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.