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Monthly Report - January 2006

When too much growth is a bad thing…


When we first planted our vine rootlings, growth of spindly green leaves meant everything to us.  We pampered and encouraged every little leaf in the hope of bringing the vine to the cordon such that in future years these vines will produce quality grapes.  Now that many of our vines are in production, the cool wet start to the 2006 vintage has meant the vines just haven’t stopped growing and this has meant a headache viticulturally.  The last thing you need is a vine that doesn’t suffer so much as to put a bit of effort into making the best grapes it can. 


The start of this month showed us just how much growth has occurred as we lifted the wires on all the vines and it was startling to see canes 3-4m long where that level of growth had never been seen before.  We are grateful to have hand thinned in November as this has kept the canopy reasonably open around the fruiting zone and has meant no mildew pressures to date in the vineyard.  Further training passes have been completed on our 3yo Viognier and Shiraz and we are very happy with the development of each of these blocks.  The Shiraz looks like producing enough of a crop (after some bunch thinning to really concentrate the flavours) to make some wine from this variety in 2006.


An inch of thunder-rich rain fell on the 25th January which has meant the irrigation has been turned off once more – the dam still looks full and it’s February!


Wyandottes and our vines…


An objective of our vineyard when we developed it, was to be as environmentally sound as possible, and to meet some of this objective we have within the vineyard two flocks of golden and silver Wyandotte chickens that roam amongst the vines.  We did consider using guinea fowl originally but with a road nearby and foxes that traverse the river it really would have been money gone to waste, and also chickens are a lot smarter!


We have 3 cages set along our eastern boundary that house chooks, and they have been constructed by my father to be both fox and eagle proof as these carnivores have at different times done some terrible damage to our poor old hens.  The hens wander though the vineyard and Wyandottes were selected as the breed as they are very insectivorous and will hunt and eat weevils, black beetle and grass hoppers which all prey on our vines, as well as eat some of the weeds under vine.  We hope to build to flocks of 20-30 hens in each cage, and at this level they would create a significant impact on the pest-insects for a large proportion of the vineyard.


We enjoy working in the vineyard with our chooks, and the clean green aspect of their presence as well as the tastiest eggs you’ll ever eat has meant they’ll be at Blue Poles for a long time to come.


It continues to confuse….


Well summer has eventually arrived with some lovely clear warm days in early January and this really brought the vines to life.  But with the excitement of warmer weather, cyclones to the north of WA started up and two cyclones decided to roll down the Pilbara coast – these storms bring huge amounts of rainfall to the state and though Cyclone Clare only left 3mm in the gauge at Blue Poles, Cyclone Daryl threw 26mm of rain our way on the 25th January.  A summary of the months weather records are as below:

January 2006:     

Avg Maximum Temp          24.7°C

Daily Max recorded            30.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.6°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.8°C


Rainfall:                               29.2mm

In comparison to 2005 the temperatures are similar at last, but without the maximum extremes.

January 2005:      

Avg Maximum Temp          25.6°C

Daily Max recorded            35.3°C

Avg Minimum Temp           12.9°C

Daily Min recorded               8.3°C


Rainfall:                             0.6mm

Let the sunshine in…


Now that our grapes are set on the vine we need to let a little bit of sunshine fall their way.  Wire lifting commences this process, but hand leaf plucking and thinning of redundant canes makes a huge difference to the canopy and aids in ripening and maximizing flavours within the grapes at Blue Poles, as well as reducing disease pressure.  A solid week or two of work is required here and all the family will get involved so as to hurry this job along.


Also our 2005 Merlot / Cabernet Franc will be blended together this month, and left in barrel for a few more months to ensure the components meld together prior to bottling.  We were excited by the individual Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines made from this vintage, but the blended wine proved to be superior to both and “demanded” to be put together.  Once the final blending process is completed at the winery I’ll drag out a sample or two and provide a tasting note for you all of the wine at this early stage next month.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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