Friday, April 24, 2015

Vintage 2015: It's a wrap

So, that's it. All the fruit is now in the winery and our 2015 vintage is done. Hard to believe really. The whole farming year builds towards this moment and a few weeks of frenzied activity - and this year, it was even fewer weeks than normal!

A fierce frost in November, combined with a long hot summer and incredibly dry growing season, has meant that we have a smaller than average crop this year. However, as small it may be, 2015 is also looking like a good vintage. Of course, it's very early days at this stage, but the fruit all came into our winery in great looking condition and tasting delicious. Interestingly, despite the very warm summer, we have not been working with super-and-over-ripe fruit. Instead, we have seen quite low sugar levels and also relatively high acids. This is great news for us, as we consistently work towards making wines with lower alcohols, while retaining vibrant and interesting structure. Hopefully 2015 will give us just that! 

Later today we are holding our end-of-vintage celebrations, and will raise a glass or two to the end of another season. 2015 has tried our mettle in more ways than one, but it's a year that we can look back on gladly as a job well done. So, cheers to that! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vintage 2015: Chardonnay Day

Now anyone who knows anything about us will know that we love Chardonnay - and, if we're very honest, we're rather proud of ours. So, the Chardonnay vintage is always a real highlight for us and a day that we always look forward to - mind you, sometimes that's because it's also a sign that vintage is almost over!

Yesterday saw a frosty start, followed by the clearest and bluest autumnal skies that one could wish for - perfect picking weather, with the fruit arriving in the winery cool and crisp and ready for action.

This year, the Chardonnay is looking really rather good. The fruit that came into the winery yesterday was from the Sylvain block of our Raupo Creek vineyard, where we have deliciously rich clay-based soils, topped with fine, wind-blown silt. The vines are planted on a gently undulating slope that has lots of variation in aspect and soil depth. We have three clones represented there - Mendoza, Clone 15 and Clone 95. These are picked separately from each other, but also we keep the fruit from the different zones within the block separate too, resulting in six different cuvées. Having this variation is what gives us the flexibility we love when it comes to blending.

We currently make three different Chardonnays: our Momo Chardonnay, and then our Seresin Estate and our ever-popular Chardonnay Reserve. We are now taking the first steps towards making an aspirational Chardonnay - reaching that little bit higher and seeing where it will take us. It's an exciting project to be starting and it will be months and years in development. Still, at least there will be a lot of tasting required and, when it comes to Seresin Chardonnay, that can only be a good thing!

Chardonnay, a little earlier this year

Chardonnay, a little earlier this year

Chardonnay day, bright, crisp and autumnal

Coming through the winery door

Into the press... 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vintage 2015 - Friday 10th April: Horsepower

Those of you who follow us on Facebook and Twitter will be well-accustomed to seeing photographs of our beautiful Clydesdale horses. Bill and Gracie are a very much-loved part of our farm, and work throughout the year as a valuable part of our vineyard team.

For much of the year, their most important job is applying biodynamic preparations and seaweed teas to the vines. We have an especially-designed one-horse-power sprayer for this purpose, which uses the kinetic power of the horses to activate the pump.

At this time of the year, they aren't given time off and Gracie is trained to pull a grape collection cart between the rows of vines. She is very patient and is used to having to stop and wait while the grapes are loaded before moving off again, and she is calm in the presence of all the other farm machinery. Bill, being a bit younger and a bit more headstrong, is still in training for this part of the work - he's far less keen on stopping and starting at the moment!

And, of course, all year round, they are just gorgeous!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vintage 2015 - Thursday 2nd April: Sun & Moon

It is the first day of Pinot processing today and it’s all hands to the crusher-destemmer as we receive some of the best Pinot from our Raupo vineyard out in the Omaka Valley. 

This first fruit picked is destined to become our 2015 Sun & Moon, so it's an exciting day for us all and arguably the one that sets the tone for all the other Pinot to come. 

All our Pinot, regardless of for which wine it is destined, is handled exactly the same way. Everything is hand-picked, with our expert team selecting and sorting in the vineyard. The fruit then comes into the winery and is chilled slightly before being destemmed. The fruit is then put into an open-topped fermenter and after a little bit of time to sit and steep, it is warmed gently to encourage natural ferment. During the fermentation, we manually punch down the caps to keep the skins wet.

After this, we leave the wine on its skins for around two-three weeks. This post-ferment maceration is relatively unusual here and enables us to extract the delicious savoury characters that we desire in our Pinot Noirs.  Only after that is the wine drained from the tank, gently pressed and put into french oak barrels for maturation. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Vintage vittles - Wednesday 1st April: Sauvignon, sunshine and salad

Another bright morning marked the beginning of a new month, and - while we avoided too much April-Fool related humiliation - today was a busy and exciting day, with Sauvignon and Pinot Noir coming through the winery doors and vintage gaining a sense of pace.

