The days are just packed!

February 25, 2015

THV 2015 A

The title of this post is from a Calvin&Hobbs cartoon book which was given to me by my friend Thomas Langenohl many many years ago. The cover shows Calvin and Hobbs lying on a branch of a tree and sleepily observing their surroundings, otherwise doing nothing.

This is how it feels right now. We have had three weeks on the farm in Glenburn, Victoria doing (almost) nothing.  We,  that is my wife Margit and our twin daughters Lucy and Charlotte, and of course me. It is about one year that our family is separated into two subunits: the girls going to university in Melbourne and we, the parents living in Sofia, Bulgaria, worlds apart, after moving for 19 years together in Asia from country to country. As for many close-knit families, we all suffer a little. A little much, I would add. The better for us now, we are hanging out together and just talking, listening, cooking, eating, singing, joking, laughing and pottering around the farm together, enjoying each other’s company, knowing how little time is left for such things in the current state of affairs.

THV 2015 B

We have all left home at one point or another, my wife Margit at 17 to get an education, me at 19 leaving for military service.  International gypsy life seems to have had a super-uniting effect on the four of us. Shared history and memory are very specific in that case, not inclusive and difficult to explain.

All good things are coming to an end. Soon we will part company for another year.

Life on the farm was and always will be bliss. And the days are just packed.

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2013 in review

February 5, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


All good things must come to an end

January 28, 2014

THV family

Margit, Helen, Michael, Lucy and Charlotte

After six weeks on the farm the time has come to go back to Bangkok. All good things (bad ones too) must come to an end, and the last days on the farm are always the most difficult ones. The brain tends to wonder off and indulges in the planning of activities which need to be done after the return to the job. At the same time last minutes projects await to be completed on the farm and in the vineyard. It is always the same anxiety which descends on the unprepared but well informed holiday maker.

As always it is very educative to spend such a long and uninterrupted time in Glenburn. The learning is amazing, and this on many different levels. Time and place attain a different meaning, and the observation of nature enriches the mind. The nights at the vineyard are dark when there is no moon, The milkyway looks stunning and the quiet is amazing. No street noise, nothing, things we are used from our life ini Bangkok where the city never sleeps.

While I was reading a historic account of the Crimean war from 1853-56, written by Orlando Figes, I was also browsing through a book about the history of Yea (by Harvey Blanks), the charming country town just 35 km north of Glenburn, which I have in our bookshelf. I found out that Yea, formerly known as Muddy Creek, was named after Colonel Lacy Walter Gilew Yea, an English officer who took part in the battles of Alama and Inkerman, and who lost his life during the siege of Sebastopol on June 18, 1855. After that, Melbourne street names such as Alama, Inkerman and Balaklava gained a new meaning. Who would have thought that innocuous things such as the name of a country town in central Victoria and a war fought more than 150 years ago in a very different part of the world could be connected?

Living on the farm right in the middle of an ancient Australian landscape also connects you to arts. In this case the Australian pastoral landscape paintingS. We visited the TarraWarra Estate to see the current art exhibition and have a bite at the restaurant of the TarraWarra Winery. Surprise surprise, a show by Russell Drysdale was on display, whose modernists pastoral landscapes connects the interracial histories of Australia.

The highlight on the culinary front were certainly the meal we had at the TerraWarra restaurant. I also liked the Viognier-Marsanne-Rousanne blend, an excellent white for hot summers days. Moreover, a visit to Rocky Passes Estate which is located between Seymour and Yea, gave us the opportunity to reconnect with Candy and Vitto, the charming owners. Candy prepared delicious tapas for us, and the award winning 2010 Rocky Passes Shiraz is just a ripper of a wine. Vitto does not only make delicious wines (with 90 plus Parker points) but also exquisite furniture. A visit is highly recommended.

I also discovered the Fratelli wines who make a very nice Riesling from grapes grown in the Upper Goulburn region of Central Victoria. Timo Mayer has a new Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in the Yarra Valley on granite soil. The current release is the first vintage and promises to become another star at the “Pinot Noir heaven”, if you know what I mean.

A week of sweltering heat above 40 Celsius taught us the importance of a fire plan (which we did not have but have now) and the positive effect our 12 mega liter irrigation dam can have for suffering humans. Every two hours we jumped in to cool down during those hot days. We survived a second heat wave with temperatures in the high 30ies. The hot weeks were interrupted by very cool days with even cooler nights. That might be one of the reasons why our own wines last so long. The fine and firm acids of our grapes allow for the Merlot wines to age so well. We tasted the 2004, 2006 and 2008 vintages and found that the 2004 Two Hills Merlot did still hold its freshness. Also the fruit (red cherries mainly) was still vivid. The younger vintages were less elegant and showed rather “umpf wine” characteristics.

THV Merlot 2004

2004 Two Hills Merlot

Our vineyard is still in a “mothball state”, meaning we are keeping the vines alive but do not produce fruit. Nonetheless, together with my twin daughters, I attacked the blackberries whose roots we tried to dig out. We did the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir blocks, and left the other two (Merlot and SB) for my next visit. Various repairs of the cottage and the shed were completed. We also cleared fallen branches and other wood from the paddocks. All in all, the property looks very nice and well kept. I can leave it behind with a laughing eye, as we say in German. The other one will, as always when leaving Two Hills, filled with tears. Cheers


Back on the farm

December 29, 2013

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After two years of absence we finally returned to our small farm in Glenburn, Victoria. All of us, the whole family, was exited and nerveous at the same time. What would the place look like? What to expect? Would it look devastated, neglected and run down?

