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Monthly Report - February 2010


Life’s little ups and downs …


The ripening season is usually a waiting game that dawdles along for 6-8 weeks with your worries about the long range forecasts, flavour retention, colour development, acid levels and many other little esoteric points that are important to “complete” the growing process.  It involves little work in the vines apart from dropping some fruit that will not quite ripen enough to be put into the wine, and testing fruit along the rows to see how it is all coming together.  This year is however a little different with a mini tornado going through the vineyard and throwing all our nets ~100m into the air and then draping many of them over the boundary trees – this has meant 10 days of recovering nets, repairing huge rips within the nets and replacing them back over the vines.  So much for dawdling along, but for all the frustration and amazement at the power of nature we did not lose any fruit (in fact the tornado did not as much disturb a leaf in the vines!) and the birds have not moved onto the vineyard at all this year which has meant the fruit is still clean and healthy.

201002_Bird Nets destroyed by small torn

Our nets ripped and in trees

With the continuing dry weather and warm days the vines have been under a bit more stress than in previous years and it has meant the vines look a bit more “ragged” than Iam used to seeing.  I am not sure how this will play out with the quality of the vintage, but it has been an exceptionally dry summer and many of these dry years have historically tended to be the more highly prized vintages – so we have our fingers and toes crossed that that the vintage is an exciting one and the wines live up to their potential.


While I was playing with my nets, our vineyard partners Tim and Yuko were out extending their family.  On  23 February we welcomed William Yuichiro Markwell into the world – mother and baby well and home, which will be very exciting for older sister Sophie.  Here is hoping he proves to be an excellent little vineyard worker, which will be of great benefit to his Uncle Mark!



Also completed this month was the release of the 2008 Blue Poles Shiraz – our first commercial release of this variety.  Each of our wines has their own character and I believe this wine is more of a drink now style due to its delicious aromas and lovely fruity and spicy palate.  Which is great as many have cellared our Merlot dominant releases, so to have a straight up enjoyable drink gives us a fair bit of pleasure as well.  If you would like to try the wine, do not forget we have our 3-pack of varietal and “Right Bank” wines available on the website and this will give you some very pleasurable drinking as well as an excellent “drinking” summary of Blue Poles wine.



The point to being a rebel…


I have always found the word rebellious an intriguing one.  We all want to be a bit of a rebel, to make others aware of the bigger truth by our actions and our being in the “know” – and also it is a bit cool.  Often we complete this “phase” during our youth and we them quickly conform to the life of earning a living and completing the social picture (husband/wife – house – kids – new car – trip round Australia).  This is not anything to sneer at, it simply is what it is – our recognised way of life.  It could also be said that to rebel against this social norm by never leaving the academic life, not marrying, travelling incessantly, or even drug taking or risky behaviour really is not rebelling at all, it is merely postponing the responsibility of the social norm; and anyone who has seen the movie “Trainspotting” can recognise that really the social norm is like a great big comfortable blanket that holds the society together (for better, for worse), and you can not escape it.


Now what has this to do with wine?  A good question and one I may still yet answer.  Last Sunday while having a cup of tea I watched an ABC program called “Business Insiders”, and the Chief Executive of Fosters, Ian Johnson, was being interviewed.  During this interview he made some absolutely absurd and dimwitted comments (as to be expected one would guess as he is running the company bankrupt) – but the comment that made me nearly spill my drink was his insistence that only “profitable” wineries be allowed to continue and all others should be destroyed for the greater good.  His view was one of a completely pragmatic businessman – wine is solely made for profit, thus if this criteria is not met you must be exterminated.


Now this is coming from the man that is in control of Australia’s greatest wine in “Grange” made at the Penfold’s stable (a Fosters wine) – which Max Schubert made initially upon his return from France in the early 1950’s.  I would have it as a guess that this wine did not make a profit for many years, if not decades, and if memory serves me right, one or two of the earlier vintages were made without management approval.  So here we have it, complete and utter moron Ian Johnson who makes most of his profit on the back of the Penfolds name, determining the world of wine based on his view of a balance sheet … oh the irony was so great I was quite beside myself.  And with that I went back to sewing up my nets thinking that the most revered and admired of all humans are those that are “rebellious” and as such see the greater good for us.


