The Executive Decision

With more rain over the last two days in Mudgee decisions needed to be made to ensure the viability of this years crop and to ensure that what is picked is healthy and ripe. Lowe Wines sources fruit from all over Mudgee but the flagship reds Zinfandel, Shiraz and Merlot all come from the vineyards surrounding the estate. They are dry grown, certified organic, bush vines that have been stressed and worked over the years, and now produce fruit with incredible complexity and depth. There has been no cases of Botrytis in this vineyard and many other problems that would ordinarily plague commercial, irrigated vineyards have not reared their heads.

So with this in mind it is up to David and Liam to decide on the fate of the fruit. As anyone who has been in the central tablelands over the past week will tell you this is the highest recorded rainfall in two decades. The overall impact on the harvest this year wont be seen for some time. Lack of sunlight, low temperatures, and high volume of water has meant ripening has been slow. There is a risk here that over the coming weeks if we leave the fruit out to hang in the hope that it might climb the baume scale slightly, it could get further damaged by excessive rain or potentially never reach full ripeness.

The Decision? Bring it in. Get the fruit off now while it is still looking good and get it into the vats for fermentation. No doubt we will see some lower alcohol reds this year but, is this a bad thing? A red that is aromatic, delicate, well structured, complex yet not 15%+ ABV. I haven’t been told this yet but i would hazard a guess that we will make some Rose as well. I think this would be fantastic to produce some top end Rose and the commercial market continues to grow in this area.

As the sun comes up over the vineyard it is nice to see a break in the clouds. If this would hold for a few days we should get a clean harvest and be able to start pioneering the low alcohol market.

Happy Picking

Nicko

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The Discovery of Gems

I had the pleasure of sitting and talking with a relatively unknown winemaker, Stu Olsen of Eloquesta Wines. He has called the central tablelands home all of his life, but is well travelled and has spent time in the winemaking regions of central Europe. Stu also spent many years working at Lowe Wines, and other well established wineries around the Mudgee region. In talking to him you can immediately see his passion for the grape, there is a certain respect for the natural processes in play when it comes to the growth and ripening of his fruit. He employs very basic methods of maturation and prefers to stick to what he’s good at… Red Wine!

Whole bunch, very ripe fruit is fermented over a long period, in open vats using champagne yeasts and other slightly left of center techniques.. I particularly liked the photos of foot crushing his 2009 Shiraz Petit Verdot – a nice and very traditional touch. Matured in a combination of Russian and Hungarian oak there is a new level of spice and complexity to the wine with notes of cinnamon and all spice on the nose as well as beautiful purple flowers and black and blue fruits. I feel that time will do great things for this wine, although that is not to say that it wasn’t absolutely gorgeous young, and the colour!!

As i live and breath Mudgee it is easy to get carried away with the heavy hitters of the region and to always get entranced by the experts of the region. But again i suggest that slightly under the surface are winemakers, who with care and finesse are producing some damn fine wine!

Thanks Stu for a cracking night and getting to hear your story. It was a pleasure.

Happy Sunday

Nicko

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The Rain That Came… and Decided To Stay

Unless you have been living in WA or the Top End, there is a fair chance that over the past few days you have experienced rain in monsoonal proportions. The rain bands stretched from far western NSW all the way to the coast and it is not just wine country that has been drenched. On my drive back to Sydney last night there were sections of road from 15km outside of Lithgow all the way to the mountains that were completely under water. Either side of the road saw massive stretches of floodwater, engulfing houses, sheds and any stock that was nearby. Mudgee has received well over 100mm of rain in the last 36 hours…. So what will this mean for our wine region?

The major issue, apart from the huge volumes of water is not the disease and mould issues. It is the lack of ripening conditions. With no sunlight the grapes aren’t developing enough to get elevated levels of alcohol during the fermentation process. Never fear I am not going to get technical here, but remember most reds you see land at some where 13%+ on the alcohol scale, so when grapes are still sitting at 11 Baume, the alcohol content is going to be a little lower.