Well, it was all rather normal. Our neighbour Victor had cut the grass to make hay and to feed his cows. The grass in the paddocks was green and fresh. The vineyard was in good condition as well given the dire circumstances of the mothballing regime. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir looked very good; only the old vines of the Sauvignon Blanc seemed to suffer a bit.

It took me two days to clean the cottage. I still have to do the windows. After a round of repairs the water taps were functioning again properly, and the hot water system was ready for action.

THV Cottage

The Melbourne weather with four seasons in a day, is a stark contrast to what we are used to in the tropics. So far we had sweltering days with hot northerly winds and temperatures in the 40 Celsius. But the nights remained cool. The heat was followed by cool changes and more often than not one needed a sweater and warm clothes.

Our two dams are full to the brim, so are our two water tanks. The spring was very wet. The trees around the cottage have benefited from the abundance of water. Especially the young gum trees have grown quite a bit. But also the deciduous trees from Europe are doing well, especially my oaks.

The morning walks are a delight. I usually bump into two families of kangaroos. The long grass makes it easy for them to hide. The birds are noisy and plentiful. Water birds splash in the irrigation dam. The creek at the end of the property is running and full of water. The vegetation is lush though some of the beautiful gums trees near the creek have died. After the bush fire of 2009 many of the old trees have not survived but young growth is everywhere.

THV Brotzeit

On the wine front I discovered that our old vintages are still drinkable. Two Hills Merlot 2004, 2006 and 2008 are all holding up. The 2006 vintage is rather an “umpf” wine. The 2004 is not as elegant as it was but nonetheless we are enjoying drinking it.

The New discovery is the Fratelli vineyard and winery. Their 2012 Riesling is superb. The fruit comes from a vineyard near Mansfield, the old Upper Goulburn wine region.

We have more than a month ahead. More bliss on the farm to come. Stay tuned.


Two Hills Vineyard aerial picture

June 12, 2013

Our vineyard

Source: Google maps when searching for Two Hills Vineyard

My children provided me with the above picture. Unfortunately I do not know where they got it from. Sorry for that.

The road on the right, is Two Hills road and the gum trees lining it. On the left side from the road one can see our two dams, the two vineyards (between the dams and right from the dam on the right). Also the shed can be identified. The white “lines” around the different blocks are from my slashing with the tractor. Also my windbreak can be seen (left line leading to the creek).

Looking at this shot, makes me terribly homesick.

Our next visit will be the highlight of the year for us.


Women in the wine industry

March 8, 2013

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Lucy and Charlotte Adam

Today is international women’s day. It is a very special day especially since exactly 25 years ago I have met my wife Margit for the first time (in an Italian language class in Rome). So we are celebrating today, and I will tell you what wine we will drink at this special occasion.

But before I come to this, let me also say that the next generation is getting ready. My two daughters Lucy and Charlotte are in the middle of their preparations for the IB examinations. They have big plans. Both want to study at Melbourne University.

At this, I admit, very preliminary point, both will have some connection with the land and country, it seems. Lucy intends to do an oenology course (but she will study politics), and Charlotte wants to get involved into environmental science for sustainable agriculture. If they stay course, we might welcome two new vintners at Two Hills Vineyard.

This is of course the future calling, but the two have not disappointed at no time.

By the way, my role has also been defined in advance: farm hand, is my destination.

OK back to the present. What will we be drinking tonight? Can you guess?

It will be a ‘2012 Maximin Grünhäuser Riesling trocken’ by Schlosskellerei Maximin Grünhaus C. von Schubert in Mertesdorf, Ruwer. I have written an entry of the earlier vintage of this wonderful wine from my beloved Mosel river.

PS: Thanks to another “Man from the Mosel”, my friend Thomas Weber, I am in the possession of the above bottle. Thank you Thomas for carrying this treasure more than 10,000 miles to the other end of the earth.


My Valentines: Australian wine industry outlook

February 14, 2013

I know it is Valentines day, but I could not care less. Today I would like to draw your attention to a topic right at my heart, the Australian wine industry.

The questions which occupieds me most is what can we expect during the next few years after the “wine lake burst its banks”, overproduction made producer prices drop and many businesses collapsed in the wake of overplanting and overproduction.

Is the boom and bust of the primary industry in grape and wine production coming to an end any time soon?

According to a recent study by the International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) commissioned by Vinexpo, this will not be the case. The Australian wine industry is contracting further (by about 15%) whereas global wine production will,only shrink by less than 3%.

But in the long run (longer than 5 years from now) prospects are much better. And this is what I am interested in. Sure there will be less volume, but better quality and better prices. The adjustment will not make everybody happy though.

But I am confident that I can continue my boutique vineyard once the restructuring is completed. One of my daughters is also keen to let this opportunity not slip away. This should make me optimistic too.

Cheers to you all, and happy Valentines day.