August 28, 2007
The most important person to our small vineyard was and is Steve Sadlier from Yarra Glen who convinced us many years ago to plant the first grapes on Two Hills Road in Glenburn. Ever since, he has been our viticulturist consultant. But Steve Sadlier has not only a consultancy business, called “vineadvice”, but also a vineyard of his own. Its name is Nenagh Park. He choose the name in commemoration of his great-grandfather, also called Stephen Sadlier, who came from Ireland to Australia in the mid 19th century from the town of Nenagh in the county of Tipperary.
The Sadlier family moved to Yarra Glen more than 100 years ago. The original homestead burned down in the bushfire of 1939. Steve and his family of six (wife Meagan and the children Bronte, Lou-Allan, Millicet and Heidi) live in the little house which was erected as replacement for the lost homestead. Of the original family land, Steve farms about 60 acres of which 21.5 acres are under vines. The vines are between 10 and 17 years old. Before 1997 Steve was the chief viticulturist at Yarra Ridge which is just across the road from his own vineyard and the Sadlier property.
The Yarra Valley is one of the most famous wine regions in Victoria. Outstanding cool climate wines are made here, especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In the last couple of years late frosts destroyed most of Steve’s fruit. In 2002 only two tonnes of fruit were harvested from 21 acres; in 2006 the harvested volume was 32 tonnes which compares to a normal year of 75 tonnes. Severe frosts usually do not only have a negative impact on the fruit in the year the frost occurs but also the subsequent year. Usually, volumes are down until the vines recovered.
The Chardonnay block
Steve grows Chardonnay (about 9 acres), Pinot Noir (7.5 acres), and to a lesser extent Merlot (0.75 acres), Cabernet (2.5 acres) and Sauvignon Blanc (1.3 acres). Some of his fruit is contracted on a long term basis by one of the oldest wineries in the Yarra Valley, Yering Station. Steve sells mainly the fruit but in some years produces up to 250 cases of his own wine, usually made by Alan Johns of Yering Farm who makes also our wines. He sells his own wine as “clean skins” but plans are underway to develop a label and for the more distant future the vision is to develop the old house into a cellar door-cum-bed and breakfast.
August 26, 2007
According to an article in The Age (18.08. titled “The singles scene”), Steve Flamsteed, the winemaker of Giant Steps in Healesville in the Yarra Valley allegedly said that “the future is in single-vineyard wines”. In fact one of his own single-vineyard wines, a 2005 Sexton Chardonnay, only recently won a gold medal at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. And his second single-vineyard wine, a 2005 Terraford Chardonnay, won a silver medal at the same event.
It is easy to be a supporter of single-vineyard wines when you have only a single vineyard, like me (Two Hills Vineyard has only one site). However, where I come from, the Mosel River valley, single vineyard wines are very common, rather the rule than the exception. It comes as no suprise to me that if you have selected the perfect site and planted the right grape variety, your fruit and with it your wine must be exceptionally good. The proliferation of the industry and also the expansion to second grade locations must have a negative effect on quality, which will show somewhere.
Well, the vintners at the Mosel had about 2000 years to select the right sites and the right varieties. We in Australia are not as fortunate as far as the time frame is concerned. But our entrepreneurial spirit, our love for quality and the beauty of the land allow for exceptional finds and with it for exceptional wines. Its great to contribute to this, especially if you are only a miniscule vintner with a very small and rather new vineyard in the Upper Goulburn Wine Region. Let’s move it.
August 23, 2007
The tasting chamber
During the recent wine expo of the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association (UGWA, www.uppergoulbournwine.org.au ), three wine tastings were offered to the visitors. The tasting took place in the meeting chamber of the Alexandra Shire Council where the mayor and the council members convene their meetings. Because Margit and I (Two Hills Vineyard) participated for the first time in an event of the Association, we took the opportunity to learn more about the wines from the region and our fellow members. Margit participated in the first tasting conducted by Les Oates, from Growlers Gully (www.growlersgully.com.au) and chairman of the UGWA. She thoroughly enjoyed herself. I was scheduled for the second one with David Miller, winemaker and partner from Rees Miller Estate (www.reesmiller.com), is one of a few certified biodynamic wineries in the region (the other one I know of is Will de Castella and his Jean Pauls Vineyard near Yea (www.jeanpaulsvineyard.com.au).
David Miller, winemaker at Rees Miller Estate
David conducted the tasting with great passion. We tasted four wines, two reds and two whites. The first white was a 2003 Kinloch Chardonnay (www.kinlochwines.com.au) which displayed vanilla, melon and passionfruit characters. The second wine came from Barwite Vineyards (www.barwitevineyards.com.au). It was a 2005 Riesling with showed a floral character; it was a citrus bomb explosion in the mouth. Than we moved on to the reds, in this case two Shiraz wines, the first from Snobs Creek Estate (www.snobscreekvineyard.com.au.) It was a was 2005 Shiraz. The second, a 2006 Shiraz, came from the Rees Miller Estate (www.reesmiller.com) itself. Both displayed delicious black fruit characters but whereas the Snobs Creek Shiraz was elegant and showed cherry flavours, the Rees Miller wine displayed a creamy richness that was truly remarkable.
