Sunday, February 28, 2016

TARRAHILL vintage 2016
February 28

Hello to all,

We have begun vintage for this year with the picking of the chardonnay last Thursday, a week later than last year’s pick, but still early when we consider that 10 years ago we weren’t picking until March or April.
This year we have had a tricky season with intense heat through December when the vines were still soft and growing, consistent heat over January and then very little rain. All of this following on from a very dry Spring that left us with half full dams and a limited capacity to irrigate all the vines. February has brought a little relief in that it has been relatively cool and we had some very welcome rain a few weeks ago.

Thursday was delightfully cool and overcast, a perfect start to what can be a very long day. Pickers arrived before 7am and we were out on the tractor fetching buckets half an hour later. The fruit was still cool from the low over night temperature which is a good thing.
Ed, Geof and Jonathan


The white wine grapes are crushed as soon as practical after being picked and, unlike the red wine grapes, are usually pressed straight away rather then leaving them to rest on their skins for a period. We have a basket press for this which is the slow stage of the whole process and necessitates a certain amount of manual labour. We had finished picking by 2pm but were still in the winery at 10pm doing the last of the pressing. As I said, it’s a long day! At least we were better organized than last year when the boys finished at 5am the next day.

This season we have spent considerable time in the vineyard through December and January dropping fruit and paying attention to cropping levels. This works out well in the pinot as we can use the unripe fruit to make Verjus, a staple in our kitchen and an extra product that we can offer for sale. This year we have made 400 litres, the first for 3 years and it looks as though it will be of good quality again.

In the end we picked about 3.5 tonnes of chardonnay and have 2,000 litres of juice from that. It refined but full of flavour: we will see what fermentation brings.

In the meanwhile we are getting ready for the next pick: pinot and shiraz together next Friday. Jonathan estimates that we will have 10 tonnes for the day. There are times that I watch the picking machine in the neighbouring vineyard enviously, but it seems such a brutal process that I can’t see how it would be the best thing for the grapes or vines. So, we have a lot of work to do. Luckily Ed is still around and penniless so we can make use of his energy and strength as well as his engineering brain when things start to unravel, which they always do at some point!
Ed at work

Despite the lack of rain, the vines have done well this year.

 This is the first year that we haven’t used any herbicides of any sort and we have found that the under vine mower is working well as a substitute.

 Mulching all over the farm is becoming essential: under the vines, in the orchard and vegetables, the paddocks and the garden. We use mostly old, spoilt hay but anything will do: garden clippings, sugar cane mulch, and chipped branches from the power company prunings. The mulch protects the soil from the sun, limits water loss via evaporation and eventually breaks down and adds humus and bugs to the soil. We can cut hay here and do so when we need it. The last of the bales have been spread this week so I will plan to make more this summer. Australian soils are old and often very fragile. I find that our soil does best if it has lots of organic matter and isn’t worked too much nor exposed to our harsh summer sun. The Yarra Valley has dry summers when the soils can set like concrete and then wet winters when everything is either under water or a bog. This is a challenge.
Vineyard orchard with mulch

kale and chard

I have established both an orchard and a new vegetable garden in the vineyard area over the last couple of years to hopefully bring some biodiversity into the site and, so far,  they are doing well. We are enjoying eating our produce: there is nothing quite like anything just picked, and the blackberries have been amazing, so there is plenty of jam in the pantry. 

We haven't eaten any of the sheep. I'd rather them as lawnmowers than chops.

We will report back after the end of vintage.

Gang Gangs in the hawthorns

Ciao.      Andrea

Saturday, August 8, 2015


                               VINTAGE 2015                 ..........and beyond

Hello everyone,  I finally can put pen to paper, figuratively at least, after a considerable lapse. The 2015 vintage has come and gone and is proving to be a very interesting one. The lead up to it was pretty well perfect: dry, warm and long. Autumn seemed to be endless. 

We picked late and have big wines as a result. Big pinot and big cabernet in particular. Geof and Jonathan continue to be the A team and spent endless evenings in the winery nursing their "babies" along.

Vintage is the time for the long lunch under the trees with family and friends.

We are in our 4th year of biodynamics transition and the vines remain healthy and are producing fruit with good and complex flavours.We are enjoying the process as well: less spraying, and the pleasure of the biodiversity that this system brings with it. The sheep have spent all winter in the vines and are fabulous lawnmowers. The horses joined them in the pinot and chardonnay for some months until they decided to begin the pre-pruning process early for us, necessitating their immediate removal! 
Winter has been cold and relatively dry until a few weeks ago. Recent rain, and particularly the continuing drizzle, has the creek flowing briskly and the ground very wet under foot. No vehicles in the vines except for the quad bike. The Yarra Valley has most of its rain in spring so we are hopeful of enough in the next few months to fill the dams which are still lower th we would like.
Frosts have been numerous this year which doesn't matter to those things that are dormant but presents a bit of a challenge to those less resilient. The lemon scented gums, native to Queensland, are quite sensitive but seem to be able to make a good comeback, given time.

Jonathan has been busy with a new project, playing builder. Guided by cousin Tom and aided from time to time by Ed (son), he has created a barrel room in which we can keep barrels of wine warm enough so they can complete their fermentations. With night time temperatures well below the desired temperature of 12c, a smaller space that can be heated above ambient temperature is essential.

