The Growing Year to Vintage 2017.

A whole growing season has passed since our last post in August 2016!!  Whilst the blog has been quiet, activity in the vineyard has not, so we thought we would give an overview of the season from pruning last winter through to autumn 2017.

PRUNING is one of the biggest and important tasks in the growing year, setting the foundations for the following harvest.  The vineyard is all pruned by hand and takes approximately 3 months to complete, work taking place come rain or shine!

Celebrating the end of pruning 🙂

A light dusting of snow in July

A very cold start to a beautiful day in August

Always a welcome sight – a rainbow seen from the 98 Block

Winter also saw good rainfall.  By the end of September we were 93 mm above the long term average.  This meant that the vines were well set up with deep soil moisture for the growing year.

The creek overflowing across the road to the vineyard

BUDBURST was early, around the 12th September and was uniform across the blocks. Once again, the frost system provided protection from the early spring frosts.  After the early start, the months of October and November were very cool and the growth was healthy but slow.

New growth.

The overhead sprinklers of the frost system in action.

Tender buds protected under the ice

A slow start

Beautiful even growth in our 2000 block

FLOWERING started around the 12th December, the weather was perfect leading to a really excellent FRUIT SET.  An unexpected frost on the 19th December with temperatures dropping to -1.5 C in parts of the vineyard resulted in burn damage to our 97 Block.

Each individual flower is a potential berry on a bunch

Good weather = good pollination = good fruit set 🙂

A very healthy canopy supporting strong bunch development in the 98 Block

VERAISON was well underway by early February after several months of vigorous growth – the slow start by now a distant memory.  The vineyard team trimmed the unruly canopy to ensure good air circulation and light penetration to the precious fruit.

Veraison – anticipation of the harvest to come.

Trimming and tucking

The powerhouse!

HARVEST 2017 started with a small ‘in house’ pick on the 31st March, with full picking starting on the 3rd April.  The harvest was plentiful with excellent, clean quality fruit. Picking went smoothly, and took in total 8 days to complete, finishing on the 13th April.  The heavy rain that came on the 9th and 10th resulted in a 3 day break in the picking but luckily did not affect the small remaining amount of fruit.

The team taking samples for testing prior to harvest

Beautiful clean bunches of Pinot Noir.

Good harvesting weather for the Pinot Gris

The end of another year.

AUTUMN 2017 sees the vineyard entering winter dormancy and our thoughts are once again turning to pruning which will begin in a week or so at the start of June….the cycle continues 😀

Some of our resident roos enjoying the autumn peace.

Chilly mornings have returned

Mellow yellow – May 2017

 

Scenes from Curly Flat -winter 2016

Here’s a variety of shots taken over what has been a winter that has been mostly wet, very wet! As you get all sorts of weather in between, from the sometimes sunny days which serve as the sucker punch to the days of howling wind & driving rain. The rain is welcome though as it has been in deficit of recent years so this sustained soak will hopefully work its way down deeper into our soils. This will help get our vines into a favourable space for budburst and hopefully vintage 2017 overall.

Although 31st May, this frosty start set the tone for winter!

Frost 2000 block

Frost upclose on a vine

Sunrise on June 1st

95 block – 21 years old this year!

Purple haze – sunrise over Lake Lacuna July 18th

Pruning workshop & more with Simonet & Sirch from Italy

Pruners finishing after a long day

Arty shot of CF winery

We’ve had a few beautiful days too!

Daylight hours are extending…

…but it’s still very cold most mornings!

Above average rains have got the creeks flowing

An epic sunrise, 9th August

The big push – one (big) block left to prune!

Finishing on a positive note… while rainbows have been pretty common this year, they always look spectacular!

