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Monthly Report - August 2011


Nearly finished …


You start pruning in June, and you look up at 7 hectares of growth that has to be removed vine by vine, and you just die a little inside.  Then you crack on and every day you see a bigger clearing and then a bigger clearing, until the “orderliness” starts to take over the vineyard.  As of 31 of August I had about 6 rows of Viognier to prune – the rest had been cut and 90% odd tied down or pulled out.


This year has been quite difficult only in the sense that I have taken on a variety of consulting jobs that have me away from the vineyard and this means it has all been a bit stop – start.  In fact I am writing this report from the Alphaland Tower, near Magellanes MRT station in Manila while working for a resource company in the Philippines, and Tim when he up loads this may in fact be in Africa somewhere reviewing resource projects – we live very interesting lives one could say.


The vineyard is nearing completion of the pruning and it is very wet with the solid rainfall we have had for the past few months.  But for all the rain, the ground feels like it is in more of a state of recovery still as the natural springs through the block which normally flow for a month or two, have not this year.  This leads one to believe that once the warmer spring months commence we will have the groundwater drop away quite quickly and the vines will advance rapidly as in last year’s growing season (but please, please not as mad as last year, we were running 2-3 weeks in advance of a normal season for much of last year and that’s tough for me!).  You always have a great sense of anticipation as you finish the pruning and prepare for the growing season – maybe this year we will produce THE wine that will just be “it” as this is what keeps many of us in this crazy business going at times.


Before I headed out to the Philippines I had a walk through the varieties we have planted and in the top corner of the Merlot I saw the first stirrings of life from the vines. What will 2012 bring? Who knows but it will be a wild ride finding out…

201108_Merlot Budburst .jpg

Budburst in the merlot

Topic of month…


What to discuss?  I guess some of these discussion topics become a bit negative as they are critiques rather than insights and as such lead me to play devil’s advocate.  And as a result of this I get referred to as “grumpy” – but I am not really.  In fact I am quite positive about our wine and our future in the wine industry – it is only a matter of time and through perseverance and dedication we will eventually win through and have a little recognition and support for our wines.


So this month I am going to do something that has NEVER been done before on another wineries website.  I am going to discuss wine I enjoy from three other vineyards and discuss the people behind the wines.  If I am going to be all high and mighty about supporting the little fellow, then let us do a bit of it right here, right now – and if you feel inclined, buy some of their wines and support quality wines and quality people.


1. Eldridge Estate – Mornington Peninsula


One thing you learn in life is that many events that are burnt into your memory as important moments are often never planned.  Thus the meeting of David and Wendy Lloyd and their extreme hospitality and joy in their wines and neighbor’s wines was (and still is), truly memorable and direction defining


I am not a Pinot and Chardonnay drinker – I like them do not get me wrong, but Bordeaux and Rhone are my special places of wine refuge.  I contacted David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate prior to a trip to Melbourne as he was writing on a wine review website “Winorama” and he sounded via his notes an interesting character and quite “science-y”, which made me very intrigued.  A few emails later and I am staying the night and attending a tasting with him and the local vignerons.  This led to more contacts, more nights of drinking the remnants of his Bordeaux in his cellar, and more opportunities to gain an insight into how to raise fine wine.


Both David and Wendy (the official Chardonnay Queen), have made wines from their tiny vineyard that just simply ooze class.  And how do they do this?  Well it is simply an amazing attention to detail, a fine palate that pushes itself to grasp the smallest of nuances, and simply their love of wine.


My wife and I drink Eldridge Estate wines once a month – we always have the chardonnay with roast chicken, and their pinot with duck.  The best part of this mini-ritual is that we open the wine while preparing the meal and just relax into it – you cannot ask for more; great people making great wine and that is the Lloyds.


