I'm sitting here at the computer with a big milky latte on my left. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen is the time – 3.25 am.
It is grape picking day. By getting up at 3 am and leaving at 4 am I should be at the vineyard 70 Km away just after 5 am and start picking by first light. I'm allowing a couple of hours for picking. This is being generous after all Chardonnay is not worst grape to pick not like say Malbec or Traminer. The bunches are easier to access but still not all that large. I'm only after about 60 KG. I'll make about 12 litres of pure juice wine from the crushing with almost no skin contact. This will be the purest of flavours, a lighter style of Chardonnay for enjoying on a Summers day as an aperitif. The bulk of the grapes will sit overnight to get about 16 to 20 hours skin contact which is what has been done in previous vintages and with success. And then another 12 litres or so will be kept on skins for another 16 or so hours. Just to see what happens to the flavour. It doesn't hurt to try some different methods each year. There is always something to learn from the experience.
Yesterday I made the another set of telephone calls to the vineyard managers. At one the Pinot Noir is not quite ready, telephone again midday in two days time. The second call was for the Chardonnay. Yes the premium block has already been picked. The later ripening block will be done at 3 am on Thursday morning. “I'm going to be there Wednesday morning early” I say and the response from the manager “I'm there from 5 am, There is some Semillon and Verdelho if you want it as well”
I resist the temptation to change our vintage plan.
So it has all started. While the coffee machine was heating up I started two freezers. These will chill the grapes as soon as they pass through the destemmer. The car is already packed and fuelled. I'll make a small sandwich to keep me awake on the way back.
There is a certain excitement about commencing a new vintage. I don't know why maybe it is the challenge of creating something. Who knows.
Yesterday went quickly. Jean clipped the irrigation riser in one paddock with the harrows and it exploded. The galvanised riser was more than 20 years old so it didn't take much for the paper thin metal to give way. It took and hour and a bit to repair. At least the ground was soft and digging down to the joint took minutes. The hard bit was cobbling togehther the parts for fixing. There was a spare riser. A bit old but would do except it had some other hardware attached which took time to remove. The remaining bit in the ground took a bit of effort to unscrew. And then of course there was no spare working cutoff valves. The two I tried were cracked. A quick trip to the hardwatre store and all was well.