TARRAHILL 2018

Wednesday, September 12

 yarra valley morning mist

yarra valley morning mist

Hi All!

I'm back sitting at my desk. Is it really a year since the last post? How time does get away.

In my defence, I have been active with photos and posts on our Facebook page and Instagram, both of which I find convenient and spontaneous and probably a better representation of events. Much has happened here, both in the vines, the winery and in our lives in general so here is a (hopefully) brief update.

2017 was a busy year and very warm for the vines. Things grew like topsy and ripening happened in a rush so that harvest was early and very short. The wines are bigger and heavier than we have made in the past.

Our first grandchild, Teddy, arrived in the middle of vintage leading Jonathan to write on the white board, recording all the picking details: 'Cabernet/Pinot/Shiraz/Chardonnay/Babies 1'.!!

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The winemaker, fresh from pressing, meets his first grandchild.


In May I flexed off to Norway to go wwoofing in a commercial nursery in Kristiansand in the southwest. It was quite a change from viticulture and very interesting and ultimately useful, as well as being lots of fun. All grist to the mill.

 My workspace for the spring seedlings

My workspace for the spring seedlings

 The nursery: Radesund Planteskole, Kristiansand, Norway

The nursery: Radesund Planteskole, Kristiansand, Norway

2018 was difficult due to disease pressure at critical times, particularly before bunch closure. We have continued with our biodynamic regimen which helps the vines' resilience so that they recover quickly from these adverse events. In the end we were 30% down on our normal harvest: better than some who did far worse. There are other options that we can explore with biodynamics, using other biological sprays such as whey etc, which I would like to look at in this coming season. 

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Each season is different, keeping us on our toes. We never really know what is coming. Just after this vintage young Clementine arrived into our world, a beautiful baby daughter to Lizzie and Matt and our second grandchild.

 Clementine

Clementine

So far this year we have had lower than average rainfall: virtually none in March and May, as well as a dryish winter; rain periods but no mud, not a 'normal' state of affairs for this region at this time of the year, but then, what is normal these days?

We moved the naughty sheep out of the vineyard yesterday ahead of imminent budburst. We bought 10 more sheep (we now have 20) late last year and they have kept us on our toes as far as managing their grazing. They show no respect for my tentative electric tape that is supposed to shield my new plantings from their busy chewing so we have been at war. I woke up the other morning with the idea that putting the 5 most difficult ones in the freezer would solve our problems; they have been perfectly behaved since.

 Our moulting sheep looking a little rough round the edges as they go into spring

Our moulting sheep looking a little rough round the edges as they go into spring

They have, I have to admit, done a fabulous job mowing the vineyard. As things really start to grow with the warmer weather, we will be back on the tractors. Last year we left large tracts between vine parcels unmown, the long grass acting as habitat for insects and small birds. The orchard that we planted in the middle of the vineyard similarly adds biodiversity as well as still producing incredible apples.

 Pear harvest

Pear harvest


We have had wonderful help from backpackers, HelpX and family over the last couple of years, both during the year and particularly at vintage. Ed and his friends have come up as a change from their desk jobs and enjoyed the country air, vigorous exercise and lunch or dinner. Our international helpers from Italy, Estonia, Germany and, most recently, China, have been great fun and very interesting. Such a wonderful cultural exchange. We look forward to seeing Edoardo and Eva again in Italy and even going to China at some stage to see how the wine industry is going there.

 Bella and Neal making authentic Chinese dumplings for us!

Bella and Neal making authentic Chinese dumplings for us!

I continue planting trees and shelter belts here with the intention of reforesting as much as is practical. It unfortunately requires a lots of extra fencing when the plants are small so that the horses, sheep and rabbits don't do irreparable damage. It is slow work but each year sees some progress.

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Jonathan has been busy putting the wines out to various wine shows and further developing our product distribution.  Kat has been our right hand helper with our promotions and marketing, somehow finding time in between looking after a busy 18 month old and running her (and partner's) new business venture. 

 Teddy and me feeding horses.

Teddy and me feeding horses.

Lizzie, Matt and baby Clem are now in Healesville and Clare is working at the wonderful K&B in the town as well as helping us at home. 

And last, but certainly not least, we have bought some land down on the Tasman peninsula, a bush block that is part of the land conservancy scheme in Tasmania. We will build a small house but otherwise cannot do other than have some r&r and enjoy the reclusive time that it offers. I'm sure that friends and family with want to join us occasionally!

 Eagle Brae, Saltwater River, Tasmania

Eagle Brae, Saltwater River, Tasmania

So, here we go, into the 2019 season. BD sprays on next week, some microbiological soil testing to be done, and thus the work begins!

Open days this year are 13th and 20th October 2018 at the winery from 10am. 

best wishes to you all

andrea and jonathan September, 2018.

Springtime in the Yarra Valley

Spring has finally arrived and brought with it the usual chaotic weather conditions. 25 degrees one day: hail and thunderstorms the next.

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Wind has to be the defining feature of this time of the year. We seem to have had weeks of ferocious northerlies that threaten to blow us off the ridge and then the equally westerly squalls that catch the trees unawares, blowing them over or scattering broken limbs about the paddocks. On my morning walks with the dogs I note the damage from the previous day and then give Jonathan his chainsaw tasks for the day. Sadly, our beautiful river gum in the centre of the vineyard was caught by one of these westerlies and has been irreparably damaged when it fell. The big trunk was quite hollow inside and used extensively by the birds for nesting sites. These old trees are so precious. It was our only significantly mature tree. Everything else has been planted by us over the last 25 years and won't mature in our lifetime. It takes 150 years for eucalypts to mature to the point that they develop hollows useful as nesting sites for native animals. (don't get me started on clear fell logging old growth forests!!)

