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Monthly Report - November 2017


Loss of a friend…


It is not a good feeling to check your phone when travelling and see a number of missed calls from your home and a few messages waiting to be opened.  This unfortunately was the case at the start of the month as I was travelling home from abroad, and the messages were about our dog Jackson.


While out with Gail feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, Jackson found a snake near the chicken coop and as has been his ability for 10 years, he quickly grabbed it and threw it away from her, killing it in the process.  This has saved Gail from snake bites on at least 3 occasions that we know of, and was something we were extremely grateful for.  They finished their chores, drove back home and Gail went to the Rosa Brook store to collect the Sunday papers.  Jackson however was not as quick as normal, and the snake appears to have bitten him, and he passed away at our house.


I arrived home and buried Jackson at the top of the vineyard the following day.


We got him as a one year old in 2007, and in 2008 we moved out to the vineyard and he had lived there ever since.  He was the one constant in our lives as the children all finished their schooling over these 10 years and individually left for their tertiary studies after every 2-3 years.  He had met every visitor and worker, barked at every Jehovah’s Witness, and tracked every family member that has visited and or stayed in our house and vineyard.  He had also walked every row with me, he had chased 1,000 birds out of the nets, and he had spilled 100 glasses of wines by lifting his nose under our collective elbows.  Gail and I miss him terribly, but we were very grateful to have had him for as long as we did.


Jackson the Dog


Setting the tune…


What a month of growth amongst the vines this year, with November being dry and warm, pushing the vines to really get a wriggle on.  It has not been this warm and dry since 2010, which led on to the excellent 2011 vintage which was superb, producing lovely Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz wines from our vines.  One of the big differences between 2010 and 2017 is not so much the rate of growth, but rather the vine age which means we are not dependent on irrigation in late spring as we were back in the earlier days – and possibly we will be totally dry-grown this year.


I spent nearly every day in the vineyard this month – apart from the regular wire lifting to make sure the newly forming and flowering bunches get access to air and sunshine, and “de-legging” with the removal of growth on the trunks of the vines, I had to replace a few hundred steels in the trellising due to the vineyard creeping up in age.  This was not straight forward as the ground has hardened up and though I had wanted to do it a few months back, the steels did not arrive until late – frustratingly so.  With also a constant amount of thinning of the growth along the cordon line I think I was walking and working 5-10km every day – which is not a bad way to spend some glorious late spring days.


Our spray program has been going like clockwork with the dry weather and relatively calm winds.  This has meant we are in very good shape with the control of mildews well in hand, and the insect pressure is reduced now we get into summer proper.


Collecting 2016 Shiraz for delivery and my path is blocked by this fine fellow


In the winery we have prepared the 2016’s for bottling and that will be done in the start of December.  Bottled a little earlier than the 2015’s because the wine is in good balance at the current.  No magnums for the 2016 wines, all excellent wines, but the exceptional 2014 Cabernet Franc and 2015 Merlot meant we were sort of obliged to ensure we put some to magnum.  The 2016’s are excellent, but the feeling is more of awesome consistency more than sky rockets in flight [Note: I opened a 2015 Reserve Merlot recently and it is simply amazing – if you have purchased this wine (or intend to), please do not be afraid to give one a whirl, it will make you very happy you did!].


I did have an extra special day tasting wines at Amato Vino – where owner Brad Wehr had opened over 30 bottles of Teroldego – with over half from Italy the home of this grape and the balance from Australia, in which our 3 vintages (2009, 2011, 2012) were opened.  It was a great look into the grape as Brad had not only secured a range of maker’s wines but also a range of vintages and this proved to be most enlightening.  The takeaway from the afternoon-evening of too much Teroldego was:


  • The grape variety travels pretty well, in the sense that the Aussie derivatives showed some of the many facets of the grape from its original setting in Alto Adige in north-eastern Italy.

  • The best examples in the tasting (single vineyard Foradori wines), were truly fantastic and well worth the money on procuring them if you are into drinking exceptional wines.

  • The wines of Blue Poles and Amato Vino were all really good and showed up well against all but the highest quality wines at the tasting.  Both were very good value and showed that the clonal Teroldego present in Margaret River and the climate here suits making excellent wine.


