2021 VINTAGE UPDATE
This has been a truly unique season. It’s not like the wet and cold 2011, when the fruit just did not ripen adequately. And it’s very different to last year when we were picking to a nineties timetable.
Undoubtedly the season is driven by the La Niña event that has brought spring and summer rain, with very moderate temperatures.
This has presented lots of challenges managing the vineyard with more spraying than usual to keep disease pressure under control. In addition, we have undertaken leaf plucking and slashing of midrows to help with air flow through the vines. Fruit has been dropped for the first time in many years to help the vines through ripening of an abundant crop.
Then we experienced a steady period of perfect ripening weather during February and hopes were high of harvest in early March. However, the huge low pressure trough across Australia causing flooding havoc to the north, started to have an impact down here. Steady rainfall and occasional periods of dry weather have resulted in some serious planning challenges to pick fruit in peak condition.
We finally picked our first fruit for table wine on March 9 and on March 31, the last of our Pinot Noir was being picked. There is still our Syrah ripening steadily on our warmest site.
The lovely ripening weather earlier and the sound fruit set means the underlying conditions for some top-drawer wines coming from our vineyard have been met.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE VINEYARD
The biggest change to our vineyard management has been the arrival in August, of Micah, our new Manager. We feel activity has stepped to another level since he joined. He’s keen as… well, you know.
We’ve been doing new things like marking up vines for individual attention and training to improve the canopy. Likewise, activities avoided in the past such as leaf plucking, dropping fruit, and foliar sprays to strengthen canopy have been undertaken with gusto. All this will be a great help to fruit quality.
Better still with his horticultural training, Micah convinced us to make a compost pile which will greatly benefit our vineyard when spread undervine next spring. The effect on soil health will be profound with enhanced microbial activity in the root zone creating a beneficial cycle of nutrient transfer to the vine.
After getting smashed by bird peck on a relatively low crop last year, we have put out a lot of nets this season. The management issue with netting is taking them off in time for the crews. A lot of vineyards use two row nets which enables access with the sides lifted into the canopy when picking fruit. We use four row nets, simply for convenience, but they do leave the problem of taking them off in time.
MAKING VERJUICE FOR THE KITCHEN
We did pick some fruit earlier in the season for purposes other than still table wine.
As we have publicized, a traditional practice when fruit dropping in smaller vineyards has been to use it for Verjuice. Because some of blocks would benefit from less fruit load it was a fortuitous juxtaposition between surplus unripe fruit and verjuice making.
We have about 130 litres in demijohns waiting to be bottled. Gill couldn’t wait and has been using it copiously for the past few weeks. It’s great in dressings and sauces and we particularly like using it to bake stone fruits or rhubarb. Just add a bit of brown sugar into a baking dish with the fruit and verjuice and voila: a yummy, cooked fruit for dessert.
MAKING A NEW FIELD BLEND PET NAT
Our second early season foray has also been to make a new product.
Hot off the press – all going well, we expect to have a Field Blend Pet Nat in the market this year. Pet Nat is a sparkling wine made more or less completely in the bottle. Entirely natural from vineyard into the glass. This means Pet Nat has no additives like Sulphur and is not filtered or fined because the bottle is sealed before the winemaking is complete.ie. the fruit is largely fermented in the bottle entirely naturally, meaning lots of bubbles when the crown seal is popped.
As the term implies, the Field Blend is a mix of fruit from across our vineyard; you could say a bit of this and a bit of that: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Like other sparkling wines fruit is picked early – before full ripeness to ensure some strong acidity is retained in the grapes. Our Pet Nat mix was picked on Friday, February 26.
The outcome will be very funky we hope. Watch this space for more updates.
PREMIUM SMALL BATCH PINOT NOIR UNDERWAY
Also in the pipeline is a premium Small Batch Pinot Noir. On the vine the fruit looked fantastic and has come in for a bit more care and attention like fruit dropping and leaf plucking on the eastern side to help ripening and flavours. Franco is excited so we will wait to see what comes out the other end of the winery. Could be something special.
We will continue with the Lone Star Creek portfolio of wines: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of course. More Pinot Gris and another Lone Star Red. This season our Sauvignon Blanc has gone into the Pet Nat.
SYRAH A POSSIBILITY
Whether we do a Syrah this season is in the laps of the weather gods at present. We’ve dropped fruit and leaf plucked in the block as well, in the hope of improving the ripeness. Seems to me more likely than not, as all our Syrah wines to date have been on odd numbered years – 2017 & 2019. So 2021… who knows?