Yes I am embarrassed, and deservedly so, about how long it has been since I last wrote a post here and it is not because nothing has been done on the vineyard, as the ever increasing stack of invoices will attest to. Neither has so much been achieved that there hasn’t been the time to document the progress. Instead, it is that summer has come and gone leaving a history of seemingly endless frustrations and disappointments rather than the triumph I had naively envisioned in spring. While the intention has always been to maintain an online diary of events from woe to go, any attempt to do so over this time would have resulted in little more than a litany of whinges which would have been neither helpful nor interesting for you all to follow. And so for once I followed my Mother’s advice by sticking to the principle of… “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
In retrospect, there were good things to come out of it all…lessons learned in attention to detail, where and where not to cut corners, when to say no and especially that other people simply cannot have the same level of commitment to what is, after all, my dream. There were also some excruciatingly funny moments, (also in retrospect,) usually involving cows, after which the phrase “herding cats” holds less meaning for me.
As always in this amazing place and amazing business, there were the people whose calmness, strength, generosity and occasional comic relief got me through a tricky patch, the first of many I am certain. Incredibly it seems that everything is back on track for the moment, albeit with a bewildering list of things still to do, details of which can now flow again via this blog. Thank you for staying with me and stay posted because, as my Mother would add, if you have got something to say, say it LOUD!
…and maybe after a good bottle of bubbles, it almost looks like a vineyard. 9km of wire strung and many hours of mowing meant a reasonably productive weekend. Desperate to spray off the rows but, frustratingly, the wind picked up today. Maybe this evening.
Nearly everything is here, very much later than planned, but at least we have been able to start. The earth anchors from Qing Dao are all we could have hoped, although admittedly a few of them provided a few problems. And believe me, we are throwing everything at it. If it moves, carries, lifts, drills or measures, it is press-ganged into service, (and that includes the kids.)
As mentioned elsewhere, since leaving school, (and for some time before then; sorry Dad,) my life has been mostly about wine. Inevitably, amidst all the fun stuff of growing it, making it, drinking it, there has been the need to sell a case or three which has required some marketing effort. Now I am not someone who thinks that “marketing” is a cover-all career description. I market WINE. That doesn’t mean that I can do the same for Ferraris or double glazing and I am sorry, but neither do I believe that a generic marketing degree gives anyone carte blanche to claim greater expertise in my particular field, (or as it might be, vineyard.)
However, I give full respect to those who have put in the hard yards to learn a product and an industry from the ground up and who use that knowledge to further their cause. Australian wine has gone from nowhere to its current prominent position in not much more than 30 years, thanks to the vision of our industry icons and their considerable marketing prowess, rather than them being dab hands with a plunger or a pipette.
So I admit to finding it more than a little ironic that marketers, rather than building quality perception and demand, which is their role, seem to have earned themselves a status in the wine world similar to cork taint or brettanomyces. With the 90’s far behind us, when everything was fun and easy, and the realities of a tough global market place biting pretty hard, more and more people seem to be jumping on the hate wagon, deriding and blaming marketers for all their woes. Even the occasional journalist, whose over-flowing cellars and busy schedules are mostly courtesy of marketing department’s efforts, are adding to the growing volume of abusive rhetoric.
So a word of warning. We are ALL marketers; we ALL have a need to constantly update and promote ourselves and our qualities and right now we need good marketers more than ever. Don’t fling abuse just because others do. Instead, work out how marketing makes a difference, because it does. Which of us wouldn’t rather be driving a Ferrari rather than a Yamaha, even though the Formula 1 results say otherwise? And with Tassie still denying us a real beginning to summer, I for one wouldn’t mind a little double glazing.
As you may have read in “Firing at Both Ends” there have been the occasional moments of concern. Thankfully, we at least seem to have this particular one under control. The picture shows the I10V5 Chardonnay rootlings, (that’s right, they are no longer cuttings,) which are not only the dominant clone in the planting scheme with 40% of the area, but also the final batch of the Tassie cuttings to strike. Interestingly, they have also survived a light frost completely unscathed, which means that our choice to callous them outside in order to “toughen them up” seems to have worked. This will hopefully reduce first year losses in the vineyard.
OK! So the plan WAS, if you remember right back to April, that after giving the whole site a thorough discing, all it would need in Spring was a few quick passes with the harrows and everything would be beautifully smooth, clear of grass and weeds and ready for planting. That of course was before the record busting rains in Sept/Oct produced such vigorous growth that I’m beginning to think that Jack & the Beanstalk might have some factual basis.
In fact, 5 passes with the big stump jumpers still didn’t do the trick and the upshot is a change of plan. We will simply spray off the rows and leave the rest. At least there is less rush to establish an inter-row cover crop and, as you can see from the picture, the whole slope is now beautifully graded….and nothing but blue skies at last.
It is true that I often need to remind myself why I am doing this and if I can explain it to you, then maybe I can work it out for myself. So I will try.
On occasions, I admit to being a fan of unmemorable wines, wines that don’t demand attention or interrupt the otherwise really important conversation. And I mean it, honestly I do, as much as, when a lot younger and hopelessly intent on saving the world, I meant it when I said that I would never eat foie gras because it was cruel, inhumane and absolutely BLOODY DELICIOUS!
So a little while ago I went to a friend’s 40th. A whole bunch of us, who should have perhaps displayed a more responsible enjoyment of the picks of our combined cellars, treated some venerable labels as if they were innocuous ten dollar bargain bin specials. Many, it’s true, slipped by without a detailed tasting note; a few stuck their heads up above the crowd and demanded that some memory of them remained the next day. But somewhere in the priceless treasury of great wine, I found myself with a glass of Louis Roederer Cristal, a champagne which the vast majority of people in the world will go to their grave never having tasted. This is a scenario which we should avoid at all cost…and it will cost. Lots! The current vintage will set you back up to $400. Can a mere bottle of wine be worth that? Can it deliver all by itself an experience equal to a whole evening at Tetsuya’s or a season ticket to the Opera House or perhaps a weekend driving super cars around Mt Panorama? Hard to say. Every experience is shaped by place, time and company and is impossible to replicate. But for this drinker, on a befuddled afternoon behind the closed doors of a small east Melbourne restaurant, the lights flickered, the noise receded and perhaps even the earth moved as, with two meager mouthfuls, I experienced such a revelation, such a crescendo of flavour and texture, that it put every other wine I had ever tasted into a new context.
So for those who don’t want to be among the unfulfilled masses, for those who want to eat foie gras, drive a Ferrari 250 GTO and drink something as good as Cristal tasted to me that day, then perhaps you can glimpse what drives me. One day, I want to be your great wine experience, I want to make your lights flicker and the earth move. I want to be your foie gras moment.