Some growers and winemakers around Mudgee are still looking in good stead, others have heavily botrytised fruit, but it is the sign of a good winemaker, to produce good wine, and a marketable product out of what is an average year. Steins got their white fruit off at peak Baume, with no harm from disease and at solid quality. If you couple this with expert winemaking technique from Jacob, Drew and consulting winemaker James Manners, then you would expect that they will produce another bumper collection of whites. Only time will tell…

For those who heavily rely on red grapes in their winemaking repertoire, the next few weeks will be crucial. The rain is supposed to clear in the coming days but the damage will continue as the vines pull more water from the ground, and ripening will remain at a standstill.. It begs the question, What is the next move? I know out at Lowe Wines where i am settled there will be a lot of talk in the coming days about how to protect the fruit as it is still in great condition, and when to bring it all in. I’d hazard a guess and say very soon.

Ill keep you posted…

A rain wearied Nicko.

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Vines to Venues wows Red Lantern at SBS Food event

Vines to Venues Australia along with Lowe Wines sponsored the Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong Launch dinner at Red Lantern in Surry Hills. The event was part of Luke’s SBS Food series, and was enjoyed over 2 Monday nights with a small group of diners.

Vines to Venues team members Nick Bacon and Andrew Jamieson presented wines, educating guests about the growing organic wine industry.

See below the menu and wine matches from the event:

Entrée
Mohinga – Yangon Myanmar

FIsh & chickpea broth, served with vermicelli & turmeric fish

Popiah – Yangon Myanmar
Hand made soft spring roll pastry, filled with wok tossed seasonal vegetables
served with a chili dipping sauce

Tinja 2011 Riesling Orange NSW 

Uyghur Char grilled Beef Skewers – Kunming China
Pasture raised beef, dusted with cumin, chili & Sichuan pepper

Crispy Spring Onion Fritter – Inle Lake Myanmar
Beer battered spring onions & tomato, crispy fried served
with fresh betel leaves & a tamarind dipping sauce

Louee Pinot Gris 2006 Mudgee NSW
Middle Course
Char grilled Whole Barramundi – Lijiang China

Barramundi wrapped in Lotus leaf, char grilled & topped with Szechuan peppers,
roasted peanuts & Crispy Mint

Scampi & Tomato Curry – Yangon Myanmar
Scampi marinated in turmeric & paprika cooked in a tomato & galangal curry

Louee Nullo Mountain Riesling 2004 Mudgee NSW

Char grilled eggplant & prawn salad – Inle Lake Myanmar
Smoky Japanese eggplant, tossed with prawns, sesame seeds & crispy Asian shallots

Louee Tonbong Chardonnay 2005 Mudgee NSW


Mains
Six Hour Pork hock – Mae Salong Thailand

Pork Hock slow braised in young coconut juice, cassia bark & star anise

Lowe Reserve Shiraz 2006 Mudgee NSW

Char grilled Pork Belly – Chiang Mai Thailand
Pork belly marinated in Asian spices, char grilled
served with a tamarind & coriander dipping sauce

Lowe Reserve Zinfandel 2006 

Green Tomato & Black sesame Salad – Inle Lake Myanmar
Heirloom Green tomatoes tossed with black sesame, coriander & lime


Dessert
Tea Infused Sesame Dumplings – Xishuangbanna China

Glutinous rice dumplings filled with dark palm sugar poached in a tea broth

Louee Late Picked Riesling 2010 Mudgee NSW

Here Comes The Fruit!!

Although it has been a few days since i have worked in the winery, I have been flat out with distribution things and ensuring Vines To Venues is pushing along at a top pace. The 48 hours i spent back in Sydney was good and we had another opportunity to showcase our wines at the launch of the 3rd Season of Luke’s greater Mekong Adventures at Red Lantern. what an awesome night and myself and Lowie were proud as punch to showcase some of our wines against such spectacular food.

So i return to Mudgee and have found out this morning that we have a little over 14T of fruit arriving this morning. Now for many of the large industrial wineries out there this will sound like the proverbial fart in a stiff breeze. But here this is 4 press loads and a time for all hands on deck, this is what the winery is all about and why i came up for harvest.

