Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Year news

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! 2009 is almost here and is sure to be a year of surprises. The first lot of news I would like to announce is a group venture that Karra Yerta Wines is involved in and will be a lot of fun.
Announcing: Collective

Collective is a new group of passionate Barossans (Gumpara Wines, Karra Yerta Wines, Kurtz Family Vineyards and Smallfry Wines).

Thirty different Barossa and Eden Valley wines will be showcased by the four boutique producers whose ancestors were some of the original Barossa settlers in the 1840's. Lunch is available at The Clubhouse and you are welcome to drink any wine purchased from the tasting whilst dining.

At: The Tanunda Clubhouse, Tanunda (Barossa Valley, SA)

On: Saturday 24th January 2009 (Australia Day long weekend) from 11am to 4pm

Enquiries/bookings: Mark 0419624599, Steve 0418810982, Wayne 0412153243

Please email me at karrayertawines@gmail.com for more details or give one of the guys a call on the numbers above. It should be a great day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A friend and a gentleman

The wine industry is one of the toughest games to be in at the moment, and by the look of the current state of the market, things are not going to improve for a long time. Some days I wonder if it is all too tough but then something always happens to make me realise that all the hard work is worth it. Since starting our tiny little winery I have made many new friends and gotten back in contact with many old ones that I had lost touch with over the past years.

One of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting is a gentleman by the name of Bill Biscoe. When I first met Bill, he was working at the cellar door of Penfolds at Nuriootpa. As both of my parents were employees of Penfolds for around twenty-five years each, I felt quite at home chatting to Bill whilst tasting some of the fine Penfolds range of wines.

It was during one of these visits that Bill and I began discussing our mutual admiration for Eden Valley Rieslings and to cut a long story short, we became friends. I find his unwavering encouragement to be a continual source of inspiration when times are tough. In fact, he is one of the very special people whom our latest (as yet unreleased) wine is dedicated to.

We were absolutely chuffed to have Bill, his lovely wife Jan and nine members of his family visit us last weekend for an informal afternoon of sharing bottles of wine in our lovely old stable on the occasion of Bill's 70th Birthday. My husband James had worked tirelessly to have our restored car ready to pick Bill up from his home in Angaston and bring out to our property via the scenic route past the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park. Bill was very happy indeed and we enjoyed being able to do something extra special for him on his birthday.

These are the moments that James and I love about having our own business - to be able to have good friends visit us and enjoy the simple things of life - the company of nice people, good food and good wines. Life is too short and we all tend to work so hard that we forget to have fun. We are definitely not your "usual" Barossa winery people - we are country people who open our home to friends and simply like to share our passion for what we do - make miniscule amounts of what we think is terrific wine. To have guests visit us and see them drive off with a smile of their face really does make it worthwhile, and that is what makes the hard times worth it.

Happy Birthday Bill!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grapes, guitars and teenagers....

It is one of our dreams to be able to have our cellar door (in the old red gum stable) open regularly for small, informal, fun events. I have had many ideas written in my "winery notebook" for a few years now and my New Year's resolution for 2009 will be to start getting some of these plans into action.

One thing that I hope to see is our two teenage sons, Daniel 16 and Matthew 13, entertaining our guests at one of our functions. They are both very talented on the music front (not so much the wine one as yet!) and our home now boasts an assortment of instruments including numerous guitars (at the expense of a new oven for me:)

We were lucky to have had the great musician Chris Finnen play in the stable in January 2007 for a friend's 50th Birthday and he spent time with our sons in my eldest boy's room playing some of the boys' guitars. Chris is a wonderful mentor for anyone learning guitar but especially for youngsters. In any event, experiences like this, and in the case of Daniel, sending him to the US on a high school trip have certainly not harmed their perspectives on the music industry (in fact, Daniel came home from San Francisco even more of a Beatles freak than when he left:)

James and I are still wondering from where and from whom they both inherited their musical talents but whilst we scratch our heads in amazement sometimes, it is certainly something to be enjoyed. Here is a short clip of Daniel playing during a high school lesson a few weeks ago:

Daniel playing guitar

Once we get other clips recorded I will upload them to this post so keep an eye on this blog to see evidence that not all teenagers are up to no good:) The photo with this post is of Daniel and his mate Brodie (another exceptionally talented young man!) who both attended the International Guitar Festival in Adelaide last weekend and participated in the Guinness World Record for playing the AC/DC classic "It's a long way to the top".

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Going back to the roots of my family and the Flaxmans Valley area

I always thought it was quite ironic that I ended up living near a road with my name (well, my maiden name, Pohlner) on it. On this road is a cottage, now renovated (and extended) and renamed "Naimanya" but for many, many years it was known as one of the Pohlner cottages. There is another Pohlner cottage further to the north about 5km and only a few km to the east of that one, still stands the original Pohlner homestead - a magical place now home to Bob and Wilma McLean of McLean's Farm Wines.

As a young girl I often heard mention of "Pohlner's Scrub" which was up high in the Barossa Ranges around the Menglers Hill area. A lot of what is now known as the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park was originally part of the Pohlner land-holding and a controversial row arose around 1984 when the site was considered for the open-range zoo and sanctuary which was later located at Monarto.