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The plus about the windy and warmer weather is that there has been no further frosts. The frost affected vines are recovering well and we are seeing strong shoots from the bases of the spurs that will take over next year without major changes to the established structure of the cordon. This is positive.

Flower shoots are forming.

Hail continues to be a lurking threat. When the sky darkens and the temperature drops and we hear the tinkling patter of ice on the tin roof, we hold our breath and pray that it is brief and fine. No golf balls please!! Some years ago a number of vineyards in the valley were completely defoliated by hail.

The young vines are growing well but need daily attention so that they can make the most of the warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, the snails have discovered the new shoots in their protective guards, so we have had to declare war on these pesky mollusks. What a pity we can't eat them! A little garlic and some French butter......!

We have the 2011 chardonnay in the winery now and have been tasting the different barrels. The question is always: to blend, or not to blend. Good fun.

Summer heat in the vines 2014

Hi All,

Welcome back after what I hope was an enjoyable holiday break for everyone. What a hot spell we had in January! Our guests from the UK got a good taste of an Aussie summer this time but it created problems for the vineyard and the farm in general. The potential for fire is never far from our minds at this time and we had our fire plan ready from the first heat wave.

The garden is very dry ,though the deciduous trees around the house seem to be doing well. We water only pots and vegetables usually but I have put some water onto the lawn immediately in front of the house in the hope that it would slow a grass fire and buy us some extra time.
Even the indestructible agapanthus haven't enjoyed the intensity of the late afternoon sun.

The vineyard has dried out considerably and the heat has hastened veraison, the time when the grapes begin to colour and the bunches to fill out. These pinot bunches are part the way through veraison.

 Similarly the cabernet, though not as advanced. All the varieties develop in their own time.!

Evidence of some of the problems in the vineyard this season remain visible.
A hail storm in late November caused vine, leaf and berry damage.

Sunburn on the west-facing leaves of the chardonnay. Any exposed fruit can be similarly burned.

The young vines, our hopes for a Bordeaux blend, are doing well with a bit of extra water when it is very hot.

Last week the girls and I went to Daylesford for the day and really enjoyed some Medlar jelly as an accompaniment to cold meats, so we are treasuring our baby medlar trees and look forward to their fruits!

The meadow seed mix that I broadcast in autumn has resulted in a selection of herbs coming up in the vineyard inter rows which we hope will seed and spread further and continue to attract beneficial insects.

Our views have changed from the lush green of spring to the golden yellows of summer. Dried grasses that catch the light and lend a stark contrast to the greens of the vine canopy and the surrounding trees.

As the grapes ripen the birds decide that they would like some of the action, so it is time for netting. The nets aren't foolproof but keep most critters out. They have to be checked daily in case birds become trapped inadvertently and need rescuing. Occasionally a snake gets tangled and that presents an interesting challenge!

Our new mowers for the vineyard arrived just before Christmas and have settled in well. They are enjoying their new home and the shade of the oaks in the heat of the day. I have tried in vain to make friends which is very vexing. Not even a bucket of oats will tempt them yet: too much grass!

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So we are rolling rapidly towards vintage 2014. More nets on this evening: the main block chardonnay.

Tomorrow we pick part ripe pinot to make verjus the delicious liquid that comes from crushed, unripe grapes and used as an alternative to vinegar, lemon juice or white wine in many dishes and sauces. Every winter we bake quinces in verjus, adding only raw sugar and a vanilla pod. After 6 hours in the oven, the quinces are dark red and have an amazingly intense flavour. 

A Happy New Year to everyone and stay cool!

best wishes
Andrea 

Frosty mornings

I love frosty mornings: the days when I have to don endless layers before venturing outside. The dogs love these mornings as well.

They seems to be able to follow a scent, despite the freezing conditions. We make tracks wherever we go.

Roger loves to run with the grass crackling underfoot.   

Maggie stays close to me. She is my guardian and always on the lookout for problems ahead!

The vines are content on the frosty days, dormant and well insulated against the ice and cold.
The wintery weather almost feels cleansing, allowing, or even requiring, a period of quiescence where plants and animals alike gather strength for the busyness of the months to come.

BUT, and this is a big but, there is also the Spring frost.

Last week, Friday morning to be exact, the temperatures dropped below zero in the early hours of the morning and the valley awoke to frost again. We are about 2 weeks into budburst. The chardonnay first, then the pinot. followed by the shiraz and finally the cabernet.

Budburst looks like this:

Then some days later the first shoots:

But then comes the first frost, burning the new, tender leaves.

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The damage is mainly in the southern sections of the chardonnay and pinot. It looks as though the cold air has bounced its way down the vineyard, completely missing some sections and landing with a resounding thump on others. We can only hope that the vines have enough energy to re-shoot and then flower.

Meanwhile spring has really sprung and most of the animals and plants don't seem to have noticed the cold snap at all.

The geese don't care about the weather it seems.

And the oaks relish all weathers putting on a beautiful lime-green display for all to see. 
still love my frosty mornings, but it is all in the timing!!!!!!