Vintage 2019 has officially kicked off but the pace has been building for weeks: bottling 2017 wines, completing maintenance tasks, fruit thinning, netting vines, checking and repairing winery equipment, cleaning old barrels and receiving new ones, scouring the winery, sampling grapes to check for ripeness, stockpiling picking bins, phoning truck drivers and picking crews: “We’ll be seeing a lot of each other again soon, are you ready?”
Peter’s travel schedule just got crazier, with frequent trips to vineyards and wineries near and far, checking that everything is developing as close to plan as nature will allow. Also clocking up miles in the air and on the road is Andrew Butler, our senior viticulturist, who is based in the Yarra Valley and travels throughout the Handpicked Vineyards.
It’s been a warm, dry season in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, but a bout of cool weather, even a little blessed rain, over the past couple of weeks has slowed ripening. This is perfect timing and will allow the fruit to slowly build complex flavours.
First pick in Yarra Valley
The first pick, as usual, was at Highbow Hill Vineyard, with harvest of P58 Chardonnay on Friday 15 February. Highbow, in Yarra Glen, on the “valley floor”, is a warmer site than Wombat Creek in the Upper Yarra Valley, so its vines tend to ripen a few weeks earlier.
The first grapes harvested are generally Chardonnay, followed closely by Pinot Noir; both are early-ripening varieties.
Mornington not far behind
Our first Mornington Peninsula pick occurred on Wednesday at a nearby vineyard and the first pick at Capella is of 777 and 667 Pinot Noir today. It is the first harvest from vines planted in 2015.
First pick at Capella: Today is the first harvest for these young vines which were planted in 2015.
To pick or not to pick
Many factors affect the decision of when to pick grapes – taste, analysis of grape components, vine health and the weather forecast are just a few.
Above – Karl, Peter, Jaam and Jonathon inspect the vineyard and taste grapes.
We are excited to be making our first Tasmania sparkling wines in 2019. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes will come from our very own Auburn Road Vineyard on the western bank of the Tamar River. Grapes for sparkling base wine are usually picked earlier than those for table wines. Tasmania being more southerly and cooler than the mainland, its season runs a little later and we expect to be picking for sparkling base wine in about two weeks.
Later ripening varieties dominate in our vineyards in other regions and I will have more on Barossa Valley, Margaret River and Hilltops in coming weeks. Andrew Butler is in Barossa Valley today and he reports that the Shiraz crop is well advanced, with harvest expected to begin in about a week. We’ll have some photos from Watunga Road Vineyard in the next report.
Jaam Moynihan is our vintage cellar hand at Capella Vineyard. Jaam is from Boston in the United States and has worked vintages in Sonoma (California), Priorat (Spain), Cachapoal Valley (Chile) and Bordeaux (France). After working with us, he’s heading to Valpolicella in Italy to work the northern hemisphere vintage. Well, somebody’s gotta do it!
The latest technical advice from Peter is, “Things will go mental next week”. Until then…..