“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.