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!
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!