Monthly Archives: June 2009

Back from Coldandfluville

9.56am Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Back at my desk, very cold, misty, drizzly morning that looks like it might clear into a nice day. We’ve certainly had a serious winter here so far, and with that comes the sniffles, coughs and colds, which finally felled me this week and I had to go hide at home for a couple of days. I’ve got garlic tablets, vitamin pills, lemsip cold & flu, seneca and ammonia expectorant to clear the chest, vicks vaporub to keep warm, and a couple of local ‘never fail’ potions to get me well. I’m surprised I don’t rattle when I walk!

So thanks to Tony for posting yesterday. He’s the techo wiz that makes my blog look good, and he is currently trying to work out a way that we can put a calendar on the blog that shows where we’re doing events and when. Seeing as I’m off next week for this 4 month tour – as you can imagine, we’re flat out trying to get all sorts of things completed, and Tony got google directions on how to get from home base here at the winery in Angaston to our distributors – Negociants USA – office in the California town of Napa. Just to see what they suggested – seeing as we’ve been juggling flights and things for a while now into a workable schedule.

What we got was a 124-stage trip between Yalumba at Angaston and Negociants USA in Napa – which included 3 kayak legs – I kid you not! – one from the coast of Australia’s Northern Territory 3,358 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the southern coast of Japan; one from the northern coast of Japan 3,879 miles across more of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii; and the final one tells you to “turn right at the Turtle Bay Hilton (in Hawaii) go )0.1 mile (close to the beach!) then kayak 2,756 miles across even more of the Pacific Ocean, entering the USA via the coast of Washington state.

Sensational – the logic of this set of directions. It does serve to remind us though that we are completely “on the other side of the world” over here, and that we will be covering an enormous amount of miles as we take our wines this trip – literally – to the world.

PS good news as we’re about to head off though, as we’ve just heard that Kev Glastonbury’s 2005 Signature Cabernet Shiraz – which is one of the new release reds we’ll be showing across the board for the first time – has just won the trophy for Best Australian Red Wine at the International Wine Challenge (UK) 2009 in London. Seeing as this particular competition is regarded as “the best and biggest blind tasting in the world”, it’s given us a great shot in the arm to go out with.

How Lucky Am I?

11.44am, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Hi folks, Tony B here. Jane’s letting me guest blog this morning. How many people can say their morning commute makes them smile? I drive a short distance from Tanunda to Angaston over Menglers Hill. No stoplights. No stop signs. Hardly anyone else on the two-lane road. This winter the mornings have been foggy, silent, almost ethereal. Gum trees are shrouded in the mist. Sheep seem to float in and out of the fog as they ramble through lush green fields. Hidden magpies warble. Simply lovely. If I were in better shape, I could ride my bike to work, but that is a big hill sitting right in the way. For now, I’ll just keep the radio turned off, crack open the window, and smile.

The Un-reproducible Thing That Is Us

3.22pm, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Back on the air folks – another crispy clear day in the Barossa, and the pruners out there in the vineyards are belting along at an incredible pace, making the most of the clear weather, seeing as more rain is forecast.

Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosella

Today we’ve had one of our solid supporters from the East Coast of the United States come to visit – Vern Humble from Wine Cellars of Annapolis, and he had three of his favourite customers along with him. We took advantage of the day and headed up into the Eden Valley tasting Pewsey Vale Riesling, as well as Heggies Viognier, Heggies Chardonnay and the Heggies Botrytis Riesling up in the hills. We had an escort of Eastern Rosellas all the way – the incredibly bright birds on both the Arnotts Biscuits and Rosella sauce labels – which were having a big convention on the road near Heggies Vineyard.

We might pinch Queensland’s best line for the Eden Valley: “perfect one day, just that bit better the next.”

It’s always nice to start out in the high country, as it gives us the chance to tell the unusual history of the Barossa region, which developed differently to the rest of Australia – resulting in the truly regional food and wine culture that we’re part of today. We reinforced that by stopping off for a quick lunch at Blond Cafe in Angaston’s main street, ploughing into the special today of beef, red wine and potato pies.

Back to the winery to compare and contrast Eden Valley Viognier and the Virgilius – having seen the new clonal (13 count em! 13) highlights viognier vineyard opposite Heggies; the new release multi Barossa Floor vineyard 2008 Bush Vine Grenache (see ‘ripe raspberries – goes well with lamb loin chops’ in the dictionary); the Single Site 2005 Habermann Grenache from the Tanunda foothills; and the 2004 Signature to see how it’s travelling.

