A Post-Harvest update from Vineyard Manager, Rich Williams
The 2010/11 harvest this year, I was very happy with. We had an enthusiastic team of about 15 workers who could easily pick 12 tonnes a day and ensure only quality fruit picked. On the whole I was very happy with the standard in a season that was full of challenges but came through with some stunning results and free from disease until the very end. The autumn brought about relatively settled weather after a very wet Summer. 1120 GDD were recorded this season which was slightly lower than last year even though our daily average temperature was 3 degrees warmer. This allowed for good flavour development and lower than normal acid levels across the board.
It was great to see the young House Block produce some amazing fruit for the first time this year. The 198.19 Riesling Clone was a real jaw dropper as well as the Pinot Noir 114. I was even quite happy how the unusually fickle Clone 4 turned out in the end as it trailed the 114 by quite a bit at one stage and was very different in flavour comparison. I thought the Sauvignon Blanc turned out extraordinarily well this year providing nice grapefruit and mango tropical fruit flavours with a hint of red pepper. The hill slopes of the Highwire Block and Block 2 performed well, as did the Abel and Clone 6 in the Lakefront Block. Clone 5 in the Top Block that was taken back to 1 bunch per shoot also came through outstandingly well. I can’t wait to taste the wine that Olly and the team at the winery can come up with.
Nets are finally off the vines. Always a tedious time dodging the wind and rain and the relative humidity has been high, meaning nets stayed wet. The workers got a little cold and wet in the process but battled on in the conditions. This now marks the end of a successful 2010/11 season. Many thanks to the team and all those that gave a helping hand in this year’s vintage.
Pruning is now underway in the vineyard. I am trying a different tact now that the majority of the vineyard is fully established with almost complete wire-fill. We are targeting the odd spots that still need a bit of TLC such as areas like the Horse’s Head in the Top Block and the Pinot Gris in the Dress Circle where wind has prevented the vines from developing a full wire. Giving the vines some extra strength by one on one pruning is the key this year. Correct bud number per vine is up to the skill of the pruner that will inevitably give the vines balance as the plants develop in maturity. We have always grown them a bit close to the hip on these lighter soils and just a little bit more vigour will promise a more even and fuller canopy, promoting fruit ripening and plant strength. As soon as we complete lay-downs in some blocks, a tractor mounted barrel pruner will trim last year’s dormant canes close to the cordon. This will enable the team to do a follow up pass and prune the vines back to a determined number of buds/spurs. This year we are blessed with the purchase of some of the most state of art battery powered Felcotronic pruners. A real investment into the prevention of worker repetitive strain injury which can hinder the even strongest pruner.
Last year I trialled a disbudding technique through the cane-pruned Sauvignon Blanc and this made a real difference in vine strength. Because the younger House Block this year struggled with power early on in the season. I intend to carry this idea through and try to gain some strength on these young vines, establishing a strong and uniform cordon using this disbudding technique. It will also buy some time come Spring and will mean some of the shoot thinning will already be done. This year I also intend to assign the workers different blocks and will be assessing the work closely. This will hopefully produce more even pruning and will be allow each worker to put additional effort into their own patch.
Sadly we say goodbye to our Japanese friend Ken who has been with us since last November and plans to return back to Japan and start an online wine buyers site now that he has a good understanding how wine is made. Also we soon say goodbye to Ryan who has been with us for a complete year. Good luck to them both.