A Leaf Day
March is a lovely month in Central Otago. The weather is usually stable and warm but the days are getting noticeably shorter and nights cooler. The final work in the vineyard is nearly complete for the season. Almost every bunch has a last check to make sure there is no sign of unevenness or any odd berries that we wouldn’t want heading to the winery.
Nets are securely fastened to keep the birds off the ripening and sweetening grapes. Our native falcons (Karearea) and harrier hawks (Kahu) help patrol the vineyards to scare away the smaller pest bird species. We also need to ensure we don’t have any wild (introduced) wasp nests nearby; we track wasps back to their nests, so we can eliminate them and minimise any potential damage from these hungry pests.
Once veraison (colour change and softening) is fully complete, grapes are sampled to help determine when we are likely to start harvesting. Most of the vineyard team head off for a week's well-earned break before we descend into the frantic pace of vintage. As the month moves on Gareth and Blair can be seen pacing the rows, tasting berries and making the first calls on the vintage plan.
Racking of all the 2016 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs takes place in March immediately prior to harvest. The blends are made and returned to barrel for further cellaring. We also receive our shipment of new French oak barrels: a big job carefully unloading the truck and stacking them neatly in the cellar.
The phone is busy with all the vintage team calling in to make sure their name is on the roster: many are regulars, coming back each year to help bring in the harvest. Some are traveling from around the world to join in and there will be a list of hopefuls dropping by the winery for an interview with Gareth to see if they make the grade. It’s been a great season so far, but fingers are nervously crossed as we patiently and anxiously wait for the final level of ripeness to be achieved.