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.
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!
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!
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.