For me the bravest thing you can do in your life is to risk your security for the opportunity to make a difference.  This is something feeble little people like Ian Johnson will never know – by developing a vineyard and winery the way we have puts a level of faith in our process that can not be quantified.  We have produced some wines that have the potential to make a difference, though how we get that message out when we are trying our hardest to keep the ship moving ahead is still a mystery to us – but we will persist.  The confining of your view of your life based on your income and equity to me personally is a very shallow and potentially extremely disappointing one – some things you do for the love of it and these undertakings provide the greatest enjoyment when life is reviewed.  You would never have children, you would question getting married and you would not take time to enjoy life – if money and goods were your goals.


But you do not need to risk it all like we have to be rebellious, nor do you need to break the social covenant that binds us all.  You can do it in so many little ways that you can make an impact while nourishing your soul.  I will give you a series of examples (they are mostly my wife’s as she is really good at this sort of stuff).


  • Join a social group in your area, anything from a tennis club to a book club AND volunteer to help with whatever needs doing.  Trust me when I say this, that the other folk who have been roped in to run the committees or working bees etc are simply the salt of the earth, they are often older than you but they are the nicest people you will meet while visiting this planet.

  • Support local businesses as much as practical, attend local markets and stalls and buy something, get to know a butcher, or a grocer, or even the staff at the local café – once they know you, all sorts of good things come out of it.

  • Write in to the local paper or your local member of parliament just once and a while when you see an obvious issue and it needs highlighting.  Become literate and consider your arguments – your comments may be the ones that repair the damage or stop the rot.

  • Working for a living does not mean “living for work” – find a way to do something else (which I must admit to failing this one at times – but I am aware that it matters).

  • BUY WINE from people not companies – seriously, if you buy wine from many many boutique wineries you would be amazed by how supportive and eager to help many of these wineries are to the consumer. If they are not, find some who are – there are so many good wines in Australia now made by people who care you should not be giving money to money grubbing corporations.


Rebelling when you are young is easy, do whatever annoys the person you most want annoyed!   But being rebellious when you are older is much more difficult, but potentially the most rewarding.  By having a go at any or all of the above points I believe would be more rebellious than signing up to Greenpeace, putting a colour through your hair or buying a sports car.



And the weather continues to be fine...


The month of February has been a very similar clone to January (without the heat spike), and we have continued on with very dry and warm conditions on an almost daily basis.  Very little cloud cover through the month has meant hot days and little chance of rain, with the sea breeze blessed relief on many days.  This summer (Dec-Feb) the total rainfall has been 7.3mm of rain which has been the driest since we have developed the estate


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

February 2010:     

Avg Maximum Temp          27.7°C

Daily Max recorded            34.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           14.9°C               

Daily Min recorded               5.9°C


Rainfall:                               2.5mm

The temperature ranges are similar but it was a fair bit hotter this year with the lack of cloud cover, but the minimums were closer, however it too was higher this month.  Both months had a very low level of rainfall which is common for February in the South West of WA.

February 2009:      

Avg Maximum Temp          26.5°C

Daily Max recorded            35.8°C

Avg Minimum Temp           14.4°C

Daily Min recorded               6.8°C


Rainfall:                              14.7mm


Let the vintage begin …


Well it all starts. We will be taking off the Viognier in a couple of weeks followed by the Merlot – I am not sure if the Shiraz and Cabernet Franc will be picked during March (late flowering may push out ripening) – so we are aiming at having all the grapes safely fermenting away by mid April.  Lots of walks through the vines, with lots of grapes being chewed and spat out (they do have lots of pips), trying to pin down the picking dates that will make the best possible wine.

As always if you have any queries about what’s been written or about wine in general, do not hesitate to contact us either by email or and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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