2. Greedy Sheep


Bridget and Darren Guiney must be the most understanding and patient of people you will ever meet.  I would hate to think how many times they have had to explain the name of their winery, it must almost be a mantra they repeat while they sleep.  The drive of Greedy Sheep is to provide good quality wines at good prices, and they succeed in doing this easily – but I am not going to go into that, I am going to discuss their Malbec.  A foray into the realm of “blooming good juice”, and I am excited for them.


As we use the same wine maker, Darren and I occasionally catch up and chew the fat, so to speak.  Their vineyard, located just off Bussell Highway as you are closing in on the town of Cowaramup, has a planting of Malbec, one of those Bordeaux varieties that sits in the background in the new world.  On one of these rambling discussions Darren indicated that they are going to make a straight Malbec and I was rapt – it is like building a house, you need a plan and these early vintages are like the foundations.  So one day a bottle of Malbec rolled on in and it was just excellent.


Named the JA Hannett it is a great wine that speaks of the variety (bright red berry fruit with a herbaceous-ness that leans towards ripe red bell pepper), and the region (oh lifted gravelly hints and a touch of eucalypt).  I have had the wine on numerous occasions now, and have shown the wine off at wine tastings in Sydney and Perth, and universally it is applauded.  I love it and will seek to swap some more of our wine for it – but for all of you who want to try something new and exciting, get on to it.



3. Wine by Brad


It is very vogue to say you only drink wines from a certain spot, with a certain terroir, and a certain wine maker.  But in the reality of it all, good quality price point wines are rarely made like that.  So to find wines that are true to Margaret River in style and weight but bought from sources never disclosed for the fear of death, at excellent prices is good stuff.  As those very wine buyers of Wine by Brad may end up buying our wines as they get used to the concept of buying of a region as much as of a cost.


Brad Wehr represents the Wine by Brad label.  Our usual form of communication is twitter or email, and when able to meet face to face he is drinking a cappuccino and I am drinking a flat white.  Our discussions revolve around the industry that we are in and the people that are in it – as by chance we have both had common problems in the past, and as we say, a problem shared is a problem doubled J  Brad is involved in the marketing arm of the industry, one which confuses and bemuses me – and through perseverance and a faith in his concept he has carved out a niche for his wines and continues to win awards and medals for wines that are not considered the boutique end of town.


We sometimes get too hung up about the artisan producer and all that goes with it.  Brad produces a great product, is totally independent of the majors yet tries to compete with them on their turf, and as such supports numerous families and companies in our region.  It may seem odd that I would write up Wine by Brad wines, but all I can say is go and by some of these wines, or from his Mantra range and just enjoy a wine … sometimes it is as easy as that.



Winter ends politely...


The weather has been relatively benign for the past 31 days.  The occasional cold front has swept across bringing some good rainfalls, and we have had some clear crisp days as the skies cleared.  All in all it has been a month of pleasant winter weather, and the vineyard looks all the better for it.


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

August 2011:     

Avg Maximum Temp          17.8°C

Daily Max recorded            20.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.3°C               

Daily Min recorded               1.1°C


Rainfall:                               159.0mm

The maximum and minimum temperature ranges are a lot higher than last year, and this relates directly to the lack of rainfall in 2010 and the clear crisp days that were a feature of last year’s weather.  Rainfall in August is significantly higher and the year to date total is now >100mm higher than the 2010 total rainfall.

August 2010:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.7°C

Daily Max recorded            20.8°C

Avg Minimum Temp             6.6°C

Daily Min recorded               1.6°C


Rainfall:                              113.0mm

Fussing, fussing, fussing …


Ahh, September – the month of tidying up the last of the pruning, testing the irrigation system, re-setting all the wires and trellising, pruning the roses at the head of the rows, mulching the mid-rows, spraying out under vine weeds, spreading some natural fertilizers and lime, piling some mulch around the vines, and so much more.  Yes, you could say it is literally a page of “to do” items and the only way to start is to simply pick one and go out and do it.  Budburst will also occur this month for most of the varieties and I will provide a date and schedule for all the varieties in next month’s report.

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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