The Pohlners were the third largest land holders in the Menglers/Flaxmans Valley area in the 1900's (after the Evans and Angas families). In 1910 Charlie Pohlner still owned between 4000 and 7000 acres but unfortunately over time, the land was broken up and sold off (or divided up due to marriages) to other now well-known families in the area(s): Argent, Randall, Zander and Thorn.

I am still tracing the family history back to the beginnings of our settlement of this area and this will take some months but I have been told that Charlie was also a councillor on the Flaxmans Valley Council. I am not certain when the FV Council disbanded but there is a plaque at Craneford (Lander's Corner) which is where the Flaxman's Valley Council used to be located. It will certainly be an interesting journey researching all the history but already I understand now why I feel so at home out here "in the hills" and how lucky I am to be of the same blood line that saw the beauty of the area over one hundred and fifty years ago and did such a wonderful thing by preserving a lot of it so that we can now enjoy it as a National Park.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A girl's afternoon at "Bucks" Bistro, Springton

We had wonderful rains yesterday morning. Humid as it was, the rain was much appreciated and needed. The late morning sun hid behind light grey clouds and only came out in full force mid-afternoon. By that stage my four friends and I were sitting in the most beautiful cottage garden setting at the rear of the new restaurant "Bucks" which is run by Poverty Hill Wines. "Bucks" is situated in the old blacksmith shop at Springton, a sleepy hamlet on the most southern edges of the Barossa Ranges about a fifteen minute drive south of Angaston (past iconic places such as Lindsay Park Stud, Collingrove Homestead and Eden Valley.)

Not only were there a range of beautiful wines to taste (even a 2004 Eden Valley Riesling, just beginning to show its soft and delicate texture and lovely aged flavours) but the menu was terrific. Between the five of us, we had an assortment of dishes. Some of the dishes on the menu were (starters): Goats Cheese and Fetta Vegetarian Lasagne ($9.00), Crumbed Oysters ($?), Salt and Pepper Squid and Soft Shell Crab with lime alioli ($11.50 - pictured below), and (mains): MSA Scotch Fillet Steak with Poverty Hill Riesling creamy garlic prawn sauce ($24), Pan fried Duck Breast with pinenuts, raison, orange, cherry cointreau glaze ($26) and a choice of salads or vegetables.

The atmosphere of the bistro, inside and out, is charming and inviting. A rustic old building with thick rendered walls and massive slabs of redgum it is one of the southern Barossa's historical treasures. The staff were friendly and courteous and that is another great attribute.

We enjoyed a pre-lunch tasting of some of the fine Poverty Hill wines: Eden Valley Riesling ($20 per bottle), the 2004 Eden Valley Riesling ($30) and the 2006 Eden Valley Merlot ($24). Of course, no "girls day out" is complete without a glass or two of bubbles and the Sparkling Shiraz sufficed nicely. We finished off with desserts and as we couldn't decide, on the advice of Peter (the manager of the bistro) we shared three of the dishes between us: chocolate cheesecake, strawberries & cream and jaffa slice ($6 each).

Many thanks to
Peter, Liz and their staff for such a wonderful experience. I hope that you enjoyed the rest of the bottle of our 2005 Riesling that I left as much as I enjoyed your 2004 Riesling! Although the Barossa is full of fine places to wine and dine, the value and ambience of Bucks is exceptionally hard to beat! Pictured below are the Salt and Pepper Squid, desserts and three of the five ladies (Denise, Jenelle and Lisa) who enjoyed the afternoon at Bucks.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our first 2008 Eden Valley Riesling review!

We are currently in the final stages of designing a new label for the release of our 2008 Eden Valley Riesling. Hopefully we can have the wine on the shelves for sale within the next month so that Christmas orders will be delivered on time. The year has gone so fast again and it's hard to believe that it is nearly 2009!

The 2008 Riesling will be our fourth riesling release and whilst my own favourite at this time is the 2005 vintage (it is just starting to show it's fine aging qualities) it just may be that our 2008 release will be our best yet going on the following review from Andrew Graham. Andrew is a great fan of dry rieslings and although we have had a few other people in the industry informally taste it, his review is the first "written" one.
Here are some excerpts from it but you
can visit Andrew's wine blog at http://www.ozwinereview.com/2008/10/karra-yerta-riesling-2008.html

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Karra Yerta Riesling 2008 (Eden Valley, SA)

Screwcap, not yet released but 2007 vintage is $25

The picture below tells the story here - those lovely, gnarled, 75 yr old Riesling vines are located in one of the highest vineyards in the Flaxmans Valley, sitting high above the Barossa floor in an epicentre for Riesling in Australia: The Eden Valley. Hand tended, dry grown, hand picked (even hand labelled), its these pieces of vinous history that are what makes this very fine Riesling so very fine.

I have come to two conclusions with this wine; Firstly, only 80 dozen were produced, and if the price stays the same, it may not last long (order it here); Secondly, I actually think this may never be more attractive - its so beautiful now that whilst the backbone will carry it through for many years yet, I think it deserves to be drunk young & delicious. 18.8(/20)

For any enquiries on this wine please email me at karrayertawines@gmail.com and I will place you on the mailing list so that as soon as it is available, I can let you know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's a small world after all...

