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.

 

2011 ‘The Curly’ Pinot Noir – Chene De Beaux Monts Barrels

For the 2011 vintage we we’re given a special opportunity to acquire barrels all sourced from one 400 year old French oak tree from the forests of Northern France.  Sadly, the tree had to be felled for structural reasons after some particularly bad weather, so at least it was being put to good use. Needless to say we jumped at this rare opportunity and employed these barrels to make one special wine; The Curly 2011 Pinot Noir.  The barrels even have their own name; Chene De Beaux Monts, which translates into ‘Wood of the Beautiful Mountains’, and beautiful oak it is.

barrel head chene

The cooler vintage of 2011 provided a unique expression of our site, and in regards to our Pinot Noir it allowed for an elegant, floral yet subtlety substantial wine with great persistence and length.  The barrels themselves do not overplay the fruit, but enhance it with a gliding raft of savoury tannin and enhancing the innate spicy floral character of the 2011 vintage.This is our ideal in terms of the role of oak at Curly Flat, to accentuate the unique character of our vineyard.

Here is a video of the very 400 year old tree at various stages after felling, from being measured out, sawn into large sections, and ultimately the staves themselves being crafted.

From there we always like to remind people The Curly” is not a reserve wine, rather it is a particular batch that is different to the main blend. The first “The Curly” Pinot was the 2010 (97 points from Halliday) which was 100% whole bunch and 100% new oak. The 2011 continues the theme of 100% new oak but it is very special oak. What is also unique about this 400 year old oak is the tightness of its grain. The tighter the grain the more subtle and integrated the oak influence, and for us, and certainly in terms of “The Curly”, less is more.  For our full tasting note please visit our website: http://www.curlyflat.com/wines/2011-the-curly-pinot-noir

11 Curly Pinot

Scores/Reviews for 2011 ‘The Curly’ Pinot Noir

95 PointsDrink to 2020  James Halliday 2015 Australian Wine Companion

93 Points –  Campbell Mattinson The Wine Front (review below)

“The toughest of years has produced a beautiful drink.  It’s light in colour but high on fragrance. It smells pretty much tremendous. Fistfuls of spice, autumn leaves, fresh cherries, wood. It tastes similarly, all washy and juicy and strung intricately together, a band on the run, in synch, in tune, on song. Spice, savouriness, leafiness; all are the spirit of the day. But there’s some sweetness too to the fruit, and it plays well. Not deep, not profound; uplifting.” Drink to 2019+

 Chene De Beaux Montage

Beaux Monts 5 1Sylvabois Beaux Monts juin 2006 001 2Sylvabois Beaux Monts juin 2006 002 3Beaux Monts 2 Beaux Monts 4 Sylvabois Beaux Monts juin 2006 016

Curly Flat 2014 Vintage Report

berries11

2014 was vintage, for us, was one of great quality and in light of the vintage generally, one of good quantity…

 

Relative to the tumultuous growing season for the 2014 vintage, we were ultimately very pleased with both our received quantity and even more so with its quality.  This year’s growing season ran seemingly ran through the full gamut of weather outside of snow!

Our yield of 76 tonnes meant we were down by around 15% from our average tonnage of around 90 tonnes.  There are several reasons why our relatively limited crop reduction wasn’t as severe as the majority of producers (Victoria wide).  The following synopsis relates to our experience of the 2014 harvest and may of course differ to the experiences of other producers in our region.

