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Monthly Report - December 2017


Growing Vines and Family…


It has been a busy month as always within the vineyard, but it also has been a very busy month on the family front with the arrival of my first grandchild Vance Angus on 4 December at 10.26pm – first child of Aaron and Beth, and all are doing well now that all of the excitement has calmed down a fraction.  Bit of a lanky fellow and a bit of a hungry chap as well, he has heroically survived the Christmas period of being the parcel in the “Pass the Parcel” game and we look forward to seeing him grow and prosper.  My mother has made the trip west this year and apart from attending another family wedding, she has managed to have some time with Vancey boy as well.

201712_Great Grandma & Vance.JPG

New addition to the whanau – Welcome Vance Angus!


The vineyard is looking in exceptional shape.  The growth this year has been phenomenal with the Cabernet Franc for example having canes over 2m long on many plants and still pushing out.  The Merlot and Shiraz also have had a wonderful fruit set and with the spray program working in well with the weather coming and going we have had little to no real mildew pressure (touch wood this continues), and the snails and weevils have now gone past their timing to do some damage and they have hardly left a mark.


My time out in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc has been spent solely on thinning out the growth by removing as much excess growth as I can without affecting the balance of the vines.  In the Shiraz I deliberately left the growth on the trunk of the vine until now as this reduces the excessive growth within the canopy of this variety – so I am now cleaning all of the “leggings” away and this has meant I am getting a bit of a sore back (slowly) working down through the block as this growth has been astounding as well.


In the middle of the month we had ~55mm of rain come through and this was heavy and soaking – fortunately flowering was complete with all varieties and in effect gave the vines a top up before summer starts proper in January – February.  At this point in time I have not turned on the irrigation pump, and as I look forward I can not see the pump coming on this year unless the heat gets extreme in the coming weeks.  Could this be our first dry grown vintage?  Possibly, with the amount of growth we have out there it is not essential to keep the vines pushing forwards in mid-January, and with it being a warm start we move into veraison (the coloring / softening of the grapes) also by mid-January which is a week or two earlier than the average.


It is exciting.  After such a poor vintage for us last year we have managed to get through the first 4 months of this vintage with a score of an A+ for growth, health and fruit set.  I am also looking forward to seeing what difference the biochar that we spread amongst the vines has made to the rows selected for treatment – anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that the vines have received a boost and this is great news as the impact is not just this year, but for up to 5-6 years into the future.


Visiting Blue Poles…


As I made mention last month, Blue Poles does have the ability to have tastings of our wines if you can make an appointment before you arrive.  We usually need a couple of weeks’ notice, and I am sorry sometimes we will disappoint as both Gail and I may be away or working on the dates that are desired.  Many of the visitors that do come through are buyers of our wines, and it is always good to put a face to the order form, and it is good to be able to crack some wines such that we all get a chance to taste the latest releases and the occasional older wines.


Visitors always welcome by appointment at Blue Poles – Megan and Leah Dec 2017


One of the problems we do face is that we have very little wine to sell, as the last three releases have been sold out (or very nearly sold out) within a few days of the release.  So, if you do wish to come in for a tasting it really is important that you indicate if you would like to purchase some wines, such that it gives us an opportunity to get a couple of cases in for purchase if required.


Last week I had several visitors come through, and one couple was from America (in a round-about way) who had sourced the tasting at Blue Poles via Mike Bennie of The Wine Front.


Discussing our wines in a relaxed setting with a few bottles opened is a great way to while away a couple of hours.  And during the afternoon with Leah and Megan, I noted that over the years there has been so much that has happened that for someone that rocks up and wants to know the history of Blue Poles, it actually is pretty long winded now.  From the discussion the history of Tim and I, how we found the vineyard and the reason for the site and the geology supporting that, the varieties planted and where they originated and why they were selected, the name of the vineyard, the name of the wines, the philosophy behind the wines, and without making the list miles long, the taste of the wines.


I sort of forget that there is so much to discuss now, and that we have generated our own “history”.  It still feels very much a blur when you are in the heart of it, but looking back there has been so much work and time spent getting to this point I have sort of melded all of this together into a bit of a Groundhog Day type of memory.  Having these monthly reports is a blessing in a way – though I have never thought as much when I am looking at the flickering cursor on a blank white document – as it is easy now for both Tim and I to see where we have come from and to have a form of diary in place.  Also, we should start planning around some milestones such that we can thank many of our friends and customers (many of which are now one and the same), so this could be our first New Year resolution to match in with the “exercise more and lose weight” mantra that gets dragged out each 31 December.


As I tend to ramble on about all sorts of unrelated tales while chatting with visitors, it should be noted that the aim at Blue Poles is always to make great wine.  I am not aiming for good or consistent, I am looking for great.  I think our site has the capacity to make great wines, and as each year passes with the reduction of irrigation and the age of the vines which aids in the regulation of the yields I think we have a chance of achieving that aim.  If this was not the aim I do not think I would spend the effort I do to make sure the vineyard is tended to the highest standard in the hope that the weather gods let the vines prosper.


So, if you are planning a pilgrimage to Margaret River please do not hesitate to contact us prior to departure.  Hopefully we will be around and able to host you at the vineyard, and fingers crossed there is some excellent booze in a bottle for you all.  Cheers.


Summer haze...


There is nothing I can really complain about with the weather this past month.  We have had on average a warm month (a little above my recorded average for December of 24.6oC since 2005), and the rain we had was 90% from a deluge over 3 days in mid-December which did not affect the flowering or vines health in any way.  Sea breeze has arrived on schedule most days and the skies have been clear and blue since the rain has departed.


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


December 2017:        

Avg Maximum Temp          25.1°C

Daily Max recorded            34.0°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.1°C

Daily Min recorded               5.2°C


Rainfall:                               61.4mm


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 double last years with there being a major frontal system coming through on the 17-19 December this year, against a more lighter series of rainfall totals in 2016.


December 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp           24.2°C

Daily Max recorded             36.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp            11.9°C

Daily Min recorded               6.3°C


Rainfall:                               35.8mm



Wedding bells…


And for the second time within 12 months another wedding is on the schedule with my eldest daughter Hannah marrying her long-term partner and fiancé Tom in Margaret River.  We have friends and family coming from far and wide, with Tim and Yuko also coming across with their children, which is always great to open a few bottles with them amongst the vines.  My one-man battle against the growth of 10,000 vines continues, and by the time I depart for work at the end of the month all will be in readiness for the nets and the eventual vintage in March.  The next three months is a bit of a race to get things done before the hand brake comes on, with the vines safely under the nets and wary eyes look to the skies.


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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