What I really enjoy the most about having our own small business is meeting new people. There are some amazing people in the world and especially in regards to those I "meet" on the internet, it is always extra wonderful to finally meet them in person.

Last week I had a very special visit from a couple that I had been in touch with via email since 2006 - Axel and Leen from Germany. They were on the last few days of a month long Australian holiday. And an exhausting one at that as they had flown into Darwin, driven to Perth and then flown to Adelaide.

Based in Gawler (they are both huge McLeod's Daughters fans) they spent a few days seeing some of the McLeod's sights ie the Kingsford House farm, Freeling etc and then a day touring the Barossa. Our place was their last stop before heading back to Adelaide via the Hills to do some shopping at the city RM Williams store. I do hope they managed to squeeze even a brief visit to Melba's Chocolate Factory at Woodside - that should be a must on every visitor's checklist of things to do.

I happily sent them off on their way with a bottle of riesling and other goodies. Axel and Leen were the second lot of German friends that I have had visit me and I really am amazed at how well they all speak English! I am sure that if I went to Germany I would have trouble communicating. I am hoping that they will come back in the next year or two for another visit and maybe even stay with us at our home for a while so that I can take them on a much more personalised tour of the Barossa as there really is so much to see, and not all of it on the mainstream maps/tourist guides.
It was a lovely afternoon and I am sure that we will meet again one day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nature's symphony under a Full Moon

A few nights ago, after a magnificent day where the temperature teased us with a summery 32 degrees celcius, I spent most of the late afternoon and early evening in a comfy chair under our wisteria-covered pergola. The garden was alive with fragrance: the pungent sweetness of the wisteria in flower; the last scent of the spring freesias; the first rose blooms and finally, the intoxicating smell of petunias.

The sounds audible in the garden were as harmonious as the fragrances. To the south, I could hear a week old calf and it's mother mooing, to the north, a lone peacock - in between these creatures, the banjo frogs and crickets rythymically croaked and chirped - the echos of the frogs going across the valley. And finally, across the road, spring lambs bleeted happily under the moonlight. It is surroundings like this that make our international visitors even more in awe of Australia.

Living in a close vicinity to the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park means we have native animals and birds much closer to us than most people. Kangaroos, birds, snakes, lizards and numerous other creatures searching for water mean we see them regularly. The honey-eaters, superb fairy wrens and many other birds speed through my garden at lightning speed. Just how they manoeuvre under the pergola is quite amazing. I find that by having many bird-baths in the garden quite close to the house, the birds seem to be quite happy to sit and bathe just a few metres away from us.

One of the funniest things I have seen in the past weeks are a couple of willie-wagtails "attacking" our dog whenever he gets within a ten metre distance from their nest. They are one of the most tenacious little birds around and despite their size I have seen them "stand up" to magpies and other much larger birds. They are also prone to "hitch-hiking" on sheeps' backs in the paddocks on the odd occasion! They sit like "Kings of the Castle", gaily swinging their tail from side to side as though they don't have a care in the world whilst getting their fill of airborne insects quite literally "on the sheep's back".

We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful areas of Australia. Being able to sit outside in my garden and enjoy the sights and sounds are huge advantages of having a small family business that can be based in our house. Since becoming "commercial" we can no longer make our wines on our home property without vast expense to satisfy bureacracy (unfortunately the rules for making miniscule amounts of wine are the same as for someone making very large lots) but I would rather process our grapes offsite, under our watchful eyes, than risk losing the natural treasures we already have here. Sometimes you can't have it all but as our visitors see, why would you want to when you already have so much.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Teamwork is the thing that talks"

As mentioned in one of my earliest blog entries, the whole idea of "selling" our wine came from a night at Melbourne's Crown Casino where I literally bumped into Jimmy Lindner (Langmeil Wines) after I had attended the Peter Crimmins Medal Dinner (aka as the Hawthorn Football Club's Best and Fairest Dinner).

As a keen supporter of the Hawks since 1989 (and a proud, passionate and paid-up member since 1999) the club - much like the wine industry - has had it's fair share of ups and downs; times of exhilaration and inspiration, and times of despondency and frustration. I never lost faith in my Hawks but there were days where I did wonder just how long it was going to be until things improved. I have had similar feelings with our wines - concerns about sales or the ability to make a profit, if the vintage will be a successful one etc to happier moments of seeing glowing reviews, or receiving emails from happy customers or large orders that give us the capacity to finance the coming year's processing.

The winning formula for Hawthorn in 2008 was their ability to work as a team. I would like to think that the same philosophy (again, as stated in my earlier blog "We're all in this together") will breed success with not only our wines, but those of the Barossa/Eden Valley, and indeed Australia as a whole.

Australian wine has copped its fair share of negative publicity, particularly in the US and UK press in recent weeks. It is certainly time that Australian wineries stood together, or in some cases, continued to stand together, and realised that we are all on the same team - our products as varied on every point as what the players on the field are - Australian Barossa Shirazes as big and powerful as Buddy Franklin, and our Eden Valley Rieslings with as much class and finesse as Luke Hodge - all different aspects that when put together form a portfolio that one can only be proud of!

