Monthly Report - November 2019
Well we have done it, we have just gone and lost our “too cool for school” badge by attending the Gourmet Escape 2019 and standing around saying that "sorry we don’t have a rose or a sweet white". And I know who to blame – that scallywag Markwell who went ahead against all my pleadings and wailings and booked us a spot in the event held annually in Margaret River. In doing so he started a conversation that he could not finish – how actually do we do this event type stuff? So, when the first set of instructions from the organizers arrived, the first of many follow up emails arrived (and continued until 7 days before kick-off), from young Markwell which in one way or another said, “What the heck are we going to do here?”
We had no idea, we still sort of don’t, but at least we have a “Responsible Service of Alcohol” certificate (or RSA’s for those in the biz…) and some promotional kit that we have never had before. But I digress…
The Gourmet Escape weekend is a large event held at the Leeuwin Estate grounds in Margaret River and is a “foodie” and “winey” thingy-me-jig where the superstars of TV cooking shows are predominantly the main attraction. A few thousand folk roll in, have access to about 20-30 wine booths, 40-50 beer, coffee, gin, food and other odds and bobs booths, and can watch the main stage to see the stars of the show cook a pork rack (…OMG, crackling to diiieee for...), or some such. Some pay extra and head across for “tutored” wine tastings and beer swilling, and ethical food conversations – whatever floats their boat. Those with huge debts to Westpac, fly too much on Singapore Airlines, or own a Lexus get a bit of a bonus by swilling free booze and food in their designated areas – you spot this group by how well dressed they are, very flash!
Mark in action at Gourmet Escape...
We were in Booth B3 – placed between LS Merchants and Lenton Brae who are other Margaret River wineries. LS sells “new wave” wines, and the Tomlinson’s at Lenton Brae sell “old wave” wines – thus we were perfectly placed with a chance to sway the swinging voters. Our booth was decorated by two large painted barrels (my daughter Abi is the talented one here), and me, Tim and Marjory (plus 2 blackboards that we realized we had to write on with great big chunky chalks, oh the drama) got to stand there for 7 hours a day for two days. And over the two days we served upwards of 4-500 samples, told the Blue Poles origin story 2-300 times, Tim spilt ~100+ pours on the tabletop, I ordered the wrong coffee once, and by the end we were all three absolutely knackered.
Marjory completed a little Vlog of the weekend and has it up on her YouTube channel. For those with very sharp eyes, they will note there is evidence of Tim purchasing said “wrong” coffee and walking back with a tricksy smirk knowing the degree of distraught this will cause me upon recognizing my mistake (fast forward to 2m 23s for those impatient ones out there…).
One of my little tasks during the weekend was to attend one of those “tutored” wine tastings, predominantly run by Gary Walsh (aka Withnail). He had a gaggle of wine makers and owners come in and discuss their wines with a group of guys that liked the thought of swilling the most expensive wines from the region while putting up with Gary and us. I did find it a bit odd to be hanging out with the wine makers from round town in this setting – but I did enjoy their takes, and to hear them talking about the geology of the area without really knowing too much about it, it reminded me of being on a mine site listening to mine engineers being the “geos” – such fond memories. The discussions of their wines while tiptoeing around the other excellent wines from the same variety on the table was also entertaining – “Chardonnay - Fight To The Death - Tasting” I say!
So everyone, what did we learn from being the promoters of our promotion?
Have a large volume of white wine for tasting on a warm mid-November event! We only had a few cases of our old Viognier (good thinking Tim!), and it was the hit on the Saturday by selling out pretty much by the end of the day.
Blue Poles is still pretty unknown by the public – understandable I guess as we aren’t in Liquorland or Dan Murphy’s, but from our bubble it was a bit of a wake-up call. It isn’t that we weren’t expecting it, but we were thinking we had a bit more name recognition out there – something to work on for sure.
It is hard to sell fine wine at an event where people are generally there to have a good time and wander about. We did have a couple of self-adorned wine experts come and try our wines – a privilege to see a “wine wanker” in the wild, a truly remarkable sight, like spotting a peacock in full display without any tail feathers (…spoken softly with a David Attenborough lilt). But overall, lots of positive comments and lots of new mailing list members (who may in fact be reading this report for the very first time – welcome!).
Fans of Blue Poles are really really big fans of Blue Poles. Those who have got on board and bought our wines over the years and were at the event came across and saw us and gave us a lot of heart by saying how much they love our wines. To those folks I say two big thumbs up, you make us very happy!
It is hard work. We were all exhausted after going through the whole process for the first time (setting up, taking down, preparing competitions, and running the booth between the 3 of us – which was only 2 often as I was gallivanting around with the wine makers and Withnail in the “tutored” tastings).
