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Monthly Report - May 2019


Back into stride…


Thoughts grow slowly when you are working alone.  The vineyard has been that place where I can take time to reset the thinking process and work through problems in the subconscious and wake to move forward the following, day, week or even month.  But. I am in Manila closing out my 8 years of work here, and thoughts flit through your mind at 100mph, never really settling and never really crystallizing.  I did find some relief while in the provinces for 10 days, limited internet connectivity and limited luxuries, but the head still spins with the place.


With the finish of vintage and the changing priorities, I have had a chance to work (think?) through several vineyard issues and this winter will start a process of renewal.  My vineyard work partner in crime is a viticulturist called John Standish – he comes out for 4-5 days a month to put the practicality into my impractical thoughts.  Apart from being a discerning cake and biscuit lover, he is a guy that can re-wire a head frame, lift out foliage wires from unused portions of the vineyard, know the difference between all the active ingredients in various mildew cover sprays, and comfortably work, like me, doing slow jobs that require simply time and accuracy.  We have a plan to make the vineyard both healthy and organic – planting new areas, redeveloping old areas and enhancing the current vines (which are looking alright, but you can never stop!).


So, post vintage, we have had a chance to recalibrate, and do what nearly every other vigneron is up to – do some promotions.  ‘Tis the season for this, as the wineries and vineyards start to close up after the rough and tumble of vintage, staff and owners are pushed down the road to ensure they have not been forgotten about. We at Blue Poles have done it in a few ways as well.


First up with our lovely new website and online store we offered our mailing list a “website introduction” offer, that many took up and really gave me a bit of work to do each and every day.  And secondly, Tim and I did a few tastings in Perth and Melbourne, one being at Gangemi’s Fine Wines where a Friday afternoon was spent pouring wines and then a few other retailers were contacted and on occasion put into the store.  I “sort of” do not mind doing the talk-talk stuff, but I do feel like I am on a bit of a groundhog day, as there are a same set of questions that seem to pop up all the time – and because I repeat myself so often, you feel that you are becoming boring, forgetting that every new person at the bar has not heard the answer.  Mental gymnastics are required at times.


Blue Poles at Gangemi’s Fine Wines – West Perth (top) and Blue Poles at European Wines – Melbourne (bottom) 


Other tasks that seem to only occur in April and May are the annual clear out of the shed – vintage is running from one spray to the next, pulling out the slasher, taking out all of the nets (then finding a way to put them back in again!), finding all of the picking buckets, as well as having a bit of a clean up of the chemical shed.  With the latest clean up I happened to notice that we have still tucked away a big store of seasoned Tuart timber from the milling of our trees over 15 years ago.  These pieces are 8” x 8” and over 2-3m long each – a furniture makers dream!  Now that I found them, I wonder what I can do with them?  Tuart is one of the hardest timbers known – we have the tasting room floor laid with Tuart, and many of the inserts in our cabinetry are Tuart so we know just how beautiful this timber can be when finished – thinking caps on.


Now for some sad news.


Within a few days of each other, Tim’s family lost their dog Audrey and my daughter Beth lost her family dog Tre.  I need not remind everyone on how this is sad for all, but I would like to say to Sophie, William and little Vance that it is alright to be sad and I look forward to helping you find a spot for each of your dogs on the top of the vineyard looking down over the vines.


Audrey the Airedale

Are we making ourselves ill?…


What a strange way to start a topic, a heading that implies we are hurting ourselves by some mysterious process.  I will kick off straight up by saying that this topic is not heavily wine related, but it has been preying on my mind for years and the reading of a book by Thomas Pynchon over the past week has demanded that I at least attempt to address it.  I have a feeling it could be possibly cathartic for my soul, and I am hoping something of a possible nod of recognition from you dear comrades.


It would be easy for me to start this with internet connectivity is bad, just terrible, look at it and what it does to us and our children, blah blah blah.  But that is simultaneously true and untrue – it is not possible to take away the air we breathe without consequences.  I am old enough to know when the horror of watching too much TV was considered pretty dire – and that was black and white with one channel on the small fuzzy screen.  We have all become interconnected – remotest Philippines and you still see people walk into posts with their phone in front of them.  And, you know, this is not really my whole concern – it is what is going into your mind while scanning, gaming, reading, skimming and watching.


We have reached a situation in which we all use the internet to get access to a fair portion of our information.  We have consciously chosen our sources and tend to stick to them – only venturing out through tapping away at google search results and the like – the never-ending mining for a source that may never be found.  Our choices and habits are gold to marketers, as creatures of habit we are easy to nudge and to follow the path to which we have been led – so our social media themes (and click-ons) and our access constants are how we are “found”.


I like looking at watches, love them – so I follow a few independent watch makers and drill down on a few searches and “boom” before you know it I am targeted within a day with specific sponsored tweets within my timelines.  I am in the Philippines, look up a movie schedule – “boom” – up come the sponsored advertisements.  We know that the various social media sites are not meant to be passing our information around, but that can not true.  Because it is their income.  And targeting potential clients for specific product placements is the service that they provide.