The four wines
All the wines were superb; they were clean and well crafted. They showed the outstanding quality of the cool climate wines the region can produce. David did a marvellous job in guiding the largely novice tasters through the various stages of grape growing and wine making. He answered many questions and in a twinkle of an eye, two hours were gone. All the participants were very satisfied, enriched by the experience and certain in the knowledge that winemaking is art, as David put it so convincingly. They went straight back to the showroom to sample more wines from the Upper Goulburn Region. The tasting was also a great opportunity to get to know the region’s wines and it enriched the expo tremendously. A great success I would say.
August 22, 2007
Our car had broken down and therefore we had time for some holiday activity and therefore we had lunch at the Yarra Valley Dairy. The Dairy (www.yvd.com.au) is just outside the country town of Yarra Glen between Yering and Coldstream. It’s a great place to visit. Works are under way to extend it. Apart from various cheeses, all made on the premises with locally produced milk, there is a wide range of products on offer such as marmelades, relishes, condiments and country kitchen ware. The Dairy also houses the Wine Hub about which I am going to write another day.
The inside of the Yarra Valley Dairy
Anyway, we were stranded so to say and hungry. We ordered two cheese platters and the adults among us had a glas of an earthy Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. Doesn’t the platter look delicious? We had a selection of breads with it. Needless to say that we bought some of the delicacies for home consumption. If you visit the Yarra Valley, the Dairy is a “must visit/must see” item on your itinerary.
One of the cheese platters
August 21, 2007
Victorian winter and Two Hills Vineyard
I would like to bring you up to date on some recent developments. The dry season seams to be over in our neck of the wood. When we arrived at Two Hills Vineyard our small dam was full and the larger “irrigation” dam was slowly collecting runoff water from the surrounding hills. However, when I was digging out some blackberry roots I quickly discovered that the ground was still rather dry. Only about the first 5 cm of soil showed some moisture but below there were hardly any to find; not quite dry as a bone but still too dry. We will need much more rain in order to refill the ground.
The un-pruned vines
Another exciting news is, that we are extending our vineyard. We are in the process of planting 1 ½ acres of Chardonnay (clone P 58). The posts are almost in. Peter Thwaites could not finish the job because it was too boggy. The spacing is 3 meter between the rows and 6 meter between the panels. Pro panel we will plant 4 vines (1.5 m per vine). We have 20 new rows of different length but about 1200 vines should find a new home at Two Hills Vineyard. We have to be patient though. Experience suggests that we will have to wait another four to six years before we can drink the first drop from this site.
The new Chardonnay block in the making
August 19, 2007
One of the highlights of our recent visit to Australia was certainly the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association’s (UGWA) Food and Wine Expo in Alexandra on August 11th. For the first time ever, Two Hills Vineyard participated in a wine expo, and that was truely exciting (our 2002 Sauvignon Blanc had participated in the Singapore Wine Show were the wine received a bronze medal but we were not present at the event).
Alexandra is a small but very charming country town in the middle between Mansfield and Yea, about an hours drive from Glenburn.
A sign somewhere along the road
The summary display with regional products
As newcomers to the game, our learning experience was steep. In fact we were poorly prepared indeed. However, our fellow wine growers from the UGWA welcomed us cordially and were not puzzled by our amateurish enthusiasm. Thanks to Susan Kinloch, the secretary of the UGWA, we were participating in the first place. Though we had only one variety to offer, a 2001 and a 2004 single vineyard Merlot, Susan convinced us that our participation would be welcome and beneficial. And so it was. Apart from learning how wine should be presented at such an occasions, we got to know some more of the members of our Association. Unfortunately, Charlie from Buller View Vineyard, who was to share a table with us could not make it. Our immediate neighbours were Henke Vineyard from Yark to our right and Nillahcootie Estate to our left. Large and small wineries and vineyards were all represented side by side.
The Two Hills “stall”
It started quite slowly at 10:30 in the morning but picked up in the early afternoon. Apart from wine, there were various processed foods, organic vegetables, olive products, salmon, bread and even locally produced textiles on display. We were lucky that our neighbours allowed tasters at our stall to us their spittoons. And in the end though we had only one red wine to offer, we had quite respectable sales. The joyous athmosphere had its effect also on us. Although we had to pack up rather quickly after the official closure and could not participate in the customary Wine Expo Dinner, we left the Alexandra Shire hHall rather enchanted and the firm belief that we would definitely come back next year for some more exposure in such an important regional event. We can only thank the other members of the UGWA for making it so easy for us to praticiate. It was a great experience.