A new year begins…

As the new year begins, the path leading to our 2015 harvest has now entered its eighth month.  Each vintage starts from the commencement of pruning, as this is where the template for the harvest is (literally) laid down.  Since the completion of pruning, budburst began on the 11th of September, which is later than last year but this is historically speaking still earlier than say 10 years ago.  That said, it has been a case of so far, so good with the growing cycle in vineyard as we have successfully navigated the inherent frost risks of the cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, along with maintaining adequate moisture to the vines at key points throughout the below average rainfall we have/haven’t received going way back to last August.  The weather itself has been fairly moderate, with only a few days reaching above 35 degrees (so far).  This relatively balanced weather, along with robust vine & soil health contributed to a successful flowering period throughout the vineyard which has resulted in good yields along with healthy looking bunches.  But it’s early days as harvest is at least 14 weeks away, and January & February is being predicted to particularly hot by our good friends at the Bureau of Meteorology, so as they say, it’s not over till it’s over!   Meanwhile for a different perspective of Curly Flat, below are some aerial photos taken of the vineyard back at the start of December 2014, along with a photo denoting the successful flowering. Next step for us now in the vineyard is to do a population sample of the bunches which allows us to gather an approximate tonnage for harvest in a few months time.  We’ll keep you update on how this vintage unfolds, but by all means come and visit us and talk to us first hand, along with a wine tasting of some Curly Flat to help celebrate the new year that lays ahead!

Curly Flat Vineyard from a distance.  This photograph was taken facing to the South-east looking upon the pastoral landscapes, of Lancefield, Romsey and onward.

Curly Flat Vineyard from a distance.  This photograph was taken facing to the South-east, looking upon the pastoral landscapes, of Lancefield, Romsey and onward.

Curly Flat Vineyard, a closer inspection.  The dark green areas of the vineyard denote where there is frost protection via overhead sprinklers.

Curly Flat Vineyard, a closer inspection. The dark green areas of the vineyard denote where there is frost protection via overhead sprinklers. For more on our frost protection click here.

Successful Fruitset

Just an example of the good fruit set in the vineyard. Pictured are bunches of Mariafeld Clone Pinot Noir, which is classically a looser bunch than the classic tight knitted ‘pine cone’ shape normally associated with Pinot Noir.

 

Exciting times and an anxious wait….

This week has seen the first of our picking for Vintage 2014.  It has started off small, firstly a parcel of Chardonnay picked on Tuesday and then yesterday the first of our Pinot Noir. It has been a difficult year for all growers, some more than others.  After months of no real rainfall to speak of, we have now had approximately 19 mm over the last 24 hours, with an uncertain forecast for the coming week – we are ready and waiting!  Below are some images from the first Pinot pick.

early morning mist

Heavy fog rolled in…

drying grapes

Waiting for the fruit to dry…

tipping

Tipping into the destemmer

in tank

Safely in tank ready for ferment 🙂

Budburst! Vintage 2014 is underway…

Although 1st of September marks the start of spring (in Australia), this date is a simplification as true spring starts with the arrival of the spring equinox on the 23rd of September.  This is when the plane of the Earth’s poles are the same distance from the Sun. The amount of daylight is roughly equal to its absence, heralding the true exit of winter as the daylight hours increase from there on.  In the cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, classically budburst begins occurs from anywhere from late September to early-mid October, roughly following the spring equinox. But this year budburst has followed the calendar with almost bullet precision, occurring on the 3rd of September.

Budburst underway on our 96 block Chardonnay

Budburst underway on our 96 block Chardonnay and a close up of a bud (inset)

So this year (or vintage) is already different from any other as we have now had our earliest budburst, 10 days earlier than any other on record.  The dates below relate to the past 5 vintages plus this current year:

  • 2008 – 19th September (Vintage 2009)
  • 2009 – 29th September (Vintage 2010)
  • 2010 – 11th October (Vintage 2011)
  • 2011 – 13th September (Vintage 2012)
  • 2012 – 19th September (Vintage 2013)
  • 2013 – 3rd September (Vintage 2014)

It is worth noting that an early budburst doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an early vintage, far from it.  Our warmest winter was in 2001 (average of 10°C) but it led to our coldest growing season which culminated with the 2002 vintage.  The next warmest winter was that of 2005 (average of 9.9°C) which did lead to warm growing conditions, and the resulting 2006 vintage is one of our most celebrated.  This winter was the third warmest for us (average of 9.8°C) and with the above in mind, the passage of weather can be cold, hot and everything in between, all of which effects the ultimate harvest date.  The best indicator of harvest date though is flowering & fruit set.   If that is early, then harvest will most probably be early too and vice versa if it is late. We’ll keep you posted on that.