  • First we have frost protection on the risk areas, this alone saved about 1/3 of our potential crop as we experienced over a dozen frost events that overall would have had a devastating effect. Also due to the warm winter, bud burst was the earliest we have seen, so the period of exposure to frost risk was also the longest we have experienced.
  • The next phase from here was flowering and the cooler than normal spring became a saving grace as it delayed flowering until almost after the cool spring broke sparing flowers being poorly pollinated during that inclement weather.  Saying that we didn’t completely bypass the effects of a cool spring, as generally speaking berries and bunches were smaller than normal, but again not as dramatic as some of the stories we have heard from other regions such as Yarra Valley & Mornington Peninsula.  We believe that as these regions are relatively warmer than the Macedon Ranges & their vines were potentially exposed to the more unfavourable elements of the weather throughout the flowering phase.
  • Next up was the heat wave that arrived in summer and the relative lack of rain that came with it.  Post flowering, our main challenge was adequate irrigation which we were on top of from the get go.  Our vines are also privy to some outstanding soil.  With essentially no clay base our vines roots go deep, and on top of targeted irrigation (as well as fertigation as required) meant they never unduly suffered from water/heat stress which again is reflected in our relatively good bunch sizes and overall vine health.
  • Also veraison was completed outside of this hot period, meaning that the mostly green hard berries were relatively unscathed by those conditions.  Again these are conditions that were experienced in the warmer Victorian regions that our site/region avoided.  The hot weather also slowed down ripening as it closes down vine respiration , delaying development which in this instance was very favourable for us.
  • Once the heat subsided and cooler weather returned we experienced very good ripening weather, the absence of heat spikes again was very favourable sugar development & low acid degradation leading to very balanced, powerful yet poised fruit.
  • Harvest itself was ultimately trouble free, albeit not stress free, as after being seemingly absent for so long, rain returned.  One particular period threatened to deliver up to 130mm over two days, we escaped with only 40mm over a 4 day period. If anything this only served freshened up the vines and had negligible impact on the fruit. We appreciate that this rain did hit some areas of our region, so we consider ourselves very lucky here. Luck, or the lack of it, is unfortunately a part of farming, especially with weather experienced in the harvest.

In summary, we are more than satisfied with our crop both in terms of quantity and quality.  The Pinot Noir in summary is aromatic, powerful but balanced with a wide flavour spectrum as well as great acid backbone which suggest quite a long life ahead in the cellar.  Our Chardonnay is equally promising, with its ripe fruit profile and great balance of natural acids which will allow us to proceed with MLF for extra dimension.  Of course, as always, the only element remaining is time in barrel and for that we’ll just have to wait!

Curly Flat in James Halliday’s ‘Wineries of the Month’

As there are so many great cellar doors to visit these days, to make it a little easier, each month James Halliday suggests one of his top 5 star rated wineries from each state that he thinks is really worth making the effort to visit, and of course taste!

Link to JH website: http://www.winecompanion.com.au/wineries/wineries-of-the-month

VH & Winery

Our Winery and Cellar Door

We’re happy to say that our winery has been nominated as this months must see Victorian winery, and like everything we set out to do we pride ourselves on delivering not only great wines to taste, but a special Cellar Door experience to match.

CF cellar door_front door

Cellar Door Entrance

With our cellar door we like to think we provide an experience that is reflective our wines; unique and individual.  Rather than have dedicated ‘cellar door’ staff you will be greeted by people who work hands on with the wines that you will taste.  While we all talk on a similar thread about the vintage conditions behind the wines,  each of us infuse personal anecdotes giving even deeper insights into wine growing that a ‘usual’ cellar door experience wouldn’t allow.  Where we can, we’ll also give you a tour of winery and talk in greater detail about our philosophy and how we go about things.

Home for our cellar door is found in the refurbished 1880’s homestead, that we call Vintage Hall which has it’s own blend of style and relaxed charm.  Being a great space, we also have several food and wine events throughout the year where great chefs such as Andrew McConnell transform Vintage Hall into their restaurant for a day, while we provide Curly Flat wines young and old.  We only inform our mailing list customers of this, so if your not on the list, come up and see us or join online.

CF cellar door_inside 2

Inside Vintage Hall at Curly Flat

The Macedon Ranges is also one the best kept secrets in wine and we of course are not the only cellar door going.  We also recommend visiting Granite Hills, Paramoor, Cobaw Ridge but to name a few. You can easily spend the day up here visiting cellar doors and theres exceptional food to be found in the bustling Piper Street in Kyneton where many providores will tempt you with their differing fare.  For something different you can also go over to the Holgates microbrewery in Woodend and enjoy a tasting paddle with food also available.  They are many, many ways to spend your day!

Curly Flat Cellar Door is open every weekend 12-5pm and by appointment during the week.  During the week just call ahead so we can ensure someone is available to meet you.  Also groups larger than 6, especially any bus group, call ahead to be sure we can look after you.  For all cellar door enquiries please call us on 03 5429 1956 in office hours.  We look forward to your visit!  For more details please visit our Cellar Door page.

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.