On arrival this morning, I found Clive hard at work processing some of our Sauvignon and his hard work was justly rewarded with some of Marcia's rich, sticky ginger cake - made with plenty of fresh ginger. Sweet and finger-staining as it is, I'm sure it does us good, warding off the first of those winter colds - that's certainly what I'm telling myself anyway!

While the Sauvignon was processed and pressed, Clive and Colin headed to our Raupo Creek vineyard to visit the Osip hill - the slope where most of our best Pinot is grown. The fruit from the very top of this slope is always amongst the first to be picked in any vintage, but there is always a waiting game to be played. Tasting across the rows and down the slopes, checking for sugar, acidity, seed maturity and flavour, they decided on the areas that are to be picked this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Marcia had been busy in the kitchen preparing a healthy and wholesome lunch for vintage staff who need to keep their strength up and their vitamin levels high, as they face early morning punch-downs and the digging out of sundry tanks and presses! Tuna salad and plenty of fresh-baked bread was on the menu, washed down with a well-deserved glass of Seresin Pinot Noir. 

Vintage vittles a day late - Tuesday 31st March: clydesdales, coffee and cake

Yesterday was our first day of harvest, with Sauvignon Blanc fruit being picked from the block of our Noa vineyard that is grown without the use of sulphur. This fruit is destined for our Osip Sauvignon Blanc, which will also have no sulphur used in the winemaking process. It was the perfect day to be picking, with a crispness to the air first thing, but not a cloud in the sky.  

For the first time this year, Gracie - one of our clydesdales - was hard at work putting out our blue picking bins and later this week she will be involved in bringing the fruit into the winery. It's incredible to see these beautiful working horses in their element. 

As the sun came out and the first fruit was brought up to the winery door there was time for a brief pause for a slice of apple cake and a cup of coffee, before the presses were loaded for the first time and vintage truly got under way. Here's to a great Vintage 2015. Cheers!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Vintage vittles - Monday 30th March: silica, scones and sampling

A new week dawns and we spent much of today with some visitors from our UK importers. It was as clear and bright an autumn morning as one could wish, and we sent them out first thing with our horse-drawn sprayer to cover our vineyard with Preparation 501. This biodynamic preparation contains silica, enhances photosynthesis, and is ideal to add to the vineyard to support the vines in the final few days before our harvest begins.

Following the crisp morning in the vineyard, a few warm pinwheel scones at the winery door gave us a chance to start the week well and discuss the plans for the beginning of harvest. Controversy briefly reigned when certain members of the team decided to consume their sweet, fruit scones with cheese, but we are a forgiving bunch and the sides agreed to differ peacefully...

After this small carb and caffeine hit, we kept our guests busy and sent them out to put together the samples needed for our pre-harvest analysis. We are watching our fruit like the proverbial hawks at the moment; we pick a bit later than many in the valley, but are waiting for the perfect balance before we make our move.

A morning spent in the vines deserved some vinous refreshment and Clive, our winemaker, provided exactly that with a taste through our range, with our full vintage wine-making team all contributing their points of view and opinions. This year, we have vintage interns from Chile, Austria and France joining our permanent team from UK, New Zealand and Sweden, so there's always some lively debate and conversation! To fuel the discussion, Marcia provided them with some of her world-famous (or at least they should be) corned beef sandwiches. Marcia's sandwich-making philosophy is that if the dressings and ingredients aren't oozing out of the sides of your sandwich then you probably don't have enough in there yet!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Vintage vittles - Friday 27 March: Sunshine, citrus and spaghetti

Today got off to a chilly start and there was a genuine taste of the autumnal weather just around the corner. Our winemaking team were down in the cellars preparing the base wine for our sparkling wine production for bottling, and also hard at work on a top secret project (watch this space).

Morning tea was therefore a very welcome vibrant and sticky lemon yoghurt cake. Fluffy enough to be moreish, dense enough to provide energy for the rest of the day and citrus-fragranced enough to wake up even the sleepiest of cellar-folk.

That kick-start seemed also to wake up the sunshine, and suddenly we were back to the views and blue skies that we love. With harvest just around the corner, the vines full of enticing fruit and it's hard to resist the temptation to wander the rows tasting! Fortunately our guinea fowl are much more interested in seeds and beetles than grapes, so they are the perfect vineyard companions.

With still a slight chill in the air, Marcia opted for full comfort food for lunch today, with huge plates of spaghetti bolognese and plenty of incredible fresh parmesan.

During vintage, we will be tasting our wines from the blocks that come in through the winery on each day, but - as we haven't started yet - today Clive chose to show a wine from one of our neighbours. Fromm winery are also organic and are part of the MANA group with us; their Syrah is one of their best known wines and a fantastically warming and spicy accompaniment to the bolognese.