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Monthly Report - December 2013


Endless Blue…


I started last month’s report with a chat about rain, and so as to provide balance I will start this report by talking about the endless blue of December 2013.  Yes it has been a month of clear deep cobalt-blue warm days with a brightness to the sun that makes you squint just thinking about it.  I have had a chance on a few days to wander on down to Prevelly Beach and have a paddle in the ocean so as to cool down, and the air temperature may be in the low-30’s but the ocean has not yet got the warming memo such that you really do get refreshed by a 15 minute paddle.


Being at the beach, away from the crowds a bit reminds me of when I used to go to the “beach” with my family every summer during all of my school years.  It was always the same routine, big packing exercise of the tent and all the cooking stuff as well as bedding and heaven knows what – the three to four hour drive, heading over the “hill” on the last leg which was a gravel road on a steep winding incline and descent, past the harbor and into Whangapoua, a truly beautiful beach on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.  Dad would hang around until Christmas / New Year before heading home and leaving us for a 3-4 week “holiday”.  Occasionally it rained so heavily the roads were impassable and food was dropped to the one store by a light plane flying over.  We only ever stayed in a large tent, and that never changed, though our location did with 3-4 moves along the beach before Mum and Dad bought a block with their good friends the Rogersons.  Not one parent worried about what their kids were up to, they were lying on the sand getting “brown”, and my mother had a month or so of Louis L’Amour western books and cricket on the radio to clear her head.


No television.  No power for most of the years there – towards the end we had a power point with a light hooked up to it.  No running water.  No flushing toilet.  No vehicle for weeks on end.  Not one thing was organized for us.  To say you were bored was worse than swearing, and you soon learnt to “get out” and “go exploring”.  Gangs of kids roamed the beach and surrounding hills and harbor and it was quite amazing to think about just how potentially dangerous much of what we were doing actually was.


Five o’clock was the drinking time for the men, who used to roll on into Ron Rogal’s garage (Ron was the unofficial “Mayor” of Whangapoua as he lived there all year round, one of only 2-3 families that did), and sit on a crate of Lion Red beer each and crack open a 750ml bottle and just chat on. 


One year there was a competition to spell “L I O N” from individual letters under the bottle caps – and the table filled with these caps with always one letter missing from every prize, I loved it for the symmetry and how 4-500 bottles were drunk and never a prize was won.  This group of up to 10 men (and yes these guys were real men; Maori and Pakeha, farmers and tradesmen, strong and respected), loved their fishing and their seafood and it was not unusual to see 10 kilograms of mussels or cockles cooked and eaten within the hour.  Wine was never really drunk at the “beach” apart from some cask wines for the ladies, no liquor store of course, and with no fridge in the tent it was not the alcohol of choice.  Ron Rogal had the beer fridge, so all good there.


It was incredibly cheap for my parents to do this, and for many years this was the most they could have afforded anyway.  Most of the families up and down the strip were actually in a similar position to our family, with little excess cash but enough to be able to buy a boat and camp out for a few weeks.  I am not sure how young families today could do what we used to do, either through the expense or through the fact that they could not let the children loose from 7am until 7pm, while reading books and chilling out.  It is a historical footnote really – my children were fortunate that we lived by the beach through their school years and catching crabs and herring, as well as avoiding the stingrays as they cruise by on Geographe Bay was part of their everyday life, and for that I am grateful.


But I digress….


Where was I?...


Ah yes a month of clear blue skies and warm weather has meant our vines look the picture of health.  Flowering and fruit set has been a breeze this year, with fantastic sized bunches of healthy looking grapes set on every cane – not a problem and even an excellent fruit set on the Cabernet Franc (the first for a few years), which makes me happy.  The irrigation has been on with consideration of what I learnt from last year, and this has meant a really well balanced growth on all the vines so far.  No herbicides this year, and this has meant the under vine clean-up is not as advanced as it should be, but I have got a further month of pottering around to get that under control.

201312_Merlot Bunch.jpg
201312_Cabernet Franc bunch 1213.jpg

A Merlot Bunch (top) and a Cabernet Franc bunch (bottom)

Philippines Support Update: We have managed to raise well over $1000 through the support of our customers and friends, and for that I am extremely grateful.  I have decided to put the money in the hands of a school principal in a small town near Tacloban to help with the rebuilding of the school, such that the kids can get back to a routine as quickly as possible.  All of the funds should be sent through while I am in the Philippines later on in January and I will give more details on the donation in the next Monthly Report.


No topic for this report (I am on holiday!) – I will have a think about what I will discuss next month while enjoying this holiday season.




Well the weather was potentially going to be very hot as we encountered last year, but this year we have had tempered maximum temperatures even though we have had some lovely clear days.  Occasional cloud cover did not bring any rainfall of consequence and this has meant a dry month with the irrigation being on (in a controlled way), all month.


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


December 2013:      

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9.3°C

Daily Max recorded               35.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp              11.9°C               

Daily Min recorded                  7.6°C


Rainfall:                               3.0mm

The maximum temperature average is well below last years, with the minimum’s average also much lower.  Rainfall is negligible, which is normal for this time of year, with last year’s summer storms providing little relief to the heat.  The total rainfall for 2013 was a very healthy 1180.9mm, which is the highest year total we have had since we developed the vineyard.  The effect of the rainfall can be seen in the trees and the vines, as there has been an amazing amount of growth this year in the vineyard as well as our orchard and ornamental trees.

December 2012:      

Avg Maximum Temp          27.3°C

Daily Max recorded            40.6°C

Avg Minimum Temp           13.7°C

Daily Min recorded               7.6°C


Rainfall:                              45.4mm


Happy New Year …


The year has passed quickly and has been one with a few stresses and strains – I for one am quite glad of its passing as it brings forward many things I have been working towards both on the vineyard and in my professional space.  My family has got a bit more independent as the eldest are finishing their studies, and the youngest approaching the end of her secondary schooling – which by default says I am aging, which is odd as I feel I do not think “old”.  Tim and Yuko are climbing up the hill as their two children approach school age, and as always I wish them every success – great kids by the way.

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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