Michelle Dacombe – First week thoughts..

Welcome to Michelle – our new Vineyard Manager at Misha’s Vineyard. Michelle shares her thoughts after week one!

Michelle Dacombe_Vineyard Manager_Misha's Vineyard_Aug 2014My first week at Misha’s Vineyard started on a Monday where I met the vineyard crew and learned a little about my new surroundings. I was able to join in on the last of the pruning in the Top Block (which is all Pinot Noir) and enjoyed a fine day of sunshine. On Tuesday I attended the Otago Polytech to get a Growsafe certification, then it was back to the vineyard on Wednesday for rock removals!

Yes, we’re currently removing rocks from the Lakefront block which so far has never had any rocks removed since this part of the vineyard was planted – so it’s a big task but necessary before we can get the sweeper and mulcher down the rows to clean up the winter prunings. Then we’ll carry on removing rocks down the Ski Slope (where the Sauvignon Blanc is grown) and another block of Pinot Noir.

Thursday saw a fair bit of rain but that gave me time to duck into the shed in the morning and get familiar with all the gear. After lunch we headed into Dress Circle and finished the last of the pruning of the Pinot Gris. In fact we have just one-third of the Ski Slope Sauvignon Blanc left to prune, and that will be it for 2014!

A few of the rocks that appear on the vineyard
A few of the rocks that appear on the vineyard

Friday was looking promising despite the forecast for all of about 45 minutes. Before we could blink a quick moving southerly front came through dusting the vineyard with snow. We thought we could sit it out, but it kept on coming, so the crew got a reprieve and an early weekend. I must admit it was a great day for watching the squally snow showers pass through the valley, especially from inside an office.

My first observations of the vineyard have me looking up. Anyone who has visited this site knows what a spectacular view there is from anywhere on the vineyard. I’m feeling especially spoiled at the moment. I have also been struck with a great sense of positivity from the team here. The vineyard crew are full of smiles, enjoy one another’s company and seem genuinely pleased to be here. Their experience on this site will be invaluable to me as the growing season begins. I’ve got Ian to help me study up the irrigation system, Aaron to give me a few lessons on the tractors here and Sue is the ‘go to’ lady in the vineyard having been here the longest. I hope that I will be able to bring my own positivity to the mix and to try a few new things. I’d like to start with sowing some cover crops into the grass sward this spring. I’m thinking a mix of plants to help open up the soils and build organic matter, which in turn will allow the soils to hold more air and water.

Sue - Pruning
Sue – Pruning
The most important thing may be to start drinking a few more wines after work….after all it’s important to know exactly what we want to achieve here on the vineyard so that it can be translated into the wines.

This season will obviously be bringing me challenges as it’s my first role as a manager, but I am very much looking forward to the new experiences in growing different varieties than I have in the past. I’m especially excited about growing Gewurztraminer and looking forward to tasting this vintage’s late harvest. Meanwhile, I’ll keep my nose down looking at the soil and thinking of ways to improve an already great vineyard.