It’s always great value to have folks travel the 16000 km to be here, as we get to peel the layers away and let folks get right amongst the vines, wines, stories, food and people that make up the un-reproducible (that’s my new word!) thing that is us. And they liked it! Good news is that we’ll probably be doing a tasting with Vern and the folks at Annapolis Wine Cellars in August when we’re in Washington, DC. I’ll have to see if I can organise some pies for that night!

Up up and away…

7.36am, Crennis Mines Road T Junction, behind Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Well, it must be cold as there’s a hot air ballon up this morning – just above the tree line over Seppeltsfield way. There’s not much breeze, but what breeze is about is pushing the balloon slowly north, up the valley towards Nuri. There isn’t anyone else about at the minute, so I’m propped at the T junction in the ute just watching the burner spit flames up into the round bit (I’m sure there’s a technical name for that). I’ll bet it’s fairly breezy up there in that basket as well – but it looks really romantic just floating above the vineyards – the whole Around the World in 80 Days thing.

Well, I’d better get cracking as I’m off half way round the world for 123 days, and this isn’t getting anything done. There’s a gang of folks in about 7 layers of clothing working in the vineyard opposite, pruning some really old bush vines that have been trained up onto a single wire trellis, so I hope this clear morning continues into a fine day for them – after yesterday’s heavy rains. Winter in the Barossa is all about pruning the vines and setting them up for next vintage, and picking olives, so I’ll have to check in with Rolf tomorrow (our carpenter here at Yalumba) as he looks after all the oil pressing here at Yalumba and from Oxford Landing. The trees are loaded everywhere, so hopefully we’ll have a decent bit of oil this season.

Trees, Trees and More Trees!

1.44pm, Oxford Landing Vineyard, Waikerie, The Riverland, South Australia

Picture this in 10 years

Picture this in 10 years

Still running around like a cut cat folks, with 19 days to go before we’re “On the Road Again”. I wanted to slide up to Oxford Landing to see how the revegetation program was going on our 1500 acre block next door. (If you go way back to the February 16th entry in the blog, back to the video that Freddy the vineyard manager and I made – very early in the morning folks – we’re standing on top of one of the native veg headlands of this particular 1500 acre block.)

When we’re travelling, people – press, trade and consumers – are always interested in what we’re doing with respect to organic and/or biodynamic vineyards and wines – and essentially anything to do with environmental issues in general.

The trees waiting to be planted

The trees waiting to be planted

So I wanted to be up to speed with what is one of the major things we’re doing. This massive tree planting thing, taking the block back to scrub is a really lovely project that reflects what family-owned businesses can do – because they can, and because it’s the right thing to do. The carbon credits down the track will only be a bonus – it’s just good to be able to back up what you say about being the custodian of parcels of land with actually doing the right thing by them.

This is the third year that we’ve planted a section of this block. We’ve used these original headlands to harvest the native species seeds, and then we have given the seeds to a Mildura nursery to propagate the seedlings that are being matched up to the different soil types across the whole area. Each year that we’ve gone through the planting exercise, the guys at Oxford Landing have developed better ways of planting and getting these trees to survive, and this year we’re tackling 600 acres – planting trees at a frantic rate to take advantage of the tremendous rains we’re having.

The planter is pulled behind a tractor

The planter is pulled behind a tractor

Freddy was saying today that they’ve made observations on the weather, time of planting, incidence of rainfall, and the subsequent take rate for the seedlings – and is convinced that following nature’s lead is going to give them the best results this year. In this sort of region, spring (September – November) rainfall is similar to or higher than winter rainfall – so these native species need the spring – not summer – rainfall to survive and thrive. That’s why the boys started planting two weeks ago on a bit of a gamble – with the dirt dry – to get the trees into the ground, anticipating some rain this winter and spring. Like a gift from the gods, 15 mm of rain chased them, and then the boys put on a double shift to make the best use of the soil moisture, and we’ve had more rain! So the project is flying along, planting about 3,000 trees per shift.

Today, we’ve got yellow mallee (Eucalyptus incrassata ) going into the sandy stuff and red mallee (Eucalyptus gracilis) going into the rock. With any luck, there’s rain forecast for tomorrow, so these should get thoroughly watered in. It will be interesting to see what the place looks like 2, 5 and 10 years from now – especially when the birds and native fauna have moved back in.

View all the revegetation photos.