Gratuitous Watch Photo – Sarpaneva Styleé

But you know.  I am not even really worried about this.  Yep, I know the Russian/Chinese click-bait in the world is now at insidious proportions, and yes it makes the world a crazy inward looking populist driven bunch of simpletons.  This is all too obvious, but it is not what is making us ill.


What is making us ill is that we won’t stop looking.


We won’t stop confusing ourselves with myriads of viewpoints and myriads of opinions.  We won’t submit to authority.  We won’t respect expertise and we won’t allow commonsense to dictate to us.  We are becoming insular and wary – we are losing the capacity to just be.


I met for the first time a couple of months back a “conspiracy theorist” and after being battered by his dementia for a few hours I noted two important things.  One, it is a religion – it is not facts based but a simple feelings-based form of thought.  Two, they have lost the capacity to have empathy, it is simply a form of sociopathy that lures the feeble and weak minded.  Now, though I found the discussion with this loon “interesting”, it highlighted to me the illness which can set roots into our communities and is so easy to feed.  And what makes it worse, feeding these crazies is a form of income, and a major one at that.


Youtube channels and bloggers is its own industry, heavily promoted to make an income and become “famous”.  It is all a bit silly, until you realise the impact this has on these “theorists” and also on the children of today.


In regards to the kids, knowing that you are paid by views, if you were a little (or very) unscrupulous you could start manipulating videos of popular children characters (Peppa Pig, Bananas in Pyjamas), load them, and fill the heading with key words and wait for the views to come in (and money).  Now, normally your video would not get any views at all due to the real Peppa and Bananas hitting the little screen, but many little children have the autoplay function working and after 20 videos or so the “next” video gets damn weird.  Try it for yourself – it is just bonkers.  So, the mock up video loaded with key words in its title does get played, and played often, and if anyone was to start (or simply is already) manipulating this stuff then what are the outcomes?


You see, and now I am doing it...conspiracy theories that is...


Are we up for health warnings on our phones? Possibly…



Back to Thomas Pynchon – author extraordinaire and genius.  Every book I have (slowly) read of his has been an opportunity to expand my mind and my vocabulary, and I was looking forward to his latest book “Bleeding Edge”, and then I read it.  Set in 9/11 New York it basically became a series of conspiracy theories thrown together with witty anecdotes – and it sort of broke me.  Look, I do not mind if you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or Odin in Valhalla – you do you – but what gets me about this stuff is that people have died and families have been ripped asunder but they are just props.  Props for egos.  And it is very hard to comprehend.


I am having a big rethink myself in regards my use of phone and computer currently.  I did a check of my usage and the hours used each day – and though I try to justify it (Chiefs were playing, checking emails etc etc) – it is all a bit contrived.  My aim is to use the phone for <2 hours per day, and in the week reduce it to under an hour outside of anything except calls and texts.  With my computer, work is work, but also browsing is to be limited if not part of winery or geology stuff.


Are we making ourselves ill?  I really hope not, but looking about at the head down generation I am not willing to say that this is not the case…




We have gone through Autumn like an extension to our cool summer – little rain, and pleasant gorgeous days.  It has been almost divine as short bursts of thin rain bands scooted past the capes on their way inland before clear and bright days followed in their wake.  Not good for growing grass as the ground does not retain as much moisture as it needs to help the roots delve deeper, so local farmers have their eyes squinted to the west hoping for more, but this has not been the case for the past two months.


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


April 2019:

Avg Maximum Temp          22.0°C

Daily Max recorded            29.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.5°C

Daily Min recorded               4.6°C


Rainfall:                                 36.7mm



May 2019:

Avg Maximum Temp          19.2°C

Daily Max recorded            22.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp             8.0°C

Daily Min recorded               3.0°C


Rainfall:                              45.5mm


The maximum and minimum temperature average for the months of April and May were much lower in comparison to last year’s range, with some very cold nights to match in with the clear rain free days.  The rainfall total was similar for April, but the season broke in May in 2018 with 170mm of rain and this is not the case in 2019 with low rain fall totals.


April 2018:

Avg Maximum Temp          22.9°C

Daily Max recorded            29.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.9°C

Daily Min recorded               7.9°C


Rainfall:                                  30.1mm



May 2018:

Avg Maximum Temp          20.9°C

Daily Max recorded            26.6°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.9°C

Daily Min recorded               7.9°C


Rainfall:                               170.4mm


Dead wood…


Time to commence cutting the dead wood out of the vineyard – though technically it is not dead (just resting).  Pruning will commence towards the end of June and will be ongoing for 2 months.  I will not be going far if anywhere at all (maybe Melbourne if we can organize something there), and I have friends and visitors dropping through during most of June – so a busy social calendar at least.  Looking forward to the chill of the vineyard and the quiet snip snip snip of my secateurs.


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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