Part of the extensive Teroldego Tasting line up – Blue Poles showed well


We still have some of our 2012 Teroldego available – happy to make up a mixed case if you would like to add it in to your order.


Serving Temperatures…


One of the little overlooked aspects of drinking wine is the serving temperature, as on most occasions you have little to no idea if the wine is more than cool or warm.  This was brought home to me a week or so back when I had a small group of guys drop around at Blue Poles and I bought 3 wines out from under the stairs and one was already on the bench – and it was not until the visitors were due in an hour or so that the one bottle I had not stored prior to bringing it out was rather warm to touch.


It was a red, so I quickly shoved it in the fridge and hoped for the best.


The tasting went well, however, this wine was obviously not showing as well as the others even though the serving temperature was about right.  And this got me thinking – a wine which is super warm that you throw into an ice bucket never seems to be as good as a wine that was cool to start with. It is a prickly lifted heat that you note straight up and on the palate the tannins seem blocky and the acid that little bit sharper are the issues I tend to note more than others.  Funnily enough, these seem to be the same problems when drinking red wines in warm tropical countries – I often blame the setting but there may be a bit of the old hot and cold application to the wines that start to affect the taste of the wines (prior to them becoming heat affected and ruined).

201711_Tasting room.jpg

Blue Poles Tasting Facility – comrades always welcome (if we are home!)



With this in mind I have become a bit more protective of our wines that we have in the house and I have managed to find my old thermal blankets (don’t ask), and I have wrapped up the house wines under the stairs in them.  We do not have a wine fridge, but if you live in a warm place I would highly recommend one as they are the best way of ensuring the wines are kept at a pretty steady temp with little bumping and jogging.  Tim has managed to fill his up, and it is a good place to start looking for something to drink for Yuko and me when he starts going on about his talents and humility.


With regards to our wines, the best serving temperatures for our Merlot based wines and the Cabernet Franc is around 19-21oC – which is the warmer end of the known drinking range.  To serve red wines at 15-17oC as indicated in many articles is just silliness to me – there is no way that you can get the mouthfeel from the tannins / acid / fruit at that temperature (I have been in freezing cellars in France which serve wines at this temperature, or cooler, and it is expected that you have an epiphany – more of a wet sneeze to be totally honest).  The lighter the wine the slightly cooler the serving temperature, so for example our Shiraz you would serve slightly cooler than the Merlot at around 18oC.


For white wines, please for goodness sake do not serve them straight from the fridge or ice bucket unless you are really there for a cold drink and the alcohol only.  Chilling a wine down to less than 5oC mutes the wine on the nose and the palate – and for wines that are quite aromatic it is a bit of a shame as you miss out on the full spectrum of flavor that the wine has to offer (Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are the most hurt by this big chill).  Put them in the fridge for sure – but drag them out a few hours before drinking and that extra few degrees will make a world of difference.


Sweet heat...


This month the weather proved not only warm and dry, but it was consistent in its heat (not to hot or cold), and the wind was never howling which meant we have had a very steady flowering throughout the vineyard.  For much of Western Australia there has been several damaging thunderstorms which ran through the inland areas as well as Perth and surrounds – Margaret River received none of this weather which was surprising as we could often see it crackling and lighting the sky to the east of our house.


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

November 2017:       

Avg Maximum Temp          24.5°C

Daily Max recorded            31.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.8°C

Daily Min recorded               7.5°C


Rainfall:                               7.3mm


The maximum temperature average this month was again much warmer than last year, with the minimum average this year also being higher.  The rainfall total is very similar to last years with both being low totals, with both being a little bit lower than the average for November.

November 2016:       

Avg Maximum Temp          23.2°C

Daily Max recorded            34.4°C

Avg Minimum Temp           10.0°C

Daily Min recorded               5.4°C


Rainfall:                                12.3mm


Grandparent watch…


As of the start of December, we are all on official “Grandparent Watch” as our daughter Beth and her husband Aaron are expecting their first child in early December.  This also aligns with my mother coming through to stay with us over the Christmas break, in which she will become a Great Grandmother for the first time.  It is all happening on the family front, and I expect to have it all happening on the vineyard front as well as I finish up thinning out the growth, putting out protective sprays, another wire lift and general jobs that never seem to be quite complete.  All this runs into a Christmas and New Year that should be a good one as the family makes there way home for simply too much food and drink.


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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