Barossa Valley Floor, 11am
An old bush vine
Today folks from the Fine Wine store in Redmond, near Seattle, are visiting, so I thought we’d look at Grenache this morning – starting at our oldest vineyard, planted in 1889 on a vein of river sand 9 feet deep smack bang in the middle of the Valley floor. We’ve called this the Tricentenary Vineyard, seeing as it was planted in the 19th century, made it through the 20th, and safely into the 21st! It’s a two-acre block of old bush vines, where some of them look like small trees, with the trunk still intact – and others are almost lying comatose on the ground and look like a wishbone that’s been almost split apart.
These 120-year-old vines still carry about 2–3 tons per acre of fruit, though, and are in really good shape considering the recent heatwave they’ve survived. They have nice solid bunches and pretty good canopy coverage, so fingers crossed we may very well see some good stuff come off this patch this year.
With our Fine Wine folks, we go into the vineyard and try the fruit and the 2005 Tricentenary Grenache (100%), and they get a chance to see where some of the wine flavours come from as the fruit is starting to soften and ripen. Grenache is a tremendous workhorse variety. It gives you a lovely raspberry fruit over rosemary sort of herbal savoury undertones. It’s unashamedly middle weight and perfectly built for the mezes, antipasto, tapas, and Middle Eastern flavours we see across Australia.
24 hr Blanchetown Roadhouse, 4.48am
Breakfast of champions! We left the winery just after 4am this morning so we’d get to the Oxford Landing vineyard up on the Murray River near Waikerie to film a couple of segments – on the vineyard and our 1,500 acre revegetation project next door – using the sunrise as a backdrop. On the way, it’s a definite stop for breakfast at the Blanchetown Roadhouse for toasted Vegemite (see Glossary) and cheese sandwiches, the best way to start the day.
We’re two-thirds of the way through picking at Oxford Landing, and we’re seeing some really smart Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay coming off at the moment. It’s a brisk cool morning, and we get lucky with a beautiful red gold sunrise and a choir of uninvited magpies (see Glossary) in the background – check out the video for the unscripted action.
We have one row of sultana table grapes left at the vineyard, so we load up before leaving. Visitors to the winery for the rest of the day will have cold bunches of fresh grapes at the tasting cellar. And we check the crop on the row of 35-year-old verdale olive trees that sit on the northern fence line of Oxford Landing to see where they’re at. It’s a good complementary combination having grapes and olives, as grapes ripen in the summer and olives ripen in the winter. They’re green right now, but we’ve got a nice solid even crop, and once they start turning “on the flame” ie half-red half-green, we’ll start picking (May/June) to press them out for oil under its Oxford Landing extra virgin label.
The Shores Function Centre, Adelaide, 11.15pm
Have to head back to the Barossa tonight, but the show was a huge hit. They raised a heap of money, everyone had a great time, and it looks like it’s going to fly as an annual event. We help Helen and Diabetes Counselling Online to stay online, which means some nice folks had a win tonight. And for the record, if I’m MC next year, it will be two years in a row that I get a date on Valentine’s Day. Wonders never cease!
The Shores Function Centre, Adelaide, 5.45pm
Valentines Day! Normally I’d be sitting home desperate and dateless watching Hugh Grant movies with blocks of Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate for company, but not this year. Yalumba is sponsoring the first annual Sweet Talk dinner in Adelaide, which is to raise money for the Adelaide-based Diabetes Counselling Online website – a support service for people with diabetes and their families across Australia. It was started by the main counsellor, Helen Edwards, a person living with type 1 diabetes since 1979, and is an excellent opportunity for us to use our wines to get behind folks doing a great job. Because our wines are involved, they’ve asked me to be the MC for the evening – so this is the first time in absolute ages that I’ve been asked out on Valentine’s Day. Yay!
Today we break out the shamrocks and prepare to drink Guinness. We have some staunch supporters from Ireland coming to visit, and I get to show them around our world for two days – the winery, the vineyards and the Barossa region in general. As a special treat, we’re going to take them up to the Cleland National Park in the Adelaide Hills and have them do the Koala Closeup where they get to hold the bear and get their photo taken – proof positive to everyone back on the Emerald Isle that they did the whole Australian thing.
Cyril and Joe are from Superquinn supermarkets in Dublin, and these stores have some pretty smart wine sections where we get to be on the shelves. I met these folks last year when we did a training seminar over dinner with about 20 of the Superquinn wine store managers, which ended up with a group participation session at a local karaoke bar – Howl at the Moon! For the record, young Elvis lookalike Gary and I did an extremely memorable duet version of “Burning Love” – extraordinary blend of broad Australian and even broader Irish vocals. It’s just magic the way they do business in that town. So huge thanks to all the Superquinn folks for their support, and I’m already in training for our next seminar and Karaoke championship, which looks like it will be in Dublin again – in July this year.
Another cool day! We have a ‘fruit salad’ of ferments going on today, featuring tempranillo from the Angaston foothills, Eden Valley pinot gris and viognier from the Barossa floor. Everything’s ticking along nicely, and with any luck we’ll have a few cool nights in a row that will help the vines recover from the hammering they received from the recent heatwave. Once they’re back on an even keel with the leaves producing all the flavour goodies and pushing them into the berries, ripening should settle down, and we’ll be back to relatively normal. With any luck, the weather will have the same effect on us!