The wine industry, much like football, is a funny game - there really are no certainties. What happens, happens, and you make the best of what you have. You can make progress going it alone but it's never as much fun or as successful as when you band together to share the passion and pick up on each other's drive. There are a few things in the making over here right now that relate to the teamwork aspect (in regards to the wine) but more about that in a later post. For now, I am enjoying the outcome of the 2008 Grand Final - a result that I waited 17 years for... Congratulations to the Hawthorn team of 2008. You are an inspiration!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Melbournians and Mooncakes

Spring is here and what a magnificent weekend it was, in every way. Our favourite Melbournian friend, Terence (www.terencepang.com) came for another visit. We had not seen him since April so it was a long time between visits. Terence brought two friends with him, Moses (from Singapore) and Dennis (an ex-pat American who resides in Australia and works with Terence in Melbourne).

Terence, Moses and Dennis had flown into Adelaide the night before to meet up and travel from Adelaide to the Barossa for the annual Artisans of the Barossa tasting held at the Angaston Institute. Terence makes his trips from Melbourne to the Barossa as crammed full of all things vinous as possible but always makes time to visit us. He is definitely one of our favourite visitors and we always enjoy the time spent with him immensely.

We opened up a bottle of our 2005 Eden Valley Riesling, a 2005 Bullfrog Flat Shiraz, a 2008 Eden Valley Riesling (not released yet) and a non-vintage Sparkling Shiraz - a collaboration between us, our neighbours, Colin & Fiona Sheppard of Flaxman Wines and one of their friends, Nathan. Sitting in the old red-gum stable, sharing mooncakes - a lovely gift to us from Terence - (see below for information on these treats), cheese, crackers and wines, life could not have been any better!

We ended up sitting around our kitchen table sharing fabulous Roaring Fordie's pizza til quite late in the evening. It was a terrific night and we hope to have the company of Terence, Moses and Dennis again sooner rather than later.

MOONCAKES - During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each mooncake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival the rebels attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this event.

You can read more about mooncakes here: http://www.chinatown.com.au/eng/article.asp?masterid=155&articleid=743

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Halliday reviews and ratings

Every July, those of us who have submitted wines to James Halliday for inclusion (or exclusion if your wines are not up to a very high standard) into his Wine Companion book are able to finally see how our wines have fared. It's always a bit of a gamble as the personal preferences of writers, such as Halliday and Parker in particular, can either make or break your business.

2008 (for the 2009 edition) was the first year that an assistant was chosen to help sort through the enormous amount of samples received. Halliday chose Ben Edwards who is the head of the Australian Sommeliers Association. The 2009 edition of the Australian Wine Companion has tasting notes for 5778 wines, features 169 new wineries and overall, profiles 1661 wineries. Indeed, a large and comprehensive collection of too many wines to even attempt to try.

Considering we only submitted three wines this year, we are very happy with the results. This year Karra Yerta Wines received a general 4 star rating which means we are deemed "a very good producer of wines with class and character".

Our 2007 Eden Valley Riesling rated "highly recommended" at 90 points.
"..... a light-bodied palate with apple and lime fruit, with a touch of minerality on the finish. A success for '07".

The 2005 Barossa Shiraz and 2005 Bullfrog Flat Eden Valley Shiraz also both rated 90 points.

For full reviews, purchase the book or join online here: www.winecompanion.com.au

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The sad loss of a true Barossa Icon

There has been a long time between blogs on this wine page and that is because business has, to a point, taken a back seat as we deal with other issues. James and I have been grappling to understand life and the fragility of it over the past weeks. Time is certainly our most precious resource but we often do not realise it.

One of our dearest friends, Mark Short, who was well-known in the Barossa Valley and beyond for having one of the most amazing collections of antique Barossa Germanic furniture and other historical collectables has just passed away after a month long battle with pancreatic cancer. Although he had been ill for a few months, none of us were aware of the severity of his illness, including him. The decline in his health was so fast that it sent us and our closest circle of friends into a spin. He was an amazing man - a true Barossa Icon - who we shared many fun times with over the past twenty-five years. His passing will leave a void in our life that can never be filled.

Some of you may remember meeting Mark at our "Afternoon in Eden" wine event last November. He provided the antique furniture - the tables we sat at and benches, and the many other items that were on display. We had planned to have an exclusive event displaying more of his furniture in a combined showcase/wine-tasting weekend with Rik Eubel, one of the Barossa's finest furniture restorers, but alas, this never eventuated.

If there is any good news to come out of this however, it is likely that quite a few significant pieces of Mark's collection are going to be purchased by another local businessman to place in a Barossa Museum so as to keep some of the Barossa's heritage in the area. This is a lovely gesture and one that gives us and many other of Mark's friends some comfort as his furniture was his life and it was so important for him to "keep some of the best things in the Valley".

I guess it's times like this that make us all reassess what is important in life. Running a business is always hard work and we often do not take time out to do things we should, so even though we have to continue to work hard at selling and making our wine, we are committed to finding more balance in life so that we can spend more time with people we care about and to find at least some level of fulfilment in life each day.

The photo with this blog is of Mark with an antique (completely wooden) Barossa rake. It was taken at the end of our wine-tasting day in November 2007. His passion for his collectables and furniture gave him so much happiness in his short life. He was only 51. He left us far too soon but now at least his pain is over and he can finally rest. RIP "old matey".

Our sincerest sympathies to Mark's wife, Genny, his daughters Melissa and Emma, step-daughter Kylie and the rest of his family.