From there the longer term forecast (from the BOM) is for moderate to above average warmth and above average rainfall.  With the weather still not committing to being in a La Nina/El Nino pattern, but rather remaining in a neutral state, this can lead to wetter than ‘normal’ conditions, but not as prolific as it would be if it were in La Nina pattern.  So as always we wait and see what the year delivers and of course we look forward to hopefully putting it into bottle.  

Shortest day turns out to be the coldest! (so far)

We’ve had some good frosts this week at Curly Flat culminating in the hardest this morning where it got down to -5, poetically coinciding with the winter solstice.  Here are some photos from around the vineyard this morning that highlight we’re one of the coolest viticultural regions in Australia.

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Curly Flat’s Vintage Hall (our cellar door) sees the ‘cold’ light of day

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Frost hairs on the lyre trellis

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um, that’s cold!

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Frozen spider webbing

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Watch your step!

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Lyre, Lyre, certainly not on fire!

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Formerly known as grass

icing on the vine IMG_1252

Vintage 2013 in barrel, Vintage 2014 is underway…

Now that the dust from Vintage 2013 has settled, we can now look back.

This harvest was the most contracted, in terms of the time taken between our first and last pick, since full production began in 2004.  By full production we mean when each of our 7 blocks each began producing wine grapes simultaneously, which usually takes up to 4 years from initial planting.  This years narrow picking window was not unique to our vineyard, but for the majority of viticultural Australia.  Nonetheless, our crop was kept in balance with the seasons particular ebb and flow which ultimately delivered fruit to the winery at an optimal balance between sugar (alcohol potential) and natural acidity.   Now that all wine is settled in barrel (or tank) for maturation, we are now getting a glimpse of what is ahead in terms of potential.  Whilst the road that lays ahead of these wines remains long, early indications are promising.  The last element missing from the wine now, is time, and for the only thing for that is to wait!  But as our custodial role in the winery continues, albeit at a calmer pace compared to harvest, the same cannot be said for the vineyard.  Although the vines are now dormant, we enter one of our busiest times in the vineyard with pruning. Marking the beginning of Vintage 2014,  correct, balanced, pruning sets the vine up for the best possible start come bud burst in September, and also well into the growing season.  Balanced vine equals balanced wine!  Pruning started this year on May the 29th.  We’ll post more on pruning and its importance in the coming weeks.

But to wrap up this Vintage just passed, we would like give special mention to the vintage crew of 2013.  Come to our cellar door and we’ll invariably talk about what a great team we have, who work day in, day out, to especially high standards, which we feel, reflects in the wine. Come to think of it might be fair to say we equally bottle passion as we do wine (if there’s a difference!)  But each vintage, to varying degrees, we need a few helping hands and this year we had one of the most diverse, yet wonderfully integrated vintage crews since being in the business.  We mentioned diverse, as the crew came from all over the world, Phillip described it as being akin to the United Nations.  With one major difference though, everyone got along!  Thanks for being part of our excellent team, whether it was in the vineyard or winery, or both.  An outstanding vintage is only made possible by an outstanding team. Well done, Bravo, 勇敢な & braver!

“The United Nations” were comprised as follows:

  • Louis       (France)
  • Pam         (USA)
  • Florence  (France)
  • Blair         (AUS)
  • Serge      (Switzerland)
  • Ilaria         (Italy)
  • Nicola      (France)
  • Sarah      (Japan)
  • Daniel     (Italy)
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From L to R: Lisa (CF), James (CF), Ilaria, Damien (CF), Sarah, Chris McK (CF) Lisa (CF Vineyard Manager), Nicola, Chris D (CF), Louis & Jenny (CF). At the front right is Daniel & Luke (CF). Thanks also go to the many hands that are not in this photo, too many to mention!