RAIN, RAIN and more RAIN

The next old feller who chats to me in the main street of Lilydale and says:  nice drop of rain! I’ll drop him.

Yes, a whole year has passed without me making any reports and for that I apologise.

The 2009 season was difficult, but aren’t they all?  Vintage was very light in terms of quantity but the quality factor was definitely there.

We estimated that we were 50% down on yield, but what lovely fruit!

Guy Wagner was very pleased with all three varieties:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.  Without being too presumptuous I think I can say that the 2009 Pinot will be a “Miguet”.

Global Warming etc.

Call me a member of the flat earth society but the only climatic variation I can detect over the past three years is a small shift in the season:  We are getting budburst earlier and we are picking earlier.

This Winter, we were told by the experts that it would be drier than usual.  That turned out to be a load of crap.  Providence recorded its wettest Winter ever with 444.8 mm rain over the three months and twice the rainfall in August ever recorded by us.

Fortunately, we were able to start pruning early and vineyard management, pruning, tying down and mulching is completed, although the latter has made a bit of a mess in the lower lying areas.

Our big shed has been flooded five times in the past three weeks.  No damage, other than the time it has taken to clean it out.  The new drains have not been able to cope and further drainage works are being done.  Probably will never happen again!


Our ‘new’ goat, Fred has been with us a year now and has been ‘socialised’.  Both Fred and Gary now have new goat houses and, considering the recent rains they probably would have dissolved.

Gary, who we now think is a Himalayan goat, doesn’t spend too much time in his house and would prefer, as he always has, to stay outside and get soaked.  His heavy winter coat with underlying cashmere type wool, keeps him warm and dry at the skin level.

They were recently inspected by an inspector from the RSPCA, who found them in excellent condition.  How surprising:  they are treated more like humans, get goat bics every second day, liquorice every day and have their own goat licks.

Getting on to wine

Because we committed the entire vintage of 2008 Pinot Noir to Rose, (and what a lovely wine that is!) we needed a Pinot.

I approached Guy Wagner for help and we managed to purchase three lots of fruit from two Tamar Valley Vineyards and one near the Asbestos Ranges, just west of the Tamar (it now has a Aboriginal name; however, there are so many syllables I can’t remember it).

Taking many samples, Guy joined us at the Gorge Restaurant where we played with various blends of the three finished wines.  And we came up with a winner!

Or at least James Halliday thought we did, awarding it 94 points in his 2010 Wine Guide (he also awarded gold standard for our 2008 Rose and  Riesling, the latter being sold out).

We called the Pinot “Black”.  Simple really, when it was ready to be bottled, Guy phoned me and asked what coloured capsules I wanted as he only had black.

Bit like Henry Ford – “you can have any colour car you want, as long as its black!”

The wine, coming from small berries is quite dark, and in an antique green bottle with a black capsule it looks black.  And so it came to be.

The Rose has had good reviews,  particularly interesting was the comment from Roy Morfield, the wine buyer for Cathay Pacific, who suggested that we keep a few bins back as the wine was going to age well.

Speaking of ageing, the 04 CRV Pinot sales are picking up.  This wine, so slow in developing, is beginning to hit its straps.

Unfortunately, the 2006 Miguet Pinot Noir is just about sold out – and has yet to hit its straps.

The worst part about that is most of the sales are to restaurants where it is being drunk now.  What a shame.  I would love to have been able to hold that back, but the goats would have starved had I done that, not to mention Brenda and me!

Speaking of starving.

Providence has its own vegie garden – the mother of all vegie gardens.

We have used raised beds, constructed by galvanised tank makers: two high and two low, the latter for taller crops like beans, sweet corn and tomatoes.  The garden is completely enclosed in fine wire to exclude wombats, wallabies, possums and bunyips.  For us oldies, we will be able to manage it without buggering our backs.  Our answer to the GFC, and ageing!

As I write, it is pouring rain (how surprising).  At last I will be able to see the effectiveness of the drainage work I completed yesterday (stage 1).

The family grows

Since last writing, the immediate family has grown by two:  Brenda’s son Ben and Mel had a little girl, Ava and her daughter Jayne and Steve have had a second girl, Cassidy.

My lot are still complying with their father’s remonstrations when they were little.  My angry retort in response to their bad behaviour was “you should not be bred from!” is definitely being complied with.

Emma and her partner Damian are buying property in Southbank and are frantically saving.

Lisa and Mike, married last December here on the vineyard, are still in Kalgoorlie.

Their family has grown, with two dogs joining Basil the cat on the pet list.  All is rosy in those two camps.

Wasps, really?

The lead-up to the 2010 vintage was not too bad. We had rain, quite a lot but well spaced, which relieved the need for irrigation.

January, however, was bone dry and this is where we got caught, with enclaves of powdery mildew affecting stems and bunches but not the leaves. The heat in January also caught us on the hop as we suffered some leaf burning because we were using our normal rates of sulphur and not the mainland rates, which are about half that we use in Tasmania.

Vintage was early, but not as early as the previous four years. Our observations were that the climatic shift, upon which I have previously commented, seemed to move back closer to normal.

Our biggest problem was beyond our control – voracious European wasps, in numbers never before seen caused considerable damage, even to blocks in which we managed to exclude all bird life.

My colleagues in Relbia have long been telling me that wasps are able to broach grapes. Despite watching the little suckers for years I have never seen that happen, until this year.

Many vineyards suffered reduced yields due to wasp damage and I feel that an approach for government support may well be answered. There are certainly more wasps in Tasmania than foxes!

Thank you

For the tenth year in a row, the staff, parents and students of the Launceston Church Grammar School brought in our vintage.

This has been a fantastic arrangement and a mutually beneficial one at that.

On 8 April we picked 2.6 tonnes of Chardonnay and on Sunday 18 April we picked a measly 1.5 tonnes of Pinot, the rest having been consumed by the wasps. What we did get was magnificent.

The winemaker, Guy Wagner praised the fruit, as he did the small parcel of Riesling we picked on the same day.

About Rusty Cook

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