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Monthly Report - December 2008

Merry Christmas all…


Well we have survived another year with all the ups and downs that occurs on life’s journey.  I guess there is now an element of nervousness in all areas of society as the financial markets try to find a path forward, and the government tries to avoid a recession – but this is out of our control down here in Margaret River, so we will continue to concentrate on making great wine.  Lots of work on the vines again this month as the cooler year to date has meant significantly more growth than we are used to dealing with, so cleaning up of this growth has continued to this day.  The aim is to generate a canopy that is in balance with the plant, fruit exposed and a dappled light filtering through – to get this right is harder than you think and we are now finally on top of this task and with the weather warming you get a surge of confidence in the vintage.

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Teroldego grapes

Christmas day was very busy in our house with family travelling from New Zealand to spend time with us and our daughters' boyfriends and their families having lunch with us, which turned into dinner by the time we got through all the prawns, turkey, ham, salads as well as the compulsory trifle and pavlova.  Gorgeous day for Christmas, unlike last year where we sat in the ocean most of the day as it was 37°C – far too hot to do much at all.  My family is still with us, and though they have failed to get into the vineyard and do all the work I had planned for them, we will forgive them as they have been great company and it is good to catch up after a few years apart.


We have drunk a fair few bottles of wine, and some wine was brought over from New Zealand for me to enjoy over the coming months.  I promised Terry and Philip at Unison Vineyard in the Hawkes Bay that we would try one of the bottles we purchased from their lovely estate – so we did and here is my little note:


2006 Unison Selection, Hawkes Bay, NZ:  Splashed into the decanter, blackcurrant and raspberries lift off the wine, and after a bit of time elements of white pepper and tobacco oak fill out the fruit rich aromas.  There was also a hint of the sea – like standing in a harbour in the morning and breathing in the lifting air, very evocative.  Palate very lively with the acids bright and red, lovely oak and very fine tannins fill the middle palate on a light to medium weight wine.  An element of complexity was gained with time, should age in the short to medium term but I’d drink it sooner than later.  Terry and Philip have done a fine job yet again.


Of course numerous bottles of Blue Poles have been “tested” for scientific purposes and all are drinking very well.  As always with our wines, they are wines for the long haul as much as enjoying now and therefore if you have the opportunity, put the wines into a decanter and give them a good swirl – it just opens the wine out a little bit more and makes the taste that much more round, and assuredly, enjoyable.


Goodbye Sharna…


All good things come to an end and unfortunately for us our winemaker Sharna Kowalczuk has taken up an opportunity to work in a large winery in the Langhorne Creek region of South Australia.  Sharna has been with us since our first vintage in 2005 and she has made every effort to accommodate our requirements in making wine that best represents our land and our vines – to let us be as involved with the process as she has shows just what a lovely and accepting person she is and we can only but wish her all the best in whatever she does.


Our new winemaker is a young man by the name of David Johnston who has taken up the winemaker’s role at Vasse River.  Dave has actually worked with my wife in the past when she worked at the cellar door at Juniper Estate, where he was working alongside a fine winemaker called Mark Messenger.  Only good things have ever been said about Dave and we are looking forward to spending time with him and developing some great wines over the years ahead.


Blue skies and warm nights...


December in Margaret River has been a consistent month with the average temperatures slowly rising over the month, with no very hot days and no very cool nights.  It has been quite windy however and this has caused delays with the application of some sprays, as well as continued to play havoc with the flowering that has been mucked about this year.  But to be fair the drying nature of the month has bought the vineyard back to a degree of normality.


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

December 2008:     

Avg Maximum Temp          23.1°C

Daily Max recorded            30.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.1°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.2°C


Rainfall:                               12.6mm

The 2008 maximum temperature average is similar to last years, though in 2007 there was a spell of three very hot days that raised the maximum average by >1°C – thus it could be said that from the vines perspective there has been more available heat for photosynthesising in 2008.  Rainfall is much less in 2008 than 2007, though we are dealing with pretty low totals anyway.

December 2007:      

Avg Maximum Temp          23.6°C

Daily Max recorded            39.3°C

Avg Minimum Temp           12.0°C

Daily Min recorded               8.0°C


Rainfall:                             27.4mm

Total Rainfall for the year in 2008 was 913.4mm, which compares to 1087.4mm in 2007.


This month I have left David Lloyd from Eldridge Estate and Prof Lynne from Majella alone as I am sure they’re enjoying a break with their families.   But the comparisons continue and below are the December weather figures for both sites:

Coonawarra December 2008:      

Avg Maximum Temp          22.3°C

Daily Max recorded            30.5°C

Avg Minimum Temp           10.4°C

Daily Min recorded               3.5°C


Rainfall:                                94.2mm

Mornington December 2008:     

Avg Maximum Temp          20.9°C

Daily Max recorded            33.1°C

Avg Minimum Temp           11.0°C

Daily Min recorded               3.3°C


Rainfall:                              97.6mm

Maxima and minima from both sites are almost identical to last month, though Coonawarra was a bit cooler which I assume would be odd for that part of the world.  Both areas were very wet, with the 13th of December being a day in which both areas received 50mm of rain.  Knowing David Lloyd's site in the Mornington I am sure most of the rain just ran off the slope on which his vines are planted, but the Coonawarra being pretty much without topography may have got pretty wet and this may have had an effect on the Majella estate, and we will ask Brian just how they got on and the consequences of such out of season rainfall next month.



Summer sun…


January is one of the hottest months of the year so while the vines ripen their fruit, we may be able to sneak off to one of the many beaches in the region and enjoy a paddle in the waves  and cool off.  Still a bit more cleaning up of variant growth to do, but a good solid months work in December has controlled much of this work load.


To all who read this missive, have a relaxing, safe and enjoyable holiday season and we look forward to catching up with you on what will be a very exciting 2009.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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