"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark." PINK FLOYD

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Are we Australia's smallest winery?

I have just started working on our first ever advertising campaign. The inspiration has come from the simple question asked by so many within the wine industry when I tell them how much wine we produce each year: "Why do you bother?"

Well, it is an odd thing that our customers appreciate the fact that we are so tiny, as opposed to many larger winery owners who think we are totally wasting our time. One fellow even stated that it would never be worth our while exporting. I politely told him that we had in fact sent an entire pallet (64 cases) to the UK last year and he was quite astounded.

I can recall how one of our former accountants used to persist in calling us "life-stylers". I don't think he meant to be condescending but I did find it a little negative. He stated that we would never make a reasonable income from our wine sales, ever. He refused to even acknowledge us as being a "small business".

Yes we are probably Australia's smallest winery, or at least one of the smallest: we process under 5 tonnes of grapes, produce less than 500 cases and end up with less than 5000 bottles per year, but that does not mean that we cannot contribute to the premium end of the Australian wine industry. In fact, I think it is an advantage as people we deal with, on any level, be it retailers, customers, wholesalers, salespeople etc, all deal directly with my husband, James, or myself.

There are no other employees to misplace paperwork or labels. We can do that all on our own, thankyou! Just joking. We seem to be coping quite well with the multi-tasking that comes with running a business with our own hands. And when we get positive comments from reputable wine writers and appreciative customers who themselves are beginning to question the motives of the multi-national wine companies, it provides great inspiration for us to keep at it.

Yes, there will be times when we get behind if the entire family catches influenza, or we may be bogged down in paperwork during pruning time, but we do catch up. That's just a part of being a small (tiny) family business. Our new motto is to "Appreciate the little things in life.." Yes, little we may be, but a significant impact we will make, eventually. And there are more and more of us "little guys" out there. So next time someone asks me why we bother, I will smile and say.. because we can....

Monday, June 30, 2008

The 2008 Great Edinburgh Shiraz Challenge

Last Sunday June 29th, I attended the 2008 Great Edinburgh Shiraz Challenge (at the Edinburgh Hotel in Mitcham, Adelaide) and presented our 2005 Karra Yerta Wines Bullfrog Flat (Eden Valley) Shiraz. What a great day!

It started early as I travelled down to the city on the cold blustery morning via the Adelaide Hills
. Somehow I managed to make it on time and even had 15 minutes up my sleeves to "set up" my stall before the general crowd were allowed entry. With 42 tables (each having one or two people from four different wineries) there was certainly no shortage of choice and in fact, it may have even been overkill to some. Some customers commented to me that there were so many wines that they'd initially decided to only try the wines of all the wineries they had not heard of before as they didn't think they could try everything.

I was fortunate to have the most wonderful wine people on either side of me and we all had a really enjoyable time, not only talking to the customers but also chatting to each other and having some laughs over general tales and aspects of the industry. On one side of me was Luke Trotter and his lovely wife Rebecca (The Blok Estate, Coonawarra) and on the other, Tom Krieghauser (an ex-pat US citizen, who now works for Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale). Of course it was even better that they both had exceptional wines and I must admit I did enjoy having a small taste of them, on a few occasions during the afternoon:)

The staff at the Edinburgh were great and even provided a lovely lunch for the winery staff (special reminder to Joshua - who by now, is on a plane somewhere between Australia and Thailand (hopefully!), before heading back home to California - yes, you can have another serve of Aussie barbecue chicken and potato salad without feeling guilty:)

All in all, it was a well organised event and I can see why many regard it as one of Australia's largest and most successful wine-tasting events. Well done to the the Hotel staff, winery participants and approximately 900 tasters - it really went well and why not; what is better on a cold Adelaide afternoon than a tent full of 300 different shirazes..?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Silver medal from San Francisco!

June is certainly a busy month on the wine front when it comes to shows and competitions. In the past few weeks there have been the 2008 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Brisbane Fine Wine Festival; this weekend is the world-famous Barossa Shiraz Alliance and next weekend is The Great Edinburgh Shiraz Challenge.

All of these events and many others that I have not named are wonderful opportunities to get products "out" into the market but when you are as small a winery as we are (under 4,500 bottles produced per year) it is impossible to enter lots of competitions due to our very limited supplies. Six bottles sent here, a dozen there, and before long, a significant portion of your stock can be gone before you know it. So it's a big task to choose which shows you think are the right ones for your range of wine.

On that note, we are absolutely ecstatic to announce that we have been awarded our first ever medal - a Silver medal in the 2008 San Francisco International Wine Competition for our Karra Yerta Wines 2005 Barossa Shiraz. (From the competition website: "The San Francisco International Wine Competition, the largest, most influential international wine competition in America, is judged by a prestigious panel of nationally recognized wine experts. Judging is based on a blind, consensual procedure, ensuring that its rigor and integrity remain the nation’s most respected competition. In 2007, over 1,071 wineries submitted wines from 21 countries.")

