Late last Friday afternoon down came the rain with a heavy storm again about 3.00 am the next morning. All up we had 28 mm. This meant a quiet day on Saturday with that horrible feeling the rain was going to stay around for a few more days. However, the weather God smiled on us and it cleared up by lunch time with quite strong southerly winds. Broke-Fordwich had less rain than us so on Saturday night we picked the first 32 tonnes of John Tulloch’s Semillon - cropped at 3 tonne/acre and will be about 11% alcohol and really very nice fruit.
On Sunday morning we woke up with a freezing 11 degrees and wind. The ground had dried up a lot more than I expected. We checked all of the remaining whites with only the Weinkeller Semillon starting to get some rot. Monday morning dawned bright and clear and hand pickers got into the Semillon on Weinkeller and two other small patches that we would normally machine harvest but it was too wet.
We did our first major red testing again and we were surprised on how high the sugar levels had become. One small block tested at 15.12 alcohol. Everything had brilliant dark purple colour on the riper blocks and had very good flavours. So, the decision was made to start picking Shiraz on Tuesday. We got the mechanical harvester back on HVD and picked all but 5 tonnes of the remaining semillon before we got bogged again. Monday night, we finished the rest of John Tulloch’s semillon and chardonnay and the last of the contract grower’s chardonnay from the Upper Hunter. Tuesday, the reds started to come in and like the whites, they are down in crop by about 30%. Mark Richardson and I had a good look over Stevens’, which is in good condition and will start to pick it today. Wednesday was another absolutely perfect morning – clear skies, touch of chill in the air and a nice breeze. Almost the first signs of Autumn. Today, we are hand picking 10 tonnes of chardonnay that was left on Shee-Oak when Nick got bogged last week and this is in a lot better condition than I expected. Machine harvested Pokolbin Hills shiraz and then started on the Black Ridge.
We did more red testing today and I am starting to have concerns about wet weather next Monday night. Whilst the shiraz is currently in very good condition a couple of rain events can see it all go rotten very quickly.
No picking Wednesday night so we had dinner at the winery with the vintage crew and the star wine of the night was 1986 Futures Semillon – still green in colour, wine of amazing complexity and youth for 27 years old.
Thursday was another brilliant morning. We picked the balance of the Black Ridge shiraz – high sugars and colour but not much over a tonne per acre. I think the 44 – 45 degree days have dehydrated the grapes and pushed up the sugars. It will make great Brokenback. During the day we had to write off one grower’s vineyard as the shiraz was already 50% rotten.
Friday (today) another perfect morning, but the signs are there it will get into the 30 degrees before the day is out. We did no picking last night but the hand pickers and the harvester have been going all day. We harvested the last few tonnes of white left on HVD and then the machine went to the Orlando vineyard to pick half of our contracted fruit. Hand pickers have pretty much picked Vat 9 all day plus Neil Stevens has hand picked half of his Hillside vineyard, which included 3.5 tonnes of the 1867 Old Patch – the colour of it is amazing vibrant purple. The crop again, continues to be down by about 30% but the flavours and colours are very good.
By this time next week our Hunter vintage will be over, but this week has really been one of picking very, very good shiraz.