The growing season started with a repetition of last year with frosts for the first few weeks in October, 2014. This presented a good opportunity to test the frost heater installed last year. Protecting the young shoots is critical at this time because any damage to a new shoot will result in the year’s crop being wiped out.
In November, 2014 Dr Graham Robertson from the Australian Antarctic Division; Hobart, Australia, arrived to spend a few days with us and just in time to help out with the planting of the last 2 rows of Carménère, to finish the block started in 2013.
Later in November, Bron and Marty Yates, friends of Les' from university days, spent a week with us, and again, just in time, to help with planting replacement Chardonnay vines. It’s wonderful to have friends that love to get their hands dirty. It seems that everyone that visits gets a job in the vineyard!
The season threw more challenges with stormy and humid weather as well as large temperature swings of over 20°C differentials during a 24 hour period. Tropical like fogs descended upon Flyfaire followed by the more traditional dry spells requiring irrigation of the vines.
The sulphur and copper organic sprays were applied early to the vineyard and maintained control of the mould for a short period. Outbreaks still occurred which were difficult to control. The leaf growth and fruit load on all varieties were outstanding, perhaps in part a result of the organic fertiliser applied (chicken manure) in 2012 followed by an application of prilled hydrated lime in 2013, all reaching deep into the root zone by 2015.
This season saw our first crop of grapes from the new "Don Pepe Carménère Block". How exciting to harvest a grape variety predominately grown in Chile. A small batch of 40 litres is now fermenting under the watchful eye of the winemaker, Les.
On other news, last year we won our first medal awarded to our 2013 Merlot in the New South Wales Small Winemakers Show. We were overjoyed to achieve this recognition with it being the first time we have entered our Merlot in a competition. We have now sold out of this vintage, but we are looking forward to achieving further results with the 2014 vintage yet to be released.
This year’s picking has come 3 weeks early. We are currently busy with a bumper crop (the best ever). The season tended to cause erratic Veraison which was difficult to predict, but flavours in all of the varieties are intense.
To add excitement to the harvest, NSW National Parks has done an early fuel reduction burn of the Woomargama National Park on the Tunnel Road on the 10th March, 2015 just opposite our vineyard. We managed to harvest half the Merlot crop before smoke settled in. The other half may be affected by smoke taint, only after ferment will we know. We have survived two other fires in December, 2014 started by lightning. The sound of the helicopter water bombers is becoming all too familiar.