These few statements regarding the competition show that it is indeed a feather in our cap to be awarded a medal and it certainly inspires us to keep following our dream of making super premium wines in very limited amounts.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pruning time and bottling to be done

Pruning season is upon us. James has been out in the vineyard on chilly mornings and afternoons working on the shiraz vines. Winter does seem to go so fast - I guess it's because pruning is such a slow job (as compared to tying the vines onto the wires once they have been pruned) and the weeks seem to pass by. If you can manage to not go out on the days where it is too blustery - especially high on the peak of the hill where the vineyard is - it is quite a pleasant, albeit very tiring, job. The view over the Flaxman's Valley is rather spectacular especially on misty mornings.

Winter also generally means it is time to get the riesling, and sometimes, the shiraz, bottled. Our 2008 riesling will be bottled within the next few weeks followed soon after by some of our past vintage (not 2008) red wines. Then it will be time to get labels printed, tech data sheets formatted and all the fun things that come along with each new vintage (oh, and tasting the wines as well!). It is exciting to see what time has produced with each variety, especially the riesling as it is not a very long wait from bottling until selling. By all accounts, the 2008 Vintage was a very good one to us, and we look forward to having our "new" wines available soon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Geography of Wine

In June last year I received an email from a lovely gentleman in the United States. His name was Professor Brian J. Sommers and he is the Chairman of the Department of Geography at the Central Connecticut State University. He was writing a book called 'The Geography of Wine: How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop' and asked our permission to use one of the photos from our website in the book.

The months went by and the book was published late in 2007. Last week I received a copy of this wonderful book (compliments of Brian) in which our photo is used on the title page of Chapter 12 - "Economic Geography and Wine". I am going to start reading the book tonight as it is definitely going to increase my knowledge on all of the geographical/viticultural aspects of the wine industry on a world-wide level.

It may be hard to obtain a copy in Australia but if anyone would like to try to get one please email me via our website and I can contact Brian to see if it is possible. The
ISBN is 978-0-452-28890-4 for those who would like to trace it themselves. I look forward to sitting down this evening with the book and a glass of shiraz.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What is so special about riesling?

Someone recently asked me why riesling was my favourite white wine. Other than the fact that I like the taste (and indeed, the difference in taste between the regional varieties - the steel and flint of Eden Valley, the florals of Clare etc.) my main reason was that it is a variety which is so amazing to drink at any age. A well made riesling, moreso than chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, simply prospers in the aging stakes. It is also perhaps the best wine to have with food - there are so many dishes that this variety complements.

A young riesling is fragrant and crisp. As a riesling ages, it turns into something really special and gets more aromatic and soft on the palate. Flavours of toast and honey, kerosene (sounds horrid but is actually quite spectacular in its own way) dominate. A good riesling can be put away for 15 years without any concern as long as it is stored correctly. Riesling has always been a favourite white wine of many highly respected people in the wine industry and it's sensational aging abilities are just one of the reasons for this being so.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Good things come in small packages!

I have just added a photo to this blog of our winemaker Peter Gajewski (aka Juicy) sitting next to Tank 1101 at Rocland Wines having a taste of our 2008 Eden Valley Riesling. It's not often you see Juicy "sitting down on the job" but on this occasion it was our end of vintage breakup and things were pretty relaxed:)

It is good to have a picture of the actual tank that our wine is made in as it gives you an idea of just how small our production is. You can see how tiny it is even next to an adult let alone in comparison to the other tanks at Rocland! Amazing..... We usually get between 100 and 150 cases of riesling each year and it looks like this year will be more at the top end of the scale but still, it is a miniscule amount.

I had a taste of it just last week again, as I have periodically still been helping out in the laboratory at Rocland, and it is very austere. It should be yet another vintage that will age exceptionally well!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wine Club Tasting at The Arkaba

On Tuesday evening I was invited to The Arkaba Hotel in Adelaide to meet their wine club members and present some of our wines for tastings. What a great night it was and I met some wonderful people - some even with family roots in the Barossa (small world!). Quite a few of the members are great fans of aged rieslings and it was interesting to have them try our 2007 Eden Valley Riesling and note how they could actually taste the characteristics that ensure a riesling will age well.

I also took a few bottles of our 2005 Barossa Shiraz and a lot of people were very impressed. It is always wonderful to get such honest positive feedback!

It was a great opportunity to meet people who had no idea we (Karra Yerta Wines) even existed. It is still such a jungle out there as far as new wines go but slowly we are raising our profile and with all the recent reviews, things are looking very positive.

A big thank you to Tania of The Arkaba for inviting me to the tasting - her enthusiasm is most definitely contagious!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Toast & Honey on an Autumn afternoon: C1999 Eden Valley Rizza

The weekend has come and gone but what a pleasant one it was. Firstly, our favourite Melbournian friend Terence (www.terencepang.com) visited with some of his family again. Despite having a sick teenager (bronchitis) and a large pot of home-made chicken noodle soup cooking (for said sick son!) I did manage to sit and chat with our guests for a little while, and even have the occasional sip of shiraz with them over a platter of Maggie Beer pate', cabernet paste, cheese and crackers.

Prior to Terence's arrival, during a short husband/wife/business partner discussion, James decided to open one of our 1999 Eden Valley Rieslings (not made under Karra Yerta Wines, but during our "hobby" days). It was superb!!! I am not usually a fan of aged rieslings (I prefer them young) but what a surprise I received on the first mouthful. As we only have one case (12 bottles) left, it is a rare event indeed that we open any of our rieslings from that era. I expected something that had a kero aspect to it, and it did oh so slightly, but I was very surprised at the first sip - it was one of the smoothest textured rieslings I have ever tasted.

