Winemakers Blog

Silkwood Spring

“In the deep spring when the grass was green on fields and foothills, when the lupines and poppies made a splendid blue and gold earth, when the great trees awakened in yellow-green young leaves, then there was no more lovely place in the world. It was no beauty you could ignore by being used to it. It caught you in the throat in the morning and made the pain of pleasure in the pit of your stomach when the sun went down over it. It was the season of flowering and growth.”

– John Steinbeck

That good old spring feeling has finally arrived in the south west in a unique pocket of Australian soil we call Pemberton. It is welcomed with open arms after just having experienced the wettest winter I can remember since my New Zealand Southern Taranaki days.

The painstakingly long and laborious task of pruning 24 hectares of grapevines is almost accomplished, thanks to Vineyard Manager Jono Reeves and his trusty sidekicks. One by one the little vines were styled with their new haircuts, being snipped, cut, removed and carefully put in place, not only for the coming harvest but to ensure the foundations of premium fruit to make premium wine in subsequent years.

There are two main types of pruning that can be done in the vineyard. Spur pruning relies on new growth, from the vine’s two arms that are thick and strong from previous years. Cane pruning is a different strategy altogether. Two to four new canes grown in the season just past are chosen from the head of the vine as the successors to be the new vine arms.

Spur pruning is good for the soul. Decisions where to cut are more obvious and with a trained eye and electric secateurs, it can be done quickly and efficiently, allowing you to finish several rows before the end of the day. Cane pruning on the other hand requires more grooming and care. Be sure not to snip off the wrong cane, removing all those stubborn, lignified tendrils after a quiet, and hopefully victorious, game of tug of war. Every now and then you receive a sharp, stinging whip in the face. Vine one. Danni zero. Of course, there’s the skilled task of tightly wrapping the cane around the fruiting wire without hearing the SNAP signalling your persuasive vine talk failing miserably…lucky there’s another 38,000 vines to pick up the slack! Then at the end of the day there’s a disheartening feeling of one row down, many more to go.

Once pruning is completed, all the cuttings left on the ground are mulched and returned to the soil for all that organic matter to slowly break down and rejoin the cycle of life.

It hasn’t all been snips and drips in the vineyard, against the elements. The warmth of cellar door comes not only from the gas heaters but also our lovely wait staff and cellar door manager Tegan Della Franca. It’s a transformation from the sleepy weekdays to the hustle and bustle of weekends at cellar door Friday-Monday. With the excellent new spring menu put together by Head Chef Joel Holbrook, accompanied by Sous Chef Aiden Young, Silkwood’s  kitchen has been cooking up a storm with some old favourites combined with some new spring inspired creations.

Spring marks many new beginnings; young leaves on the vines, the new spring menu and for some the beginning of a life shared together. Silkwood is blessed in providing, and partaking in, that special  romantic atmosphere. It was a beautiful day for the first wedding of the season, with many to come.

While the 2013 Pinot, Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot, Zinfandel and Chardonnay still lie dormant and maturing in their French oak enclosures, the winery is the most peaceful place to be. The natural aging process through oak involves not only the slow imparting of oak flavours but also evaporation via pores in the oak. Consequently, barrels must be regularly topped so the wine does not come into contact with air.

Stereo system cranked up to the max with the latest tunes, a refreshing smell of oak cask, saying ‘hello, how are you’, to each barrel of glorious red wine, not to mention oak aged Chardonnay barrels. It is truly an experience enjoyed by winemakers, especially me.

I leave you on a satisfying note with the news of Silkwood’s latest achievements. Our 2012 Chardonnay won Gold at the recent Boutique Wine awards along with our Chardonnay/Pinot Methode Champenoise (bubbles), which was awarded Bronze.

Until next time, cheers.

Wine is sunlight, held together by water

In the appropriately named film ‘Bottleshock’ it is aptly put to us that; “Wine is sunlight, held together by water. The poetic wisdom of the Italian physicist, philosopher, and stargazer, Galileo Galilei. It all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. The smell of the vineyard – like inhaling birth. It awakens some ancestral, some primordial… anyway, some deeply imprinted, and probably subconscious place in my soul.”

Here at Silkwood the passion of grape growing and winemaking has come to fruition once again in our first 2013 bottling. One by one the delivery trucks rolled up, each carrying a vital piece of the bottling puzzle in the form of cartons, dividers, tops, bottoms, bottles, green flint, claret, antique green, Burgundy, Riesling, and more bottles!

The weeks leading up to this pivotal moment was a blur. We had 10 wines to prepare including most of the 2013 whites and all 2012 reds which had been sleeping in their little wooden cask for the last 15 months. Long days were spent in the winery racking all the wines off lees, wine trials to determine the protein and cold stability, adding fining agents, cross-flow filtering, testing the wines again and again as they go through a rudimentary wine boot camp preparing them for war on the store shelves. Ice gathered on the outside of tanks as the last checks were made, dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s, listening out for the roar of Maurice and Bernie’s mobile bottling truck.
Finally the day arrived and the winery sounded the Silkwood horn that calls for all hands on deck from the dark reaches of the vineyard to the restaurant.

Even the boss showed up.

For the next three days bottling commenced. Bottling has both its shortcomings and appeal. Boredom, repetitiveness, loudness, aches, pains, inner dialogue reflecting on what one has done in one’s life to be lifting glass bottles for 8 hours straight. Then there’s the satisfaction of seeing every ones hard work over the last year spill into the clean and shiny bottles with Silkwood decorating the front label. Not to mention the excitement of sirens ringing through the bottling truck as something goes haywire, a bottle shows up at the end of the line empty, labels run out, boxes and dividers run out, no one has noticed the cellotape hasn’t taped the bottom of the case and CRASH! Somehow it all comes together in a clever, mechanical fashion. Suctioned from the tank it arrives in the fillers, generously filling wine into the bottles, then down the tracks they march like something out of a Pink Floyd movie. Fasten on the screwcap, the wine dances down the line to receive its label and graduate toward its future.

  • 9649 Channybearup Road, Pemberton WA 6260
  • PHONE 08 9776 1584
  • FAX 08 9776 1540
  • EMAIL silkwood@silkwoodestate.com.au