December 26, 2022
The year outgrows the spring it thought so sweet
And clasps the summer with a new delight,
Yet wearied, leaves her languors and her heat
When cool-browed autumn dawns upon his sight.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Ever since leaving the city ten years ago, we’ve lived by the seasons. For Neil this was a return to normal having lived rurally and farmed for much of his adult life. For me it was a profound and quite clunky shift. Having always had the rhythm of my weeks and months dictated by the 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday concept of productivity, I struggled to anticipate our busy times, or make the most of our down time, for much of our first few years on the farm.
Gradually it started to feel more natural that the tempo of our lives would rise and fall with the shifting position of the sun in the sky throughout the year, rather than being dictated by a clock that marks the progress of time at the same pace day in, day out, year-round. And now it feels completely normal that when the sun is high in the sky, we labour; when it sits low, we head indoors, gathering our thoughts and energy while our vines sit dormant under the cold grey sky, gathering theirs.
But this year we’re all out of kilter again. Once we’d finished picking and processing the last of the grapes this autumn, we skipped the usual resting phase and immediately turned our attention to our new vineyard. We had 14 acres to prepare for planting this spring – 3,500 posts to bang in, 90 end assemblies to install, 168km of wires to be strung and irrigation to be set up over the winter months so that all the infrastructure was in place and we were ready to work the soil once the winter rains petered out and the sun shone again. As soon as the soil dried out enough it would be time to slash the third generation of green manure crops we’d planted in autumn, spray them with biodynamic preparations and work all that nutritious organic matter into the earth to create the perfect canvas for planting our 21,000 young vines by the end of spring.
But spring never came. The cold and wet conditions carried on well beyond winter meaning the soils were too wet to work without destroying the structure we’d achieved over three years of biodynamic management.
So we waited. And waited. Knowing that with every wet week that went by, the time we had to get the soil prepared before running out of season to plant was being squeezed into a rapidly shrinking window. Would the sun ever come out? Never have we felt so utterly controlled by the seasons.
These past few months we’ve had to navigate the weekly deluge, jumping to action between rainfalls as soon as the top layers of soil had dried out enough to work without causing damage. Finally we spotted a few breaks in the weather and set the date to have the first half of our vines delivered from the nursery that had been looking after them these past two years. We managed to finish clearing the 21km planting strip under the wires last Wednesday (by cultivation rather than the much easier but oh-so-damaging application of herbicide). On Thursday afternoon we took carriage of 10,500 young vines – six different clones of Pinot noir, three of Chardonnay – and set to work trimming them up for planting. By Sunday lunchtime, with a lot of helping hands, all their roots were sunk into the earth along with a nourishing soup of mycorrhizal fungi, kelp and worm wee to give them a running start. The next day we received another 10,500 and started the process all over again.
We totally underestimated the enormity of this task. Planting a vineyard is hard graft and doing it in a year with no spring (and with no chemicals) is not for the faint hearted. We’re so looking forward to putting our feet up for a few days this Christmas, drinking a few good bottles and celebrating all we’ve achieved in this very unusual year.
And, while these young vines are a few years away from producing anything we can share, we have plenty of wine from our home block to fill your glasses this thirsty season. You can order from our online store or just hit reply and tell us what you fancy from the list below.
Our pèt nat moved fast again this year so you won’t find it on the website, but we held back enough for our valued subscribers and visitors to the cellar door this summer. We have a few other bits and pieces in the cellar too if there’s a favourite missing from below – please get in touch with any special requests.
Finally, in January we re-open our cellar door after a two-year hiatus and would love to see some of you in the flesh to sample the fruits of our labour and hear a few new stories. Bookings are now open via www.thewinefarm.com.au/events
Come and christen our brand new all-weather bar as we languor through a few (hopefully) warm weeks before harvest is upon us again, we get back to work and count the sleeps till the end of autumn and a proper, well-earned we reckon, rest.