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Monthly Report - November 2009

Hope springs eternal …


The reason why I would say state something as well known as the title is because this is the time of year where you “feel” in your bones that something special may be in store from the vintage. We have managed to dodge the changeable spring weather patterns without any hail or high wind events to damage the vines, and we have had enough rainfall to keep the vines in absolutely tip top shape.  All the sprays have gone out in a timely fashion and there is no sign of disease or any significant damage by our dear friend the “evil” weevil or its mate the spring beetle.  The delay in growth during a cold September has meant all the vines are going through their growing stages “evenly” for the first time in a few years, and with the extra care and attention they have had, the growth has been the most luxurious I have seen since we developed the vineyard – so is this the vintage that blows our socks off?


Well who can tell?  But at this stage we are delighted with the progress seen in the vineyard, and unlike the eastern states there has been no hot weather to complicate the season in Margaret River.  The entire first pass of wire lifting has been completed in the vineyard as well as the first pass of cleaning all of the vines from excess growth.  We will still be shoot thinning for a while yet as it is a task that requires a fair bit of patience and fortitude to set each vine perfectly and we will tap away at this on a daily basis – however, the Shiraz has been completed and it looks especially healthy this year and with this added rain over the month it has put on good even growth.  Also with the rain we have delayed slashing the vineyard as the mid-row grass and clover continues to grow, but within the next week or so we will quickly go through and mow the grass and put it back into the soil.  We do not run any animals in the vineyard which is a current trend, as we want all the goodness of the mid-row growth to be available to the vines in the coming years, stock in my opinion tend to give you less in return for the compaction they leave.

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A grape bunch pre-flowering

First Export Order

One of the more exciting events in our vineyards short history is our first export order which was sent to Singapore during the month.  The process of preparing and delivering wine for shipping was new to us, and once you start getting into it, you realise there is a whole world of activity that is going on with its own language and methods which you’ve never thought of before.  This we hope will be the first shipment of many and with our wines being suited to many styles of food and functions it will be great to watch this side of our business grow.


Margaret River Wine Show

Also during the month was the Margaret River Wine Show, held on the 27 November.  Now to those who have regularly read this report, you will realise that I am not much of a fan of these events for numerous reasons – but as an opportunity to taste through most of the wines available in Margaret River in the one room at the one time, it is irresistible.  Gail and I donned some stain proof clothes and cheap shoes and headed in, and overall I thought the wines presented were very good.  The wine judges again were “same, same” and concentrated on the Cabernets and Chardonnays, with reference in passing to the Semillon / Sauvignon Blancs – and really they could write their speeches 12 months in advance and burble the same euphemisms, just changing the winner’s names.


I will not go into my views of the winners, but I will mention that if the judges are seeking certain styles, why award medals across huge ranges of styles and then claim no consistency?  Just flat out odd.  From the Blue Poles stable, our 2009 Viognier won a bronze medal (only 5 wines medal-ed out of 22 in the mish mash which is the “Other Whites”, and is rated as in the top 2 Viogniers in the region).  We did not enter our Merlot, and this class was very disappointing when tasting through all the wines – especially when you taste such a great range of Cabernets right next to them.  The show is a great way to stain your teeth black, as well as get a picture of where wines in the region are performing well – and that is what we did.

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Margaret River Wine show floor

Wine and Food…


A sign of a serious wine lover is their knowledge of all the details associated with a specific wine when it is brought up in discussion.  This was highlighted to me when I attended a wine tasting in Perth during the month, where endless discussion on where wines were made, who made them and which block the grapes were sourced from were the order of the day (… by the way I am not the one to ask for details, too many hours in the vineyard takes the hunter and collector psyche away pretty quickly).  And the same could be said for avid “foodies” who would rather drink molten metal than have a cup of “instant”, or have a dagger through their heart than eat something which has come from a packet.  But surprisingly you do not often find either being fastidious in both areas as it appears that would be simply taking it too far.


But wine and food are simply made for each other as the dry crisp flavors in wine can cut through the fatty and oily foods, refreshing the palate and giving a new taste sensation.  When wine and food are combined well they each add a dimension to the meal that could not be found individually.  We always try to have a glass of wine with our meal at home, and often we use a touch of wine in the cooking to add flavors as well – this leads us to make up dishes on the fly a bit to both enhance the wine we are drinking and to ensure the food matches the wine we are drinking.  We do follow many recipes from various cooks that have inspired us at different times, but over time you start to add your own embellishments and work off what is fresh in the veggie patch and the herb garden.