We have also built a new machinery shed, freeing up space in the winery area and, due to the quirky construction using shipping containers, providing a much needed storage space for the children's stuff that still doesn't seem to have a home!

I have been very busy planting trees and shrubs again this winter, starting as soon as the autumn break arrived. I have added to the plantings within the vineyard, aimed at attracting beneficial insects and small birds. The hedgerows have also been plumped out and we have created a small terrace on the contour in the front paddock, in order to have more protection from the wind and further wildlife habitat. I adore wattles so they feature a lot in all of the plantings. They are quick growing, beautiful and are nitrogen fixers so are great for the soil and other plants as companions.


Jonathan has been busy locally attending wine shows and wine events: dinners etc. Our recent review from James Halliday, giving 96 points to the 2012 Le Batard pinot blend and 95 for the 2011 chardonnay, has been very pleasing. We have had to add delivery boy to Jonathan's list of accomplishments!

Now we are seeing the first signs of spring. Daffodils under the trees and the first cherry blossom add a heady scent to the still cold air.


We are off to warmer climes in the northern hemisphere over the next months, exploring Burgundy and the Languedoc regions of France and, of course, doing plenty of research into wine making:  for work reasons of course!!
So then, best wishes to you all 
A bientot!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

February 2015

Hello everyone,
Finally, another blog from all of us at Tarrahill now that my computer is talking to me again. What a busy year in 2014: selling the family home, moving to the farm, a bit of travelling and plenty of work in the winery and vineyard. The wines are developing well and we are very pleased to have very good recent reviews of them, including the 2011 chardonnay. ( more in a post from Jonathan soon).

January has been delightfully cool which has made the vineyard work very pleasant. Radio national is wonderful and makes the hours fly. Last week I even thought that we were in autumn already. However, the next few weeks of hot dry weather may change my mind!

The young vines have grown well this year and have produced a little fruit which we are interested to sample. We will mulch under them with the spent hay rounds to help increase organic matter in the root zones.

It is netting time again, probably my least favourite job. We never seem to remember how to do it from one year to the next and it always takes twice as long as you think.

We have nearly full veraison ( when the grapes start to colour and ripen) and the 3 main reds are all developing at a similar rate which is a little unusual: normally the cabernet would lag well behind the pinot and shiraz.

The pinot is developing well and showing its medium, tight bunches.

The shiraz has bigger but more open bunches.

The cabernet is somewhere in between.

Due to the prolonged dry spell we have been watering, particularly the young vines, but with the hot weather approaching, the whole vineyard is getting something. This drops the dam levels down considerably so we will hope for a good autumn break.

We have seen some changes around the winery over the summer and now have a new machinery shed made from two shipping containers spanned by a large polytunnel, magically put together by our obliging neighbors. I love it because I can now put all the kids stuff into a container and forget about it!

The sheep, our little lawnmowers, are confined to the paddocks until after vintage.

The gumnuts in the spotted gums bring flocks of noisy but characterful gang-gang cockatoos.


We have lots of additional farm produce this year.
Wild blackberries that make a wonderful breakfast snack, fruits in the orchard including my first Gravenstein apples, and the very wild but otherwise fruitful veggie gardens.

So, here we are at the start, or end, of another vintage. Picking will only be weeks away now that the heat has arrived. Enjoy the rest of the summer and we will look forward to sharing the fruits of our labours with you all later in the year.

Best wishes to all,


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post Vintage 2014

Hello to everyone once again.
Vintage is over for another year and some may say 'thank goodness for that!'.A blisteringly hot summer followed by a prolonged dry period and then a drawn out autumn. The grapes ripened early and then didn't seem to be able to hang in there to slowly complete the process and fully develop flavours. The acid levels began to fall in March so we decided to pick relatively early with the flavours fresh but the sugars lower and thus lower alcohol levels in the resulting wines.

Yields were well down throughout the Valley: probably by 50% for us: many growers were looking at even lower yields, if they picked at all.
Bird damage is a perennial problem, though our main problem is home grown in that our geese have a real taste for ripe grapes and have a cheeky knack of getting under the nets.

The picking days are long with pre-dawn starts and post-dinner finishes. Geof is indispensable at the best of times but particularly at vintage and we are also very pleased to now have Michael, our new assistant in the vineyard and winery, to lend a hand.
 The Pinot was very low in tonnage as we had picked much of it at veraison so we could make enough Verjus for the year.

The shiraz coped well with the heat and cropped at about one tonne per acre. The Cabernet was much the same and, running true to form, produced some good fruit.




Jonathan has been kept busy with initial fermentations and then the malolactic fermentations as required.
It is nice to finally have everything bedded down for the winter and then be able to get on with the other jobs that are always lurking in the wings, needing attention.

Autumn is the time for clearing up the vineyard and we are hopeful that our lambs will help in that: they are getting bigger all the time.
Jonathan and Michael have been very busy tidying the winery and reorganising the spaces to better accommodate the new equipment that continues to arrive!

Autumn is also the time for putting out the special biodynamic sprays that help the development of the soil and encourage better plant growth. We have our own stirring equipment now and have adapted the ATV so we can use it to spray the whole place, garden and vegetables included.

The long autumn continues and we still have uncommonly warm weather. It will be interesting to see what effects these have on the vines in the coming growing season.

ciao for now