March was a busy time in the vineyard with machine harvesters and hand pickers at work. Despite the dry spell, the grapes had hung on with the help of a bit of intermittent rain and the flavours are exciting.
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes
On Saturday, 3 March, Ian Pearce’s smart new ERO Harvester took off Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It is a very neat and fairly compact harvester. Photos show it coming to the end of a row, the Chardonnay grapes being tipped into the bins, and the full bins. The left over bunches were a feast for the bees.
Hand-picked Arneis grapes
St Patrick’s Day saw Vineyard Manager Geoff (Cookie), his two dogs, myself, and four enthusiastic, young French backpackers hand-pick Arneis grapes (picking and bucket). These grapes are a northern Italian variety from Piedmont that Carmel and I fell in love with when we were staying in that region.
It was an excellent morning for picking, and while Geoff took the grapes to the winery (pickers saying good-bye to the dogs), our four French pickers came back to the Cellar Door for a bit of wine tasting and interesting conversation. They were given some tasting bottles to take away to aid their St Patrick’s Day celebrations that evening.
Shiraz and Merlot grapes
There was plenty of action on Tuesday morning, 20th March. A very impressive new Pellenc Harvester had arrived (Kurt up from the Hunter Valley) the previous afternoon (appropriately coloured orange!). It swung into gear in the darkness of early morning to start taking off the Shiraz and Merlot grapes. For such a large machine, it has an incredibly tight turning ability.
The grapes were tipped out from two side holding compartments into the bins, with Geoff doing the tractor shuffle to and from the bin stack in the Lamborgini Sprint. The Pellenc Harvester looked right at home cruising up and down the vine rows.
Hand-picked Cabernet Franc grapes
Also happening on the day was the hand-picking of Cabernet Franc for Will Rickard-Bell. Will drove his Ute along the vine rows while Paul (from France and back for his second vintage at Will’s winery) was busy loading up the Ute.
It was a truly wonderful morning, cool and clear, except for a very long band of cloud near the horizon. The colour changes were amazing as it turned from grey and pink to orange and intense red then back to pale lemon as the sun rose on the horizon. A great accompaniment to the morning’s harvest!