A little update from the past few days from some people around the traps lead me to believe that the weather hasn’t been particularly kind with some wild storms and devastating hail in some parts. Hail is the seriously scary issue which has the capacity to wipe fruit off the vine in one foul swoop. the past 24 hours have been relatively clear with only a small shower late last night. hopefully the rest of the week we can see some solid conditions to help us get through the last stages of ripening.

Tomorrow we will see another large volume of fruit, but i will have an update from the winery later today. I will also be profiling one of Mudgees great young winemakers in Jacob Stein. for those of you who don’t know who he is you will have to wait, and for those of you who do you will know he make some of the best Riesling in the country along with some gorgeous reds and my favorite the Rum Cask Port… cretinous i here you cork dorks say… maybe so but it is such a lovely drink post Saltbush lamb.

Have a great day and stay tuned to twitter for updates throughout the day.

Happy Pressing

Nicko

It All Starts On The Vine

The past few days has been a seriously cool experience. There has been a few firsts and there are a couple of tasks that i haven’t done since high school. A quick update on the conditions… There has been strong ripening conditions this week with limited precipitation around the Mudgee valley. it has been nice and warm during the day around the 30 degree mark, limited humidity, and nice cooling winds in the late afternoon. the forecast for the coming days is not as healthy but we shall see what the weekend brings.

Too the vines…In an organic vineyard it is interesting to see how little intervention there is for weeds or diseases. There is no irrigation here at Lowe Wines, so the vines rely on their own natural state to feed and reproduce and stay healthy. Obviously with the immense amount of rain int he past month the water table is very high, so the vine roots have no trouble in this area. But what if there wasn’t so much rain? The vines start to get a little physically stressed, and have to work a little harder, and in the simplest explanation i can give, this will, over time, produce a fruit with higher concentration or flavor, sugar, acid etc.

If you couple this hard working vine, with good soil, hopefully good weather conditions and limited effect from disease, the end result should be an intense palate, something with depth of character, and will more than likely be a better wine overall. This has been a lesson learnt over the past few days, seeing the difference between vineyards around the area, and the flavor of the fruits as i walked through different areas. I am in no way suggesting that everyone should plant bush vines and stress the living daylights out of them, it has just been an interesting observation.

Other than the horticultural observations this past few days has seen some fruit come into the winery, so i got my first taste of crushing and pressing fruit. I got to work all the machinery yesterday, and for someone who has never been involved with this side of production it was so exciting to see it all unfold. As i has said in previous posts this is a very hands on winery and so when the Chardonnay arrived yesterday it was all hands on deck to coax the machinery through their first press for harvest.

This is the final week before it all kicks off here so i can feel that this is the calm before the storm. I am excited for next week we are having some big days with a lot of white fruit to come in. I’ll keep you posted from Mudgee.

Enjoy The Day

Nicko

Barrels

The Cliche – “Four Seasons In One Day”

I know the weather seems to be the feature at the moment but, at this late stage in the grape growing season it is the only thing on everyones mind. The past few days we’ve seen some massive storm cells come through, and for some cruel twist of fate it seemed to be localised on the Mudgee Valley. When speaking to Simon Gilbert on Thursday afternoon i found out that Orange is in great shape and that none of the storms have travelled that way. So for those of you into your Orange wines, fingers crossed this could be a good year!

So Mudgee… Friday saw 4 sets of rain each one followed by intense heat and sunshine, no wind and then a slow build to the next rain storm. James said to me from inside the vat next to mine, “great weather for Botrytis” followed by a large hearty laugh. The laugh actually masks the great fear – “Will the fruit survive until harvest”

A quick chat around the bar on friday night suggested that despite the weather being up and down many of the growers and winemakers are in good shape. The whites look good and there are some stunning looking red fruits around the valley – “Those who have looked after their vineyards throughout the year are in good shape, those who set and forget will be less fortunate”. A tough but true statement from one of the guys around the bar.

So the long range forecast looks solid, at least for now. If the past weeks experiences have taught me one thing it is that the weather changes pretty quickly round here. I really do hope that the coming weeks see some sun and good ripening conditions.

I would imagine the stress of leaving your fate to Mother Nature would be immense. no one talks about it but you can see it in their eyes when the clouds roll in.

