With my inaugural blog, I would just like to thank everyone at Helen & Joey Estate for welcoming me in to their fold. I have had a fabulous first month and look forward to many great times ahead. It is true, I have been consulting to Helen and Joey Estate for a number of years but coming on board as the Senior Winemaker allows me to have more involvement with the entire winemaking process. I have spent my first month getting to know the intricacies of the business and am loving being able to arrive at such a beautiful place every morning for work. The vineyard is looking great and I am getting excited about the imminent flowering of all the vines. Spring is always such a busy time in the vineyard and I am lucky to have such a great team with Jamie and Dave in the vineyard, and Stuart in the winery. Everyone has been very busy over the last month and here is just a little of what we have been up to.
We have been very busy the last 2 weeks blending all of our Inara wines. These wines traditionally don’t have any oak ageing (or minimal oak ageing) which means they are best enjoyed fresh and young. We aim to get them in bottle before the summer following vintage to retain their fruit purity. Stu and I pulled samples of all the various elements of the wine and have had fun putting together the pieces of the blending puzzle. To start the blending process, we taste through each batch of wine and then make our initial blend, usually based on volume. The fun part starts when we begin to tweak the blend, adding a bit of this and a bit of that – much like cooking. This process can take time as we have so many parts of the equation to balance but it is great fun and always a thrill to see the end result of nearly a year’s work.
LAYLA AND ALENA BLENDING
Our Layla and Alena wines usually age for between 9 months to 18 months before release – some of this ageing is in oak and some is in tank and/or bottle. The Layla and Alena medium to full bodied reds and red blends still need further time in oak to soften their tannins and allow for integration of the oak, fruit and tannin profile. However, the early ripening varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot noir, have usually accumulated sufficient oak flavours after 6 to 9 months so we have been putting together provisional blends for these wines. The photos show the final two blends for the 2016 Layla Pinot Noir.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
I have been kicking around the Yarra Valley, off and on, for a long time and I can only recall one other year where the spring was as wet and cold as this one. We have had amazing amounts of rainfall and our dams are full. While we always welcome rain, particularly after the decade of drought, we would like the rain gods to stop now so we can get on with some work in the vineyard. Jamie has struggled to get out in the vineyard over the last month and we are at a crucial time in the vineyard calendar. The vines have all burst and we have the bunch precursors on the vines and being unable to physically get in to the vineyard because of the rain has meant we will have a very busy November as the weather warms (and, hopefully, dries!) up.
Flowering should occur early to mid November and Jamie will be kept busy desuckering the vineyard. Suckers are shoots at the bottom of the trunk which sap the resources of the vine (water, nutrients, etc) so we remove them to give us the greatest chance of ripening our grapes come late summer and autumn.
Let’s hope the weather is kind to us so we can get on with our work.