Cellar door this year will be open every Saturday and Sunday through September and October from 11am to 4 pm, coinciding with the release of our Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé wines. In March 2019, we will announce the release of new vintages of our Uley Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and will reopen cellar door each weekend in April to allow tasting and purchase of these and other wines.
This year during Winter Reds, the Stirling Hotel hosted the ‘Pinot Long Lunch’, a five course extravaganza with each course matched with two wines from the Adelaide Hills ranging from Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and of course Pinot Noir.
The award winning 2015 ‘Uley Vineyard’ Pinot Noir was perfectly matched with a course of twice cooked duck breast, shiitake, beetroot, truffle and silverbeet. It was delicious, as were all the courses and wines.
It was great to see Lindsay seated amongst his winemaking peers, each talking with passion about their great love of the Pinot varietal, the region and how lucky we are to live in a region that not only produces some of the greatest wines in the world but also some of the best produce to match with them
Talking to Lindsay, he said he felt it was a great honour to be invited to speak and have the 2015 ‘Uley Vineyard’ Pinot Noir on show and well received – if you’re quick you might find a bottle or two in the Stirling Cellars.
The lunch was such a success it dragged into the early evening, not that anyone minded. Everyone is looking forward to next year with great enthusiasm, thanks to all who were involved in putting such a wonderful showcase and afternoon together.
Living over 500 meters above sea level, things get cold during the winter but the cold winter mornings are just as beautiful as the lush green vines of summer or vibrant coloured autumn afternoons. The frost carpets the ground and the whiteness really brings out the starkness of the naked vines.
Lindsay always enjoys the vast difference in seasons in the Piccadilly Valley and the way they each have their own distinct personalities with each playing a pivotal role in the production of the fruit and in turn the wine.
Unfortunately, such a bold contrast between the frost and the vines is a reminder that there is much pruning to be done before the onset of spring. Luckily, dry gloves, a nice warm beanie and plenty of hot tea help to make this a bearable exercise or even pleasurable if the sun is shining.
It is generally considered good vineyard practice to replace old cordons every 5 to 10 years to maintain health, vigour and productivity in the vine. Where vines are infected with Eutypa (die-back disease or “dead arm”), the process provides the opportunity to remove dead wood and replace with new canes from lower in the vine where the tissue is still healthy.
Since the cordon wires are often firmly embedded in the old cordon wood, it is necessary in many instances to replace the cordon wires as well (as we have had to do).
The new vines will produce good canopy and fruit this year and thus provide us with more Chardonnay, a well loved Barratt varietal and one of the great cool climate wines of the region.
The image shows an important test required to produce high quality, stable white and Rosé wines.
All wines contain proteins which have a tendency to precipitate out with storage producing a hazy appearance. While not noticeable in red wine, to many consumers a haze is aesthetically unacceptable in white or Rosé wines.
To remove these proteins (and potential haze), one can add a powdered clay called Bentonite to the wine before it is bottled. The charged clay particles attract the oppositely charged protein molecules which “fall out” and settle to the bottom of the tank.
This benefits the appearance of the wine but, like all good things, there is a downside, namely the removal by the Bentonite of important aroma and flavour compounds. Hence, the dose of Bentonite needs to be kept to a minimum.
Back to our photograph: each bottle contains 100 mL of either Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé plus Bentonite added in incremental doses from zero to more than 2 grams per litre. After a day or two of settling, a small volume is withdrawn from the top of each bottle, filtered and transferred into a test tube. These tubes are then subjected to severe heat stress; 80 degrees Celsius for 6 hours. Normally, one would do this in the laboratory using a thermostatically controlled water bath designed for the purpose. However, Lindsay’s purpose design is a large frypan of water on the stovetop with himself acting as the thermostat, adjusting the stove setting and water level every 10 to 15 minutes. Not great fun really – especially when he has a dinner party underway and has to excuse himself regularly, much to the chagrin of his charming co-host and wife and his bemused guests!
After 6 hours of heating and, hopefully, the departure of the guests, the tubes are cooled and observed under a bright light The samples from the bottles with zero or the lowest doses of Bentonite will be cloudy due to the persistence of wine proteins. Along the line of tubes (representing increasing doses of Bentonite,) one should see a progressive reduction in the degree of haze until, ultimately, a tube with no haze. That tube tells us the exact Bentonite dose that we need to add to the wine in our tank to ensure a haze free, stable wine after bottling.
It’s without a doubt one of the most beautiful times of the year in a vineyard when the leaves begin to change and the entire valley rolls out like a Persian rug for as a far as the eye can see.
But what is happening? Until harvest, the vine’s focus is on using its energy and nutrition to promote growth, photosynthesis in the leaves and produce and ripen its fruit for potential reproduction (or from the winemaker’s perspective, to produce wine). Following harvest, that energy is directed to storing starches in the vine roots to sustain the vine during winter dormancy and in readiness for budburst next spring. In consequence, the leaves, which can no longer sustain their photosynthetic activity, begin to die (“senescence”), turning yellow or bright golden colour. The result is, as mentioned, a spectacular carpet of colour.
