Vintage in the Time of Distancing: 2020
Things have changed! This (left) is what our dining room looked like last year at our Chardonnay vintage lunch. Here (below) is what it looked like this year.
It sure has been an odd season, probably the worst since 2011 for us and maybe the worst ever.
We had a cold, wet and windy October and November, which resulted in a poor fruit set and hen and chick in our Chardonnay and Shiraz, though less so in our Pinot Noir.
This was followed by the wettest January/February on record-400 mm total for the two months, whereas in 2019 there was barely 50mm. Understandably, disease pressure was at red alert throughout the growing period, with humidity always in the eighties and in many cases in the nineties.
So, the vines fell at least three weeks behind where they would normally have been, and really never caught up. Super-cold mornings in late March pushed the vines into early senescence, so full ripeness was elusive. This is the first time in eight years that our altitude and rainfall has been a problem. Luckily, friends in Gippsland and down the valley came to our assistance with parcels of ripe fruit to blend and despite all the drama, the wines, now in barrel, are looking fragrant and fresh but with a little more acidity that we would normally have.
COVID 19 has meant that much more work has had to be done by fewer people, and the masking and distancing rules have been a challenge to comply with, but the winery has been much quieter and more purposeful! Australia and Australians have taken up this challenge in a determined and constructive way, and we now have
the prospect of an earlier return to normality that we had dare to hope foronly a couple of weeks ago. Let us all hope 2021 sees us and the country returned to more usual times.
There are a couple of pieces of news:
Peter Newman arranged an outstanding Wild Fire function at Mercantile Rowing Club in support of the East Gippsland Rotary Bushfire Appeal. Seventy five hardy souls gathered on March 5 for a sit-down Aussie BBQ and Wild Fire wines, accompanied by a selection of bush songs by Peter and John Harry. This outstanding event raised several thousand dollars for bushfire relief and Peter deserves much praise and thanks for his efforts.
We've decided to update our bottle label with the help of the outstanding young Australian Artist Jeremy Kibel. All our wines will progressively be released under the new label, the first being our 2019 Upper Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and 2019 Upper Yarra Valley Chardonnay. We've also decided to broaden the Wild Fire (and Taste-see below) offering to include four superlative Rutherglen fortified wines, expertly curated by Geoff Shenfield: A liqueur Muscat, Liqueur Topaque, Ruby Port and Barrel Blend. We've also, again thanks to Geoff, incorporated several non-Wild Fire wines on our list, including a white Arinto from Portugal and a red Bozazkere from Turkey, both grown and made in Victoria.
Here's a sneak preview of what the new label design looks like: elegant, spare and balanced, like Wild Fire wine.
Our other adventure to report is that just before the onset of Corona, we opened a wine and cheese tasting bar in Warburton in partnership with the Mill Grove Dairy-named "Taste Yarra Valley". This is a small and intimate space for the sampling of outstanding local cheeses from Mill Grove made by Pieter and Nicky Tromp, and Wild Fire wines, as well as a fine selection of cheeses and wines from overseas. A limited food menu will be served, plus by-the-glass wines and cheese and bottle sales. We were open for sixteen days! But everything got off to a wonderful start, and we're hopeful that when we're back on-line, things will pick up quickly.
Taste Yarra Valley: a new-look wine and cheese tasting and retail space in Warburton designed by Donna Harry and managed by Shane Sawyer. Go to 3383B Warburton Highway, Warburton: on the left as you drive into town!
You can visit the website for the Millgrove Dairy at: www.millgrovedairy.com
We'll let you know when we re-open.
Good luck and continuing health to all our customers and friends.