Will we be back next year? Hard to know really – we need to have a wine that suits the event. If the “Lost on Mars” Marsanne collaboration with Amato Vino works well this vintage and is bottled in time, then that could be a good wine for running with, as well as a new Shiraz and of course our more well-known Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines. Let’s just say it is the swirl on your banking app at the moment – waiting to be logged in.
One job that always catches me out with how long it takes to do by yourself is wire lifting in the vineyard. Every time I do it in early-mid November, I think to myself, that’s a bit longer than I thought, I must give myself more time next year. And I never do. This monthly report is being written under a mosquito net in Gaoual, Guinea in West Africa – I arrived here 3 days ago after a 33-hour flight including layovers and a 16-hour drive from Conakry to Gaoual. I left on the Monday, and on the Sunday before my flight Marjory and I went to the vineyard to finish the wires and tidy up some vines that needed some love and attention. What was meant to be a 4-hour job became 6 due to my continuing miscalculations, and we finished with the sun setting out to the west. Beautiful day of course, but one heck of a long walk and super tiring. All finished now (thanks Marj!), and looking lovely out there – haven’t seen this much growth in the Merlot vines for many years and I think all the hard work put in by the team of three (John our Viticulturist, Marjory and I) has really paid off; and on top of the healthy Merlot, the flower set looks awesome through all the varieties making me very excited for the vintage ahead.
Marsanne (top) and Merlot (bottom) finishing flowering - big healthy bunches for both
A warm month for the end of Spring and this has meant a wall of growth throughout the vineyard and a very healthy set of strong vines with the spray program doing its job and keeping all the mildews at bay. The grafters of our new Chardonnay have come back in and reset a few vines that did not work out, so a little training job coming up there, and we have completed a little weeding of the nursery to keep the new cuttings growing their roots and filling up with energy before being planted out next year.
All of the Shiraz has been wire lifted and has been cleaned up on the wire and on the base twice this month – very spoilt variety. The Chardonnay has also been cleaned up and trained on the wire again, base wiped clean and some fruit bunch thinning – it is going to happen folks, our first Chardonnay (and we have got some very flash ex-Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 1yo barrels to go with this vintage), so it is full steam ahead everyone! Cabernet Franc and Marsanne has been thinned, basal cleaned, given a stern talking too for setting too many canes, and looking full of life. Only the thinning and basal cleaning to complete in the Merlot, could not quite complete everything, but it keeps me busy upon my return to Australia.
Shadows showing that it’s a late finish in the vineyard - November 2019
And with good reason! Doing a bit of research without an internet connection, literally working under candlelight, does make this task a tad difficult. I am now sitting with a local beer (tepid is cold in the countryside of Africa), and thinking maybe I could stop haranguing the wine industry this month and watch the sunset while waiting for the generator to get some fuel put in.
A little remote in Gaoual, Guinea, West Africa – Much different to the vineyard!
Back into the swing of things with only one month’s weather to report on. This month was much warmer than last year with daytime temperatures heading over 30°C on several days. Not warm enough to warrant giving some of the vines a drink from the irrigation, but warm enough to make them have a bit of a breather. Low rainfall matched in with the blue skies and it started to feel like summer out there for the first time this year.
The numbers for this month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 23.3°C
Daily Max recorded 35.3°C
Avg Minimum Temp 11.4°C
Daily Min recorded 6.6°C
The maximum and minimum temperatures this year were higher than last year, which meant the growth in the vineyard is well advanced. The rainfall total was similar with November traditionally having a low rainfall figure.
Avg Maximum Temp 20.7°C
Daily Max recorded 25.5°C
Avg Minimum Temp 9.7°C
Daily Min recorded 3.8°C
Christmas and New Year ahoy…
Yes folks, that’s nearly your blooming lot for 2019. Hard to believe it has passed so quickly and a truly life changing one for me personally. I have one major job to knock off in completing the basal cleaning and thinning of the Merlot (fingers crossed Marjory will give me a hand), as well as numerous little jobs which will include wire lifting the top wire in the vineyard where it is needed (I am looking at you Merlot, Cab Franc and Marsanne), weeding the nursery, drinking some beer, and fixing up and testing the irrigation lines just so as to have it at the ready.
And because we love you all so much we do have one Christmas present to share with you – the last 5 cases of 2016 Reserve Cabernet Franc are back up for sale on the website. We held over our very last few cases for the Gourmet Escape and this is the remnant from the event. Would be the choice of champions for those cooking a turkey this year – you will win Christmas with a beautiful bottle of this on the table. Not sure how long it will last, and to get you moving quick there is a Christmas Edition code here to give you a 10% discount and free postage for orders over $150.
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 www.twitter.com/bluepoles and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.
Blue Poles Vineyard