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

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..............................