its man made harbour.
There are still active quarries in the region.
It was a lovely day sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean eating seafood and steak and drinking good Margan wine.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 5

They have discovered that the grapes are ripening and are patrolling the netting looking for a way in.
Some have been successful.
It is a constant job monitoring the nets for holes.
Kangaroos 'visiting' at night pull down shoots protruding through the nets (they like the young leaves) and inevitably tear holes with their sharply clawed feet. Just what the birds, mainly currawongs, are looking for.
So am mending and shooing! (yes, shooing, not shooting)
Due to the dry weather the birds' natural feed is not readily available so they have turned to the man made. Commercial vineyards in the area as well as other regions eg. Hunter Valley,  have reported increased bird and flying fox activity this year.

I had planned to harvest the Semillon this weekend but it's raining today and forecast similarly for tomorrow.
Bad news for us but good news for the people just to the west of us up over the mountains where devastating bush fires have destroyed a lot of property.
Meanwhile 'the lab' has been restocked with the necessary chemicals and organized and the wine making equipment checked that it is in working order.
Next job will be to clean all the buckets pre picking.
Then I need to sterilize the crusher, press, fermenter and a tank. This is done generally between picking and processing.

Monday might be the day it all starts.
I tested the Pinot Noir again and recorded almost the same result as reported in Vintage Update 4 so am confidant it is right. Will look at it and the Tempranillo again late next week.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 4

Weather has been searingly hot in the state since our last report.
On Saturday and Sunday just gone, New South Wales was reported to be the hottest region in the world.
Temperatures in some places reached 48°C (118°F)
These conditions, with accompanying dry gusty winds, produced the inevitable bush fires.
Tens of thousands of ha.were burnt out by 80+ fires which raged across the dry countryside. Whole villages, farm houses and stock have been lost. No loss of life has yet been notified. Sadly some of these fires were deliberately lit.

We have escaped the more extreme temperatures apart from one day in the 40s but it's been consistently in the low 30s and has been very dry.
This combination has caused leaf burn and drop. We were getting concerned that reduced canopy cover would lead to fruit burn and reduced ripening.
But unexpectedly 70mm rain fell a few days ago and while most of the state was on fire yesterday it rained again here.
This seems to have revived the vines.

Be' sugar tests today:
Pinot Noir 10.0° (no change from 2 weeks ago).
Semillon 11.0° (up 2.0 from 2 weeks ago)
Tempranillo 12.0° (up 1.5  from 2 weeks ago).
Why didn't the Pinot move? The vines are the healthiest looking of the four varieties planted and have a good canopy. Maybe the vines absorbed more soil moisture from the rain than those with a lighter leaf cover, diluting the grape juice to some extent. Or there was a testing error.
So it will probably be another week before the Semillon is harvested and at least 2 weeks before the two reds hit the crusher.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 3

Weather has been hot and dry since our last report.
Very dry in fact. Some of our dams are drying up and our creek does not have any water in it at all. This is a first in 30 years I have been here.
Added to this we have had some very hot days in the mid to high 30s with a few in the 40s.
This has put vines in the shallower soils under considerable pressure. We have noticed some leaf wilting, burning and fall.
This does not auger well for grape ripening. Bunches need leaves to ripen.
The last preliminary sugar level tests a few days ago showed:
Tempranillo 10.5 Be'
Semillon 9.0 Be'
Pinot Noir10.0 Be'

Our targets are:
Tempranillo 13.5 Be'
Semillon 11.5 Be'
Pinot Noir 13.5 Be'
I know farmers are always complaining about the weather but when you are used to a wet vintage year after year, a dry one that comes along once every decade should be welcomed.
But this one is too bloody dry!
At least we are disease free. All but the Cabernet Sauvignon have had their last spray to comply with industry standard chemical withholding periods.
I expect to start harvest in about two to three weeks