And attention sportsfans! Last night my Sainters hung on in a thriller against Carlton in the footy, and we’re now 12-0 for the season – never happened before in the history of the club, and according to the statiticians, no club that has ever been 12-0 has missed the Grand Final! So thank you St Nick Reiwoldt for the captain’s game and the 5 goals, and to the bloke that Hawthorn didn’t want anymore – our magic backman Zac Dawson, who slotted the last goal and sealed the game with only 2 minutes to go. I’ve sat down and worked out where I’ll be in the world for the July and August games, and I will try and find a way to see them. There’s got to be sports bars across London and the USA that get the telecasts. Our quest will be to find them!

Name That Tour

2.29pm, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia
After an early frosty start to the day, it’s been clear as a bell, but the clouds are starting to gather this afternoon – big heavy grey things that look like they’ve got a fair bit more rain on board. I’m still up to my ears in schedules – planes, trains, buses and cars – for four separate spots – Ireland, England, the USA and Canada – where we’ll be showing our wines from July through October. I reckon I’ll be able to work part-time as a travel agent after this next block of work.

And the shots! I’ve had the lot! They reckon that when you travel, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and seeing as we’re always going through plane travel hubs and on every public transit system imagineable – anything could be floating around. So we get the lot. And that means I’m doing a good impersonation of a voodoo doll today! Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, Pneumovax (for all the nasty pneumonia and upper respiratory tract infections available), Tetanus, Whooping Cough (lots of that going around), Fluvax … and just for good measure, to keep me ticking … Vitamin B.

But good news folks: We’ve sorted our program for July in England, and we’re going to be doing some really nice jobs in London, St Albans (Hertfordshire), Streatley (Berkshire), Southampton, Bristol, Exeter (down in Devon – lovely country. If you’ve read the Delderfield novels “A Horseman Riding By” – it’s just like that!), Surrey, Whitby up in the Grim North (love that windswept coast and moor stuff – they pulled a story from the papers a couple hundred years ago and it ended up as ‘Dracula’ – more later), Manchester, Upper Ramsbottom (try asking a local where they were born and keep a straight face), Harrogate, Huddersfield, and last but absolutely not the least – a dinner at The Horse & Jockey hotel in Ravensden, Bedfordshire, where with any luck we’ll reacquaint ourselves with the local constabulary that attended that event last year.

We’re going to try and set up some sort of calendar where folks can see in advance where we’ll be having events. Technically may be beyond us, but we’ll give it a go. It’s into the countdown – 21 days to go until the great adventure starts. I’ll have to think up a name for the tour – it’s 123 days and 4 countries – but that doesn’t sound special at all. Any suggestions?

More Rain and Cape Barren Geese

1.22pm Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa, South Australia
The word for today is rain. Lots of it. We had 42mm yesterday and overnight, and that’s an inch and a half in the old scale. I thought my house was going to get blown by the rainstorm off the hill last night. So I threw another quilt on the bed and snuggled under; may as well be warm if your house is about to turn into a brick-and-mortar version of The Ark!

But it’s all good for the ground and everything growing in it. The sun has just come out and even though the chill factor is high, we’re loving this traditional Mediterranean cold wet winter that we’ve missed of late. This is just what the doctor ordered for Vintage 2010!

The Goose Label

The Goose Label

As for vintage 2008, we’ve got the Y Series Unwooded Chardonnay going down the bottling line today. This is the one with the grey Cape Barren Goose on the label. This large goose is a native resident of southern Australia, from the southern tip of Western Australia along the South Australian and Victorian coastline to Tasmania. Once upon a time – in the 1950s – the numbers of this bird became so limited that biologists thought they may very well become extinct. However, by establishing sanctuary breeding islands in the region, numbers have steadily increased to the point today where, although the threat of extinction is gone, they remain one of the world’s rarest geese. It is a prolific grazing weed-and-grass eater by nature, and it communicates by way of a loud honking sound.

The Cape Barren Goose on the Unwooded Chardonnay label represents the commitment by Yalumba to sustainable business in general and viticulture in particular. As a wine business operating in a rural environment for 160 years, we recognise the impact of our activities on that environment. So we worked up a business plan that tries to make sure the environment, and the business, will be in good shape for generations to come. We have a long way to go, but projects like the revegetation of the 1500 acre bush block alongside Oxford Landing vineyard is proof of our intentions.

So next time you see some Y Chardonnay on a shelf somewhere, with the Cape Barren Goose up front, you know there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes.