Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Winter Wine Event - watch this space!

This blog entry is to give you advance notice of a special event that will be happening in the Barossa on the last weekend in June. Some of you may be planning to visit the Barossa this winter (what better time for a Barossa Shiraz??) so if you are, please make a note in your diary so that you may attend a very exciting and indeed enticing new event.

The Barossa Wine and Tourism Association has come up with a new concept called Barossa At Home. The idea is for wineries to open their homes to limited numbers of guests (ten per winery) for a personalised evening of Barossa food and wines. Guests will have the opportunity to meet and speak with the people behind the wines. In our case, you will be dining with the three winemakers from the three wineries involved.

We are planning on having a combined dinner party at Karra Yerta with two of our three Collective offsiders: Gumpara Wines and Kurtz Family Vineyards.
At this stage, and it is early days, we are looking at having three tables of nine guests with one of the winemakers at each table (we are allowed to have more guests as there are three wineries joining up for the event). A delicious home-cooked four-course feast will accompany our splendid range of wines and any wines that we produce that are not on the menu (food and wine matched) will be available for tasting on the night.

Please email me if you would like to be kept up to date with this event. I will also post information on this blog as it is finalised.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Breakfast at Rocland

After a hard day's picking, in the early hours of Monday morning James had a 4.30am start and I was not too far behind at 6.30 am. The grapes were on the trailer and Steve at Rocland Winery was awaiting our two loads to be checked in at the weighbridge. On the way I did an emergency stop at the best place for breakfast in the Barossa - Blonde Coffee - and picked up a toasted cheese, bacon, egg and tomato sandwich and two lattes to go - good sustenance for a morning crush of our riesling. Despite the chill still in the air from a very cold night, it was a very exciting morning to be standing at the weighbridge munching on our breakfast as we received our cartnotes from Steve. After the worry of the possibility of it being a non-vintage (heatwave) we had managed to pick our largest ever Eden Valley Riesling crop - 2.75 tonnes.

I worked at Rocland last vintage as a laboratory assistant and the first thing I noticed this year was that it was much more relaxed. The late and long heatwave of 2008 caused much drama and panic with last year's processing throughout the industry and it was really different to walk into the winery and see the boys (and girls) looking refreshed and happy. Only someone who has worked an eight to ten week stint of twelve hours a day under the incredible pressure of a horror (weather-wise) vintage will understand what I mean.

By the time I had popped around the place to say my hellos to past workmates, James had the bins waiting by the press and Aaron was on the forklift and ready to start unloading them. Juicy (Peter Gajewski) was out and about heading in our general direction and before too long, the bunches were being pressed and the wine glass was out so that we could taste the fruits of our labour for 2009. Delicious! Apples.. that was the most significant thing we could all taste.

By 10am it was all over and James and I went back to our respective jobs for the rest of the day quite happy knowing that the juice was pressed and already in a tank. It really is a terrific feeling to watch your grapes start the process of becoming wine. I can't wait to follow its progress and see how it turns out.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And another load bites the dust....

Today has been a superb autumn day with perfect conditions for harvesting our Eden Valley Riesling. Our crew of ten along with our own family of four (plus dog) had an almost six hour day of hand-picking as the crop was heavier than we expected despite the February heatwave.

We were lucky to have a great crew of German, Belgian and French pickers with a few Aussies and even an Englishman thrown in for good measure! Thanks guys - you did a wonderful job considering it was starting to get a bit warm in the sun by the end of the day. I hope the beer and riesling soothed your aches and pains:) Even the dog is worn out after his effort today. Our teenage sons, Daniel and Matthew, bucket-carried all day and did a fabulous job. The dog, meanwhile, just moved along behind us and basically did nothing of great excitement until right at the end when he got caught in some of the bird-netting laying on the ground. The hazards of being a "watch-dog" ie obviously not watching where he was going!

Presently the grapes are sitting under the shade of our old gum tree, waiting to be delivered to Rocland Wines tomorrow morning to be processed. James and I are going to be there to help and I can't wait to see it as I have never been at the winery for our own "crush" before (James has but I have always been unable to for one reason or another). Anyway, it's a short blog entry tonight but I was keen to post the photos of yet another wonderful day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There's no business like wine business.....

Wine Business Magazine's Top 100 regional focus this month was on the Barossa, or more specifically small wineries from the Barossa. A new group has been formed recently - the Barossa Small Winemakers Group - and we are one of about 70 wineries involved with the group. It is certainly an interesting mix from the sub-regional aspect. When you attend a BSWG meeting you have the opportunity to see and taste the fantastic standard of wines and quickly realise that our combined produce is something that we should all be very proud of.

We were most fortunate to be included in an editorial in the current edition (March 2009) of WBM's Top 100 - a magazine primarily for the trade sector of the wine industry.

Here is what the editorial said in regards to Karra Yerta:
Family Affair
: "History and heritage surrounds the families in the Barossa, just as it does the vines.
James and Marie Linke of Karra Yerta Wines both originally hail from Angaston but have lived in Flaxman's Valley since 1985.
Their ancestors, the Linke and Pohlner families, arrived at Port Misery (Port Adelaide) in 1847. The Pohlners, early pioneers of Flaxman's Valley, were the third largest landholders in the area in the 1900's. In 1910 Charlie Pohlner still owned between 4,000 and 7,000 acres, but 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: Argent, Randall, Zander and Thorn. The precious old, dry-grown Flaxman's Valley vineyard that produces their Eden Valley Riesling and Shiraz is situated on a high ridge in Randall-Town, neighbouring the vineyards of Chris Ringland and Greg Hobbs. All three vineyards were planted by the Randall families in the early 1900's. The restoration of the Karra Yerta vineyard is an ongoing venture, currently consisting of 50 year old Frontignac, 80 year old Riesling, 80 year old Semillon, 50+ year old Shiraz and 10 year old shiraz. This small family business grew from a ten-year hobby and annual production is just around 350 cases."

Click on the group photo below (I'm in the foreground at far right:) to have a closer look at which wineries were involved. To read the main articles on the Barossa, and for all of the small wineries contact details, buy a copy of the March edition of WBM. For information specific to the BSWG phone Jan Angas on 0414639088.

The 2009 crush has begun!

Yesterday, Monday 9th March, was our first official day of vintage. In my blog entry of Wednesday 4th March I wrote that it appeared we would be picking our Eden Valley Riesling before the Barossa Shiraz but vintage is an unpredictable thing which changes daily. I was wrong in that assumption. The baume of the riesling was not quite where we wanted it (maybe due to the really cold nights we have been having out here in the hills the past week) so the 2009 Barossa Shiraz was the first to hit the crush.

Despite the horrific heatwave five weeks ago, the shiraz grapes ended up being in great condition which is a huge relief. The fruit tastes superb and the colour is amazing. It may be our best crop of Barossa Shiraz ever. All in all, we picked 1112kg and as I write this blog entry it is in the beginning of its processing at Biscay Road Vintners (run by Pete Schell, Spinifex and Jason Schwarz, Schwarz Wine Company) in Bethany. It is a very exciting time; especially because we have such a talented winemaker as Pete taking charge of things, not to forget Jason's knowledgable input as well.

As James and I both work other jobs as well as run the business and do the majority of the vineyard work, we now find ourselves in a position where there are just not enough hours in the day. James generally tends to the red wines (all are made at Biscay Road Vintners) on a daily basis initially until most of the major work is done and as of next week I assume, I will be trying to have as much input as possible at Rocland Wines in Nuriootpa where our riesling will be processed under the watchful eye of our favourite big guy, Peter Gajewski.

The next month will no doubt be a blur of being here, there and everywhere but it is always well worth it. Let the fun begin!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flaxman's Valley Under the Stars

All this talk about a global financial crisis makes me feel like a glass or two of wine. I am sure that I am not alone, and to make us even more fragile, it has now been recommended that women only drink one alcoholic drink per day and men two. Whilst it may be good for us (I think it may be slight overkill but anyway..) at that rate I will need to live to about 250 years of age to get through my own favourites in our cellar and that is not including if I buy any new bottles in the meantime! So it was just as well that last night, on a global scale in its own way, I did my part in emptying the world of its excess wine whilst only going slightly, well maybe a little more than slightly, over my recommended daily intake of a single glass.

As I sat at the end of the large rustic table in our stable, my belly full of the most amazing pork that I had ever tasted (thanks Terence and Theodore!) and divine wines to match, I realised what a wonderful multi-cultural country Australia is. Around the table from my left were in actual order, Theodore, Chris, James, Dennis, Tibo, Fleur and Terence. If you were to put our guests in a list of country of origin, it would have been Singapore, New Zealand, Germany (well, six generations ago!), United States, France, France and Singapore. The very special thing is that all of our guests, although born and bred in other countries, had for one reason or another, ended up in Oz. To top it off we were drinking various exquisite Australian wines, another from Argentina and one from Italy.

I have mentioned our favourite Melbournian friend Terence ( on at least a few occasions in my wine blogs. We always have a great time when he comes to visit. This year he brought his brother Theodore, friend Dennis (New York, New York! ah, that's a bit of a private joke) and two other friends, Tibo and Fleur who are ex-Parisians. We had met Dennis before (read my blog entry of 15th September 2008 Melbournians and Mooncakes) and Theodore even earlier (13th April 2008 Toast and Honey on an Autumn afternoon) but it was the first time that Tibo and Fleur had visited the Barossa so we wanted to make sure that they enjoyed the evening, and from the photo of Tibo smiling on the drums at the end of the night/early morning, you can see that they did. What a lovely couple they are.

Then of course there is our great neighbour Chris Ringland. Chris pops down the hill to visit us sometimes for a few wines and a bbq and as we knew that Terence would like to meet Chris, we thought it would be a terrific surprise to introduce them. And so we did. I must mention that besides having exceptionally impressive wine skills (and being the very generous man that he is, he often brings us a taste of his fine wares), Chris is also a whiz on the food front and last night he amazed us all with an impromptu simple yet delicious dessert. I don't think any of us would have needed breakfast this morning after such a terrific dinner.

In fact, thinking about that, what exactly is it about some people in the wine world who have not only amazing skills with wine but also with food?? Philip White is another who springs to my mind - he too is simply a sensational cook! I guess that as I am the main cook in the house, it is always much appreciated to watch and taste someone else's creations, and not meaning to be sexist, I am always most impressed by the male genders efforts.

Next weekend may well be the famous "Barossa Under the Stars" but last night a great time was had by all under the stars of Flaxmans Valley. And we do have a spectacular view of the night sky in this pristine non-polluted area. Perfect place, perfect wines and food, and perfect company. Global financial crisis - what was that about again..?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When it rains..... it's picking time!

After 80 days of not even a drop of rain, a few days ago we were all relieved to see the clouds finally break. Of course, in the back of our minds was the hope that if it was raining here perhaps in a few days time the same clouds would reach Victoria and put at least a little dampness on what remained of the ferocious fires that claimed over 200 lives. According to today's news, that is exactly what happened so there is much to be thankful for.

What the rain also meant was that suddenly there was the threat of split skins on the severely dehydrated grapes that had endured not only the rainless 80 days but also the week or two of horror temperatures hovering around the low to mid -forties (degrees celcius). The poor skins had shrivelled so much that even minimal moisture had them bursting at the seams. On the whole, whilst it is a problem, it is minor compared to many others that vignerons have faced country-wide and we will still produce a 2009 vintage which is more than some.

So tonight as I heard the ute with trailer in tow rattling up the gravel driveway, grape bins strapped to the back, I knew it was only a matter of days before we would be heading up to the high hills to start our grape-picking season. Ironically I thought we would be starting with our Barossa Shiraz from down on the Valley floor but at this stage it appears the Eden Valley Riesling will be the first to "come off". In any event, as always, it will be a huge relief to get the crops off and the wines processed. I will be uploading photos and hopefully videos of this years processing in the coming weeks.