Sunday, March 28, 2010

Harvest Update - Pushing Through

Our winery will be pushing through a couple hundred tonnes a day through Wednesday. With most casual employees finishing Thursday and the long Easter Weekend starting Friday, we're aiming to have just a few blocks remaining to harvest in April. This will leave only a few blocks of reds and late harvest fruit. This week's take will primarily be Muscat, though we also have some nice Viognier and Gewurztraminer arriving, some of which will find a home in these lovely French oak cuves. 
This past week was relatively relaxed at the winery and provided the staff some much needed time to catch up on everything. I've already started the racking program for our finish ferments, nearly a month earlier than previous vintage.
There's over 1.5 million litres of sulphured wine off lees for our 2010 vintage.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quiksilver King of the Groms

The Quiksilver King of the Groms Contest was held here in Gisborne last weekend, just up the road from my house. A small but clean 2.5-meter swell provided some good conditions for the young surfers, who were competing to win a trip to France and a chance to face-off with the world's best young surfers at the international final. The contest venue, Makarori Beach, was decided in the morning by none other than Gisborne local Maz Quinn, arguably New Zealand's best surfer. Last year, the contest was held just in front of my house; unfortunately, the sandbars along Wainui were washed away during last week's large swell.
I'm sure the kids didn't mind driving over the hill to Makarori Beach this year instead. The contest was held near the middle of the beach at Creeks, though several of the banks along the 2-kilometer stretch had waves. I paddled out Saturday evening near the southern end of the beach at Centres to find myself alone in nice 3-4 foot surf. With the swell dropping and winds switching offshore on Sunday, I returned to Makarori in the morning to find the contest was over.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Still Warm

Though it's still warm here in Gisborne, we have had a few chilly nights recently that has everyone thinking about winter. Luckily, there are still a couple months of warmth left before the cold really sets in. This means that early morning surf sessions still only require a spring suit. It also means that you may see Peter Ritchie shredding in his front yard, even on the smaller days.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harvest Update - Getting Tired

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that harvest is beginning to become tiresome, particularly when we're just beginning our sixth week. As a winemaker, especially as a vintage winemaker, harvest is really the time of year I live for. Nonetheless, every harvest seems to play out in a similar fashion. The excitement of new challenges and new wines begins to build several weeks before harvest. Then it finally begins and I'm well prepared for the heavy work load. Before I know it, it feels like the job is almost done; the grapes are all but harvested, the juice all but fermented.
I think I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. We still have several weeks of grape reception planned; most of what's left on the vines is Muscat, but there is still a fair amount of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Semillon. Not to mention that we haven't even started on the red varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot. Though we already have a large volume of finished wines from this harvest, there are still about forty lots still fermenting. I guess I do have more to look forward to after all...

Photo - Since we can't get out of the winery too often, the winemakers have developed a clever way to speed taste vineyard blocks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just Another Day

The swell has been pushing pretty well for the past few days, with Monday and Tuesday representing some of the biggest days of my trip thus far. No grape reception over the weekend at the winery meant a couple days of relaxation; a little bit of socializing and surfing is all one needs to forget the stress of another vintage.
Pines has had some good days lately, really clean conditions and good sandbars. These shots were from the end of last week, just before the swell really filled in (unfortunately, I don't have any photos from the weekend because I was too busy surfing). When there's waves across the street, there's really no need to drive elsewhere. Nonetheless, tidal conditions did have Mark and I venturing into town to surf at Roberts Road on Sunday, one of the more popular breaks in Gisborne. Usually, Roberts is a weak wave suitable for beginners, but a big south swell will transform the tranquil beach into a series of long, peeling rights. After a good session there, we couldn't help but heading back out once we arrived back home to find more waves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hanging Out to Dry

It's pretty nice waking up early and pulling on a dry spring suit instead of a wet 4/3 steamer like back home in Central California.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Harvest Update - The Good Stuff

Last week seemed to drag a bit but we are now into the good stuff at the winery. With multiple varietals arriving in smaller tonnage, grape reception and lot placement becomes far more complicated. As a general principle, smaller lots are usually easier to manage and make into a good product since its far easier to control and adjust. Still, much of our winery's processing is geared toward larger volumes.
My job will become a bit more difficult as solids separation becomes more variable from lot to lot, requiring more trials and additive rate adjustment. Planning the yeast propagation program will also be a bit more of a chore since more variable lots mean more variable yeast selections.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Surf Between Storms

Gisborne has seen a fair bit of wet and windy conditions over past couple of weeks with a few breaks. Wednesday and Thursday saw some fine conditions with sunny skies and light winds. Luckily, there was some lingering swell pushing on the coast. As usual, I awoke early to stumble across the street and check the surf. The sky was cloudless and illuminated orange from the rising sun. The ocean was glassy and empty.
I returned to the house and changed before jogging back down to the beach. I was able to get nearly an hour of surf to myself before I was joined by two other surfers and my flatmate, Matty. After another hour of surfing, I headed in for a shot of wheat grass before I was off to work. At least I had something to think about while I sat at my desk.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Morning

I love waking up by the beach, listening to the waves from my bed, and pulling the curtains to see a sunrise like this. I can't really think of a better way to start the day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harvest Update - Already Halfway

After working through the weekend with the threat of rain, a high pressure system moved east over New Zealand and pushed back the majority of the storm. Our winery pushed through several 500+ ton days and have passed the halfway mark of 4,500 tons just yesterday. I can't believe how quickly the season has been moving, but I expect the pace to slow down as we begin to finish the larger blocks of Chardonnay and move into other varietals such as Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Semillon.
With everything running smoothly, the winemakers and I were able to sneak off yesterday afternoon for a quick look around in Patutahi at a few blocks of Gewurztraminer. The fruit was all looking pretty good with minimal rot damage; a bit surprising due to the recent humidity and wetness. We expect to bring these blocks into the winery over the next couple weeks. We quickly walked around the Arneis block, which seemed to be a bit further from harvest. The acid was still rather tight and the sugar still low. After just a half hour away, we hurried back to the winery.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wainui Sunset

The sunset from our front porch can be pretty impressive; too bad I won't be seeing it for a couple weeks now that the winery sets in to vintage and my later shift begins.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Harvest Update - Working Out the Kinks

Our first week of fruit processing was not without issues. Luckily, we only had three days of grape reception (Tuesday-Thursday), which gave the staff a chance to work out any kinks our machinery has after the the long off-season. We inoculated our first couple lots of juice just before the weekend and several over the past two days; we already have  over 350,000 litres (92,000 gallons) fermenting already.

Vintage truly began this Monday with the receival of 650 tonnes of grapes by the end of Tuesday. The first several weeks represent the bulk of vintage as the winery stays operational 24/7 to intake several thousand tonnes of grapes, primarily Chardonnay destined for MC base (methode champenoise, or sparkling wine).  Late season rains have the vineyard crew worried about rot and mold, though the fruit we've received thus far has not been particularly damaged.