The clarity was impressive - still very clear, not the least bit murky like other aged rieslings I have seen and the colour itself was still relatively pale, although there was some yellowing as to be expected from a riesling of this age. The flavours of toast and honey were amazing. Very slight notes of grapefruit and straw (cannot quite work that one out!) and a lovely acidity still even after eight years. The bottle was our last vintage sealed under cork and the cork itself was in excellent condition still. For dinner we had fried rice, satay steak, stir fried vegetables, and honey-soy chicken pieces and the riesling went very well with it indeed.

Amazingly we did not finish the bottle; I specifically asked James to leave some for me to try today to see how it opened up: tonight it presented just as beautifully as last night - it is just so smooth, almost silky.. the toast and honey is there; just as predominant and yet a little different, more depth/length perhaps..? It makes me even more optimistic about what our allocated museum stocks will turn into over the next five to ten years. It just goes to show that riesling is truly one of the best varieties to cellar long term; the rewards are certainly worth the wait!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rain and riesling

There's not a great deal to report right now but a couple of things worth a mention. Firstly we have had the most beautiful rains for the past day and a half - a bit of rough weather, strong winds - but so wonderful to have the rain after seeing so much parched ground for so long!

Secondly, I managed to have a small taste of our 2008 Eden Valley Riesling yesterday while at Rocland. Peter Gajewski (aka Juicy) handed me a glass and it was terrific to see how it had changed since the last time I tried it. Yesterday it was all citrus and limes - delicious! I cannot wait to see what it is going to end up like in a few months.

On that note, we have some new reviews coming out this weekend and also had a recent one for our 2005 Eden Valley Riesling. Other great news is that we have a new outlet in Sydney which will promote our wines to the international market. See our website for details on stockists (our wines page) and also to read our latest reviews (on the media/news page).


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Red, red wine

Last week we had our first lot of rain for so long I cannot even remember. It seems like months ago and probably is.... We are now in the beautiful season of Autumn and it felt good to go to the wardrobe and get out my woolly jumper and Doc Martens as compared to the recent items of a singlet-top and flip-flops (or thongs as us South Aussies call them). Football season is upon us and bottles of shiraz are getting pulled out of the cellar regularly. There is definitely something about Autumn - there is a noticeable sense of relief that the long hot summer is over and everyone seems much happier.... it is time to get a great book to read sitting in front of the fire or to cook huge pots of home-made soups.

Ah, the end is near of Vintage 2008. Our Eden Valley Shiraz (Karra Yerta Wines Bullfrog Flat Shiraz) was picked on Friday March 28 and after the very intense summer that we had, we were so fortunate to have cool days and chilly nights the week before we (hand) picked it so that the grapes had a chance to freshen up.

Approximately 1300kg picked and the baume' was 13.8 - very low compared to a lot that I have seen or heard of recently. All in all, the grapes looked terrific. James has been down in the sheds with Pete Schell and Jason Schwarz not only crushing our own grapes but helping the boys out with the other crushes as well. He will be spending a lot of time there again over the next week and it is great getting daily updates on the progress of our wine at this early but crucial stage. Which reminds me, I must bring home a sample from Tank 1101 again this week to see how our Eden Valley Riesling is travelling!

There is no doubt that our current bliss is grape-related psychology - to know that despite Mother Nature's trials and tribulations of another Vintage, we have survived, and again, better than a lot of others. I guess that is one reason why our appellation is called the Eden Valley - it really is an "Eden". Mother Nature certainly seems to shine down on our grapes with a less ferocious force than on many other areas of the country and for that, I am extremely grateful. And all going well, so will our customers be when the products are finished and finally on the shelves.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We're all in this together....

Yes I know, another Aussie song (I am having a patriotic love affair with all Australian music at present - not sure why..?) but anyway, as Ben Lee so aptly wrote in his song, "We are all in this together". A very unusual philosophy for the present cut-throat wine industry but a shame that most (small) wineries don't realise that if they helped each other, it would be better for all!

A very wise man gave me similar advice about three years ago at 2am at a bar in the Crown Casino in Melbourne. His name - James Lindner, of Langmeil fame. James is a terrific guy and we literally bumped into each other at the Crown at that ungodly hour of the morning (he was visiting Melbourne on wine business and I was on a girl's weekend to an AFL Best & Fairest dinner). After quite a few hours of conversation with James and on taking much notice of his advice and experience, I decided that on my return to the Barossa Valley I was going to talk my husband into turning our hobby (amateur
wine making) into a proper business, and so Karra Yerta Wines was officially born.

James was very open and giving on his opinions on how the wine industry would fare over the coming years but his two important pieces of advice were (1) always make a top quality wine and (2) try to work with others so that you will all succeed. He has much passion for the industry, and is not
just driven by dollars and that I assume is one of the reasons that Langmeil Wines consistently do so well in the market. Their passion shows through and I find it a great source of inspiration.

Now on that note, it is because of the "all in this together" philosophy that I am about to recommend another winery's wine! Yes, the inspiration for this blog post has come about because of another winery who I feel strongly have their heart in the right place. Of course it helps that they are responsible for making our very own stunning rieslings but, aside from that, I really like their wines and I am a firm believer in helping those who help you and all of that sort of karmic stuff.