As a grapegrower/winemaker – Lindsay, tired after harvest, recognises this beauty but also something else – there is a moment, a short breathing space until the leaves fall, signifying the end of the season, but the beginning of the next as pruning must now be commenced.
And so, the cycle starts again.
It’s possibly one of the most rewarding feelings when I finally have the wine in barrel. This is the culmination of a year’s sweat, stress and sleepless nights and visually I find it very rewarding to stand back and actually see the wine sitting there.
The process from grape to the barrel has involved picking, cooling, de-stemming, fermenting, pressing, settling and racking the settled wines from tank to barrel. “Racking” is a term to describe the process of transferring the clear wine off the settled sediment. This sediment is known as “the lees”, which is comprised of grape and yeast residue.
Further settling will continue to occur in the barrels in the following months and further rackings will be required to ensure desired clarity prior to bottling.
A further process to occur in barrel is malolactic fermentation. This secondary fermentation is performed by wine bacteria which convert harsh malolactic acid (think green apples) into soft lactic acid (think milk, cream). This will improve the over-all balance and “mouth feel” of the wine. Furthermore, it is necessary that the process occurs before bottling to avoid further fermentation occurring in the bottle which would result in major impairment of the quality of wine.
We’re not quite there yet but seeing the wine in barrel always gives me a second wind as I know that the lion’s share of the year’s work is over. There is little to do but watch, wait and follow the maturation of the wine as it sits in barrel.
Who said there’s ever little to do; in a winery the cycle never stops – just the way I like it.
Harvest is always the most stressful time of the year. There is an urgent need to get the fruit off the vines as fast as possible to ensure the optimal level of ripeness. Needless to say, when time is of the essence my blood pressure starts to rise – usually in synchronicity with the sun. We always start at day break when the fruit is cool and then hope for overcast days – however it doesn’t always unfold as planned.
We rely on a series of elements that must all be in place, like clockwork, to ensure the best outcome – pickers, wranglers, transport, weather, drivers, equipment and even the morning tea and lunch breaks at the local cold store all need to come together in a kind of grand design. One unforeseen failure in one element can be catastrophic.
This year, we started harvest with a cool morning but a day promising heat. We rushed to grab the Sauvignon Blanc and the second day the Chardonnay, as fast as we could. We were low on pickers so the race was on and everyone worked hard to make up for the lack of labour to finish the job. With the harvest of the Pinot the following day, we were racing against a cold front which was sweeping through the hills – backed by strong winds and heavy rain – all part of living in a micro-climate. The last bin was ferried away to the cold store just as the first drops started to fall. Perfect timing, but in a vineyard you need to be wary of hubris and so I’ll just say this time I was lucky. And harvest all completed in three days!
As mentioned before, the fruit looks extremely promising; lower yields, but from talking to other winemakers in the region it seems a common trend this vintage.
I’m planning on making extra quantities of my Pinot Noir based Rosè, the Piccadilly Sunrise, this year to avoid disappointing all of you who either missed out or ran dry after stocks were ravenously devoured by new and loyal supporters. Also, I’m producing a little extra Sauvignon Blanc to satisfy demand and I suspect this vintage, based on fruit quality, will be one of my best.
Chardonnay also looks strong and initial juice characteristics extremely promising. The Pinot Noir, bubbling away in its open fermenters, needs regular plunging which reminds me of witches’ cauldrons where spells and magic are made – there is of course the occasional curse muttered.
2018 looks like it will be a standout vintage for the Adelaide Hills and especially the Piccadilly Valley. There is still a lot to do, but for the time being the vineyard can rest while I get to work.
We always enjoy ourselves at the Cellar Door Festival and this year was no exception. Was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.
We showed the limited release, recently bottled, 2017 Fumé Blanc and it was a crowd favourite. Not to rain on the parade of our award winning current release 2015 vintages of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, of course.
Thanks to everyone who came and your ongoing support for Cool Climate Varietals and Barratt Wines.
Looking forward to next year, be sure to join us.
Lindsay & Wendy.
We’re so, so close.
The Piccadilly Valley traditionally calls vintage a little later than most, but that’s why the Adelaide Hills Wine Region saves the best for last. The reason is the cool climate environment in which we grow our vines, due to the altitude – which is some 550 meters above sea level.
The Piccadilly Valley has its own micro-climate which means our weather conditions and temperatures can vary dramatically from other areas around the Adelaide Hills and certainly on the plains. As one of the wettest and coldest places in South Australia, things take a little longer – fruitwise – to come of age and ready themselves for harvest. The climate is perfect for cool climate varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and of course, Pinot Noir; a complex but delicate beast that only grows in a handful of pockets around the globe.
In my view, considering the alluring flavours and wonderful perfumes, tannin notes and boastful length, Pinot Noir can take as long as it likes – it’s always worth the wait.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m excited about this vintage and should start sampling this week to get my hands dirty in the chemistry of it all.
We’re so close I can feel it.