Tomorrow i will be out in the winery and i am going to do a lap around Mudgee and get some insights from different winemakers – There are a new generation of winemakers in Mudgee and i think it is time to tell their story.

Happy Sunday

Nicko

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And Then the Rain Came…. Again

Many people saw last night that I posted a photo on twitter of a localised storm front moving through from the North East down the Mudgee Valley. this was an intense local storm which has once again posed a direct threat to all the grape growers. Watching this front move through fairly rapidly reaffirmed to me that despite every best intention, and any great science, at the end of the day it is still up to Mother Nature… and frankly she’s being a bit of bitch…

Yesterday was overcast and the threat of rain was always present, but it held off for James, Liam, Lowie and i to spend some time in the Zin vines “thinning” all the green fruit from the vines and ensuring what was left was unaffected by disease etc… This was quite an experience as i got an insight into the TLC behind vine care and Lowie provided some insights into the growth patterns and ripening capability of these vines – The correlation between leaf density and growth along a cane will directly effect the ripening of any bunches ie. the more healthy leaves along a cane the higher the ripening potential of that bunch.

The rest of the day was spent back on the manual labour train, moving the big open concrete ferment vats – later this week i will inside the vats scraping and re-waxing. A job i have been told is not particularly pleasant but again a necessary evil.

Today we are back in the vines further thinning and preparing some of Block 6 & 8 shiraz, then i am sure it will be into the vats for scraping and waxing.

The weather this morning is overcast with some sunny breaks. the ground is wet from the 3+ inches last night and the temp is a little cooler around the 17 mark. I will spend some time with the boys this morning getting some info on what impact this weather is going to have.

I have a sneaking suspicion we might see some chardonnay late this weekend instead of next week, as much longer and it wont do the distance.

Have a great day – and tell Mother Nature to behave.

Nicko

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Let’s Get To It

The first day in the winery has come and gone. Not a bad start apart from the solid sunburn and being soaking wet for about 7 hours. We spent yesterday high pressure hosing the grape bins in preparation for fruit to come in over the coming weeks. not the greatest job but a necessary one and one that needed to be thorough.

There has been a lot of rain over the past two weeks and despite the few days of sunshine we have had since my arrival it is cloudy once again and the chance of precipitation is high. Lowie and Liam have spent much time trying to work out which way to play it. one day too long and botrytis and other rain affected issues could come into play so they nervously look to the skies.. not for a sign from the big guy but in hope that the rain might just hold a little longer.

This morning i am here at the winery early as we are heading out into the famous Zinfandel vines to prune away any green fruit and ensure only the best fruit remains. this is a totally new experience for me so i am excited to be a part of it.

One thing that has been very noticeable from the start is that despite the level of competency or lack of in my case everyone has a place and a job to do. this is a small family winery where the machines need a little TLC or as Liam said yesterday “you need to stand and hold their hand through some of the work”. I like that, the hands on nature of this game makes each day exciting.

Have a great day

Nicko

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Day One – A Day of Relaxation & Planning

As most of my friends and family know i have headed to Mudgee for Vintage 2012. What does this mean? i will be working with some of the winemakers i represent at Vines To Venues and get to know the other side of the trade.

In what has been a great passion of mine this is the one area where my knowledge is seriously lacking. I’m not saying that i don’t know how wine is made.. It is more the fact i just don’t know the nitty gritty, so David Lowe, Liam Heslop & Simon Gilbert have their work cut out for them! But i am sure in amongst all the cleaning and cellar duties etc there will be many fun times and one hell of an experience.

Most days i will post about what i am learning what i have seen and more importantly the progress of some of our leading winemakers and their wine. So with that in mind, it is my last full day of nothingness before i get right into the thick of it. I have been cycling this morning, and plan on pushing through with some distribution work… maybe a glass or two for inspiration later in the day.

If you have any questions about what is happening here in Mudgee or would like some recommendations about what to see and do while you are here just comment on the post or flick me an email – Nick@vinestovenues.com.au – i will be more than happy to reply.

Have a great weekend

Nick

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