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Monthly Report - February 2008

Location, location, location…


Well it has finally happened; we have finally managed to move into the house on the vineyard and are now living on the estate.  This has been a long and tortuous road, but now when we get out of the house and start amongst the vines in the cool of the early morning it really feels good.  Of course the house still has some teething problems and we are yet to crack on to the surrounding lawns and gardens – but we do have 30 odd years to work away on this so there is no rush!


While we have been ferrying household goods backwards and forwards and completing the house clean and final jobs, the vineyard has been ticking away in the February heat.  The relentless heat did abate for a week in mid February but quickly the weather has returned to warm and this has meant for a very dry hot month again going back to back with January.  Normally I would have turned off the sparingly used irrigation by the end of this month, but this year I will keep it going for a further week or two as the vines have not had a real chance to relax in the past 11 weeks.  Nets have gone over the whites and picking of the Viognier should be within a week or two (bit difficult to know when to pick this variety), and then we will roll into the reds with Merlot first off and then the two later varieties in Shiraz and Cabernet Franc.


It has been a funny year when looking at how the vines have gone, berries are definitely smaller and less “clumped” for a better word, and the vines seem to have moderated their growth even with the clear skies and warm nights.  We have our fingers crossed this will be another excellent vintage, but I just have the sneaking suspicion the excess of heat may mean the wine will show the vintage more and this may lead to higher sugars in the musts which in turn may make making the wine a bit trickier for Sharna.  It is such a fine line when you get down to this point in the season, and all we can do is keep our fingers and toes crossed that a big rain event does not come pouring in, or that the heat will not dissipate.


The tasting room opens…


One of the myriad of reasons why we have built our house on the vineyard was to be able to host friends and clients of the vineyard in the house and let them taste the wines of the estate.  We are not seeking at this point in time to open a cellar door as that would simply entail too much of a time commitment to both Gail and I, but for those who organise an appointment with us we would be more than happy to show our wines and discuss their respective histories to those like minded souls.


The tasting room

The room has been constructed out of recycled timbers:

  • Flooring - tuart from the vineyard

  • Bench - tuart and marri from the vineyard and blackbutt from our neighbours fence line

  • Table -jarrah from a farm in Boyup Brook where the log was to be burned.

 All of the timber was milled by a mobile sawyer, where I got an opportunity to dock all the timber and stack them for drying before having them worked into furniture and flooring.  Our furniture makers have really excelled and we are extremely happy to see all of this lovely craftsmanship throughout the house, but especially in our tasting room which will be our main meeting place with visitors.



The long hot summer continues...


While the eastern seaboard of Australia drowns under incessant rainfall, this small corner of this huge country continues to be very dry and quite warm.  Though February is traditionally the hottest month of the year, the average temperature is a good 2oC higher than what we have seen in 4 years, and looking back through the records one of the hottest February's on record.


The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

February 2008:     

Avg Maximum Temp          28.1°C

Daily Max recorded            36.0°C


Avg Minimum Temp           15.4°C               

Daily Min recorded               9.0°C


Rainfall:                               6.0mm

The 2008 maximum temperature average was much higher than last years due to the clear blue skies, and even the minimum temperatures were higher indicating the heat load on the vines was large this month.  Rainfall is the same in 2008 as in 2007 (two fifths of very very little), and this has meant the vines have not had much disease stress due to these dry conditions.

February 2007:      

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9°C

Daily Max recorded            33.5°C

Avg Minimum Temp           14.0°C

Daily Min recorded               7.8°C


Rainfall:                              4.4mm


The comparison with Sonoma Valley continues with the data from the month of August 2007, the northern hemisphere’s equivalent to February, is presented below:

August 2007:      

Avg Maximum Temp          29.1°C

Daily Max recorded            36.7°C

Avg Minimum Temp            9.5°C

Daily Min recorded              3.9°C


Rainfall:                              0.0mm


With our very hot February in Margaret River, the two regions now have quite similar maximums, however the minimum temperatures however continue to be much lower than Margaret River minimums – this would aid in flavour retention and spreading out the growing season and this indicates that Sonoma Valley may have been in for an excellent vintage.  Rainfall is again nil and one would imagine that rain would not be sought until after vintage next month.


Picking the picking…


A fair few days will be spent wandering under the nets tasting berries and collecting samples for analysis in the next 2-3 weeks.  Here at Blue Poles we pick on maximum flavour and spot on acid balance as when these two “vintage” stars align, the resultant wine is the best expression of the site that you can get as the winemaker has no manipulation to balance the wine and the flavours are not altered by this “meddling”.  Of course it becomes stressful organizing teams of pickers, pick up trucks, putting on and taking off of nets – but the resultant first sip of the completed ferments in April is what you concentrate on, hoping that all’s gone well.


All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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