Vineyard

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.

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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.

 

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The Sounds of Harvest

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Community, Vineyard

I love the sounds which accompany harvest – the rumbling vehicles of the pickers arriving pre dawn to begin the day’s work,  the warning signal of the tractor as it moves ahead of the team with bins ready to accept the ripe and sticky fruit, the rhythmic snip as bunches are culled from the vines and  the intermittent calls of  ’bucket!’ indicating another 15 kls of fruit is ready for collection.

Most especially I love the sound and tone of friendly chat among the vines. People who may not see each other from one harvest to the next exchange news of their  family, holidays and health. They chat about hobbies and interests – last week it was quilting and the restoration of vintage motor bikes that seemed predominant. They congratulate us on the quality of the fruit and of course I am particularly pleased by this but Julian says they probably say that to all the fruit producers they work with!  While our team of local pickers, many of whom have worked among our vines for many years, all know each other they warmly and quickly welcome new comers and draw them into the conversations. The buzz of the gossip continues throughout the morning but becomes quieter as the day progresses and the focus concentrates on completing the days pick. While harvest is a busy and exciting time for us it is the friendships that are formed and the sharing of chat that makes it most meaningful.
Continue reading “The Sounds of Harvest” »

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Véraison in the vines

Posted by Jane Leckie. Filed under Vineyard

Welcome to the New Year and a new season at She-Oak Hill. Warm, sometimes very warm, sunny days and a strong breezes have kept the vines tracking along towards ripeness. This time of the season is called veraison by the French. The fruit is changing  colour and the vines are drawing on their reserves of starch to fill the bunches with flavor and sugars. Continue reading “Véraison in the vines” »

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