Today’s guest blogger is Robert “Fred” Strachan, who is taking time out from the vineyards to tell us what’s happening out there.
Today is my turn to write a blog for Jane whilst she is hopefully enjoying a well-deserved rest. I’m not really sure what you are meant to include in a blog, but I can tell you that my grandfather nicknamed my brother Phillip “blog” 40 years ago. I think it was short for “bullfrog”. Anyway that’s just some useless information for you.
Life at the Oxford Landing vineyard has been hectic lately. This is our busy time of the year in the vineyards as we set things up for vintage. We are working hard to ensure that every block achieves its optimum quality potential. When you have 120 five-acre blocks, this requires time and commitment from everyone on the vineyard.
Flowering has just finished. Now the vines are growing rapidly, and we must ensure that appropriate water and fertiliser are applied to achieve the desired canopies to shade the fruit and protect the delicate flavours during the summer heat. We also have been training our young Vermentino and Pinot Gris vines onto trellis systems in preparation for mechanical harvesting in future vintages.
The past week we have seen a record heat wave for November with temperatures well above average, but funnily this is not a huge concern as we can manage this through the use of irrigation. The crops have just set so it should not have an impact. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise if it makes the vines more tolerant to heat throughout the summer.
The young mallee trees that we planted (see Jane’s earlier entry about this) in Pietches Block (Gilbert and Yvonnne Pietch use to own this land) are also holding up extremely well in the hot weather and appear to almost be enjoying it. We planted 150 hectares this year – which is a lot of bloody trees – and I’m nervous as everyone is watching to see how they perform. Our experience in tree planting is minimal compared to vines, so our decisions are not made with the same confidence as they are on the vineyard. We actually sent a water cart out there to water trees manually at the beginning of the week once we saw the heat wave coming. Being a mallee tree they should be able to survive without water, and our trial work over the past two seasons had suggested that this is the case. But then again we have never had heat like this so early in the year. Every season is different.
Today is also a sad but at the same time rewarding and exciting day. The people who work at Oxford Landing are the soul of this vineyard, and they make it the wonderful place that it is. Today Damian Crowe is leaving the vineyard to start a new job as the manager at a local olive nursery. We are sad to see a man with the capabilities and qualities that Damian has leave, but we are rewarded by knowing that we played a role in the development of a young man who joined the vineyard as a late teenager and now at the age of 30 is moving on to a new challenge in his life. To see one of our employees chosen for this challenging role is very humbling.