Delights of Autumn

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Vineyard

Autumn is a beautiful time at She-Oak Hill.  As the vines gently work  to store carbohydrate reserves in their canes and trunks before losing their leaves and becoming dormant for 3 months, we can relax and enjoy the bright sunshine and mild conditions during the day. In the evenings  the clear skies provide a wondrous display of planets and stars, never seen in the city where urban lights pollute the night sky. In fact the  Astronomical Society of Victoria have a Dark Sky Site at Heathcote which members of the public can visit twice a year

So far this year we have barely needed to light the wood stove but as winter approaches the Nectre baker’s oven will provide comforting warmth and be the center of activity as I prepare slow cooked meals, ox tail and lamb shanks are favorites, and hearty soups.

Our olives are ripening and the vegetable patch is being prepared for winter planting. The nets have come down from the orchard of peach, nectarine and apricot trees and the fruit in the citrus grove is beginning to color.

We have time now to invite friends for picnics and meals, purchasing most of the ingredients from local farmers markets and enjoying the rewards of the labor of  our market friends with a glass or two of our own wine.

How satisfying and emotionally nourishing this is.  Should you be in the Heathcote wine region during the next few months give us a call, we would be happy for you to visit  and share this  delightful time with us.


Patience & Anticipation

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Vineyard

Growing fruit for premium wine is all about patience and anticipation. Over the growing season, from early September until late March, we must anticipate the risks to fruit from the weather, from disease and from pests in the vineyard. Frosts, strong winds and excessive rain have the potential to be just as damaging as long dry spells and excessive heat.

With predictions of a hot dry summer it was important to anticipate the crop load the vines would be able to bring to maturity without stress. During December many hours were spent going through each individual vine, counting the bunches per shoot, checking the length of the shoots and fastidiously reducing the crop to one bunch per shoot.

Now, a week out from harvest, we are patiently awaiting the excitement of picking. The vines are looking good and the fruit has amazing flavor. Six months of dedicated effort is looking like it will result in a special wine which we look forward to sharing with you.



Vines with character

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Vineyard

If  you are used to driving through wine regions where the vines are manicured and neatly trellised in uniform rows the 37 year old vines at She-Oak Hill may appear somewhat chaotic.

The trellising is lower than that found in recent vineyard plantings, the vines are gnarled and bent and during the growing season the unruly canes tend to sprawl across the mid rows.

All these features make it more of a challenge to work among the vines either manually or with  equipment . But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our old vines have such personality, each knot and twist tells a story. Stories driven by passion rather than expertise, tales of the growth of a wine region, sagas of great seasons or droughts and bush fires. These vines have shared the yarns of pickers and the gossip of pruners across several generations.

I often refer to this part of the vineyard as the ‘nursing home’ block as the vines require a great deal of individual attention to keep them producing viably. Of course this means that each vine is as familiar to me as an old friend and I regard them with the affection I would feel towards my mates. And like good friends these vines reward us generously for our efforts. The fruit is rich and intense when it reaches maturity. It offers special older vine flavor of leather, cassis and spice and great depth of color to the wine we produce making the challenge they present over the season always worthwhile.


What do mandarins have to do with it?

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Community, Vineyard

When the mandarins on my tree in Melbourne turn sweet and golden  I know it is time to start pruning.

What  relevance does this have to grape vines?  Well, for all the years as I have worked alongside Laurie who has pruned our vines for 36 years I have brought him 5 perfectly  ripe mandarins which he has carefully rationed for each day of the working week and enjoyed after his ham and cheese sandwich on his favorite ‘Country Split’ bread accompanied by a Light Ice. Laurie is the best sort of worker to have at a vineyard – he does not drink wine!  This year Laurie’s health has, much to his frustration, prevented him  from doing the work at which  he is so skilled and that he has loved for such a long time.

In the past cold days and freezing winds have just been part of the vineyard year for Laurie as, with the eye of an artist,  he selects the canes to lay down for fruit in the season to come and those to ‘spur’ for next year’s canes. This year the cold weather is proving too much of a challenge for him. Recognized as an expert throughout the region our old friend has pruned at many vineyard including Jasper Hill and Mt Ida but has retained a special place in his heart for his vineyard, She-Oak Hill.
Each day in my garden as I walk past the golden fruit on the mandarin tree I think about the enduring impact Laurie has made on my life, the support he has generously offered to our vineyard, the pride he has taken in his work over the years and I share his sense of despair that, at the age of 84, he may need to start taking things a little more easily.