The wine I am drinking right now is a Rocland Wines "Kilroy was here" 2006 Barossa Shiraz. There is also a cabernet and a sparkling shiraz under the same label. Great stuff indeed and if you want to learn more about "Kilroy" go to www.kilroywasherewines.com

The "Kilroy" range has very modern and innovative packaging - the label design and story are most unique. And very different to our own range of wines - in lots of ways. Our label and story is more "traditional" and even though we make a Barossa Shiraz, it is still different to the Kilroy one. I think that is the secret to wine - there is no right or wrong - it all is so variable. And that is why we should all work together. The world is big enough for everyone to be successful if we all do the right thing and help each other!

Until next time....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Black Fingernails, Red Wine..."

That is the name of a great Aussie song by the group, Eskimo Joe. It is also what James and I have had a lot of experience with the past few weeks.

I have been working at Rocland Winery in the laboratory during vintage and a lot of my time is spent collecting wine samples from barrels and stainless steel tanks. Thus, my hands and clothes are often stained with red wine:) It has been a wonderful experience being a part of the small but efficient team that make our Karra Yerta Wines Eden Valley Riesling. They are great fun to work with and even though some days the pressure started to show (after 12 hour shifts for 15 consecutive days of over 38 degree celsius heat) the jokes still got told and there were still smiles.

As stated in my earlier blog, James helped with the beginning processes of making our 2008 Barossa Shiraz and more recently, our 2008 Eden Valley Cabernet. James and I are both really happy that we been "hands-on" with all of our wines this year in one way or another and feel very good about the people we have surrounded ourselves with for Vintage 2008. If you cannot communicate and work with, not against, the people who are helping to create your wines, you cannot expect to make something outstanding.... great wine is truly a reflection of so much more than just the fruit/vineyard (although that helps!)

All that is left to hand-pick now is our Eden Valley Shiraz. Now that the days and nights have become cooler, this should bring some respite to the ripening process and it looks like they will be now be picked next weekend. By all accounts, this should be a great wine even though there won’t be much of it.

A half tonne bin of our Eden Valley Shiraz will again be pooled with some shiraz grapes from a neighbour and made into our second consecutive vintage of sparkling shiraz. When the 2007 Sparkling Shiraz is ready to drink, that is something I definitely look forward to!

On that note, as it is the night before Good Friday, which means I have a "day off" tomorrow, I am going to open a bottle of Barossa Shiraz and watch the first round of the AFL. It is a good indication of things to come - winter - long awaited and oh so needed...... rainy days, chilly nights, fog and mist in the valleys.... I can’t wait! Summer has been too long and hot this year for my liking and I will be glad when it is over. In the meantime, Happy Easter!


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Vintage in the Barossa Ranges - March 2008

Yet another heatwave - temperatures above 35 degrees celcius for a week or more - has hit us and it shows no signs of abating for a while.... It has been a very long hot summer here in South Australia. No rain has fallen for months despite many other parts of Australia - to the east, west and north of us - having good rains (even flooding in a lot of areas) and we have been incredibly lucky to even have a harvest this year I think, let alone the bumper one that we have had!

To start with, the magnificent fruit that we purchase from the Moppa area on the Barossa floor was picked on Friday 29th February. By all accounts this is going to be yet another bold and beautiful Barossa Shiraz and while I am typing this blog, my husband James is presently down the hill at Bethany helping Pete Schell (of Spinifex) pump it all over and do all the things that need to be done to start it's amazing journey from grape to barrel.

Our Eden Valley Semillon, purchased this year by Pete Schell, was hand picked last Monday 3rd March and he was very happy with it. It will be interesting to see what the magic man will create this year with the above-expected yield. Pete is an exceptionally talented fellow and a damn good bloke! We are very lucky to have him as our red wine maker this year (with assistance from my husband James) and are thrilled that he has purchased the entire lot of our semillon this year to put under the Spinifex label.

Following the picking of the semillon, the next day (Tuesday 4th March) we hand-picked the Eden Valley Riesling - a very early start on a day where the temperature was expected to reach 34 degrees celcius. After a cool night, we were so lucky to have cloud cover until about 10am so most of the grapes were picked before the heat of the day hit the vines. Perfect conditions for picking the rizza!! Mind you, our canopies (leaf cover) were yet again incredible and most of the grapes had been protected from the harsh sun due to that, unlike a lot of vines on the Valley floor which were suffering terribly. It's always an advantage to be in the high Barossa Ranges when summer is this hot and dry as that few degrees cooler temperature certainly makes a difference. Peter Gajewski of Rocland Wines is making our rizza again this year and it is sure to be yet another splendid example of a rizza from one of the best regions in the world!

So all that is left on the vines at the moment is our Eden Valley Shiraz and that will not be for much longer if this heat continues. It sure is an interesting industry and no doubt about it, there is a lot less pressure on us once the grapes are off the vines safely ... so on that note, despite being a rizza lover, tonight after a very hot day, I am heading out to the verandah and cracking a Cooper's Pale Ale! (The best Aussie beer and an awesome thirst quencher)

Until next time..............................