Thus when an email came through requesting recipes that would match our wine for an upcoming cook book based around Margaret River wineries we thought, well why not throw some recipes into the mix.  With this in mind we thought it only fair that our followers out there are able to get a true “scoop” and as such I have copied out one of the Blue Poles submitted recipes for you here:


Blue Poles creamy Mussel Pasta


  • 1kg Mussels

  • 1 cup of Blue Poles Viognier

  • Teaspoon of butter

  • Teaspoon of crushed garlic

  • 1 small Purple Onion finely chopped

  • 1 Carrot finely chopped

  • Splashes of Olive Oil

  • 400g penne pasta

  • 300ml of thickened cream

  • 2 ripe tomatoes coarsely diced

  • ½ Red Capsicum cut into strips

  • ½ cup of fresh parsley

  • Squeeze of lemon juice

  • Salt and Pepper to taste.


Parmesan Cheese for garnish.


Wash and de-beard the mussels. In a pot add butter and garlic, and once sizzling add Mussels and cup of Blue Poles Viognier and place on lid.  Cook for a few minutes on high heat and once the mussels have just opened take off the heat and set aside.  Drain and strain the juice from the mussels and preserve.  Shell all the mussels and set them aside in another container.


In a small pot, raise water with a splash of olive oil to the boil and then add the Penne Pasta – cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the pasta is just starting to soften but not al dente.  Take off the heat, drain and preserve the pasta.


Heat a large pot and add some more Olive Oil, with the Purple Onion and Carrot – cook until the onion becomes translucent and then add the strained mussel juice and the partially cooked pasta.  Let the pot simmer for 10-15 minutes so as to cook the pasta and to reduce the liquid in the pot.  Add the cream and stir in, then add the mussels, tomatoes, capsicum and parsley.  Simmer for a further 5 minutes.  Just before serving, mix in a squeeze of lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.  Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Serves 6 and have the remaining chilled Blue Poles Viognier with the meal – it is a sensational combination!


The look of the dish has a touch of the Jackson Pollock about it, but it is a delicious meal and filled with lovely seafood goodness.



Variable weather, hey, but what’s new?...


After a reasonably dry October, a bit of rain turned up in November; just enough to upset my hay making next door neighbour, and just enough to give the vines a boost just prior to summer commencing.  It has been a strange month with lots of rainy days, dispersed with some beautiful warm days.  There were some exciting times on the 12-13 November when large cells of thunder and lightning storms came through the district and embedded within these storms were damaging hail falls – fortunately for most of the region we did not suffer losses, with only one grower in the northern portion of the region suffering a large amount of damage that I am aware of.  Unlike last year all the sprays have gone out well with a number of very still nights and early mornings ensuring maximum spray efficiency.


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

November 2009:     

Avg Maximum Temp          22.7°C

Daily Max recorded            32.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.8°C               

Daily Min recorded               4.9°C


Rainfall:                               64.6mm

The temperature ranges were quite a bit warmer this year which has brought the vines forward much more evenly than last year which was very stop-start with an early bud burst and a very wet and cold November.  The rainfall in 2009 was quite different to the rainfall in 2008 due to much of the rainfall coming from the north in warm winds and these rains are “tonics” for the vines as they contain high levels of nitrogen fixed by the lightning.  In 2008 the rains came with cold winds from the south and this held up growth and flowering, causing an uneven set for many of the vines.

November 2008:      

Avg Maximum Temp          20.0°C

Daily Max recorded            24.9°C

Avg Minimum Temp             9.8°C

Daily Min recorded               6.6°C


Rainfall:                              48.7mm


As you can see I am not running any vintage comparisons this year, but I will seek some comments from friends around the country on their take of the vintage in their region to that point in the year.  I will give David Lloyd from Mornington Peninsula a call and see how he is going next month, such that those of you who enjoy the finest pinots and chardonnays from one of Australia’s premier growing districts can get a picture on how things are going.



More of the same …


Work amongst the vines continues unabated with plenty of shoot thinning to knock over before Christmas and New Years.  As always it is a bit of a madhouse coming up to the festive season, so I will do my best to keep my head down and the vineyard ticking over.  All the wires will be up by the end of the month, two more sprays would have gone out, and flowering would have completed amongst all the vines and little berries will be formed, awaiting the next stage which is growing and generating some lovely sugar and flavors.


So without further ado, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families, from the team here at Blue Poles.  And as always if you have any queries do not hesitate to contact us either by email or and we will do our very best to answer any question.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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