New Label!

Now that it's the quieter time of the year, I get to focus on new aspects of the wine business. And one I am learning more about everyday is the sales and marketing side! While we do have a tasting room in Lockwood, it's mostly lost travelers who stumble upon us. It's great that we get to welcome new people to the area, but we are still a well hidden gem.

I think what really makes our brand unique is that we are a family run business that started from scratch, our case production is so small, and not to mention the fantastic wines! The fun part is getting to see the look on people's faces when they try our wines.

The way I like to explain our wine style is that they're drinkable, fruit forward, and have good expression. I like to be very hands-off in the winemaking and try not to touch the wines very often. But it's always good to go taste the wines every month to see how they are progressing and it gives me ideas for bottling and profile we want to achieve. In the 2014 vintage, I was presented with three new varietals I have never personally made myself - Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the past the only fruit we've received was from our own vineyard, Viognier and Syrah. So while I was excited to be making these wines, I had no idea how they were going to turn out! And honestly, the wines made themselves. I was so pleased with the way each wine turned out, that I wanted to create a new label to celebrate our success. And that's how the "windmühle" label was brought to life. I've always enjoyed our label design, and will go into further detail about our classic labels in another post, but I wanted to express more of my passions that go beyond winemaking. I've been painting with acrylics for a few years and decided to give watercolor painting a try. And had so much fun that I thought it would be really neat if I could turn one of my artworks into a label. I wanted to paint a subject that reflected our brand image and our ranching heritage with colors that that popped on a shelf. And what would be more perfect than a colorful windmill. "windmühle" means windmill in German, our last name Wolgamott is of German decent. (Next time you're in the tasting room, ask my dad about "The Windmill Game", and you'll see another reason why windmills have a lot of symbolism in our family.)

So I hope you enjoy our new wines, especially the Petit Verdot, and you're able to take some of my favorite artworks.

The Petit Verdot displays characteristics of herbal black tea and floral star anise with supple tannins on the finish. Only three barrels of this wine were produced.

Post Australia

Hi Everyone!

Sorry, I've been really bad about updating the blog. But for those of you who are still reading, here's my post-Australia update!

My last 3 weeks in Australia were the best time and memories in Australia. My parents flew into Melbourne and spent a week and a half in Australia with me before flying home. It was such an adventure and I have so many pictures! First they explored Melbourne for a few days, (I still had to work) and then I met up with them to start our road trip! We explored the Great Ocean Road for a few days and saw some breathtaking views of the ocean along the coast! The Great Ocean Road is basically the Highway 1 of Australia. Also on that trip was our first sightings of koalas! They are actually quite rare and hard to find. From there we headed north to the Grampian National Park. It's these huge rock/mountain formations in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in these cute cabins next to the park. Hiked around to some waterfalls, spotted more wildlife, and enjoyed the scenery of western Victoria. We drove back to Melbourne and picked up my boyfriend Robby from the Airport! From there we headed to the Yarra Valley. I showed everyone the small town of Yarra Glen I would walk to on weekends and then gave them a tour of the winery. They were all really impressed with the size and the wines we tasted from the fermenter tanks. I was really thankful for the opportunity to work there, said my goodbyes to Mario, Chris, and Simon. The next day my parents were flying home and Robby and I were heading into Melbourne to explore the city. But before we left, we went and checked out the Healesville Sanctuary where they had a wide array of Australian animals from Kangaroos, to the birds, to some of the deadly snakes. It was pretty fun!

My parents flew home and Robby and I took the train into Melbourne and stayed near the Chapel St. district. It's filled with great restaurants and bars. I showed him around the main part of the city and he wanted to stop and eat everything! We explored a little of Melbourne's Chinatown and found a good dumpling house. For dinner we went to my favorite restaurant that I went on my birthday, Saigon Sally. It was soooo good, and every more spicy than I remember! The next day we flew from Melbourne to Sydney! We got cheap tickets for $30 Australian dollars! Once we arrived at Sydney, we walked around Darling harbor and ate some nachos next to the water. And that night we went and ate dinner in Sydney's Chinatown. We found a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that had Christmas decorations that look like they've been there for 10 years and never taken down, and also boxes of ginger piled against the walls, and only a handful of tables that were mostly full. We weren't sure what we were getting into, but that was the best Chinese food I've had! And it was a pretty funny experience. The next day in Sydney we decided to be really touristy and take this walking tour of the city. We met up with our tour guide in the morning and it was a 3 hour tour walking around the city and her pointing out all the monuments and telling us the history of the city. We learned that Sydney was founded as a convict colony, as the prisons in England were getting full. It was a really interesting city with a lot of history and set beautifully next to all these harbors. The tour ended by "The Rocks" and had a great view of the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. After the tour we took a break at the Hilton Hotel and had a few fancy cocktails. Then in the late afternoon we took a ferry across the harbor to Manly Beach. Which was really touristy with shops and restaurants and a crowded beach. We went and had some drinks at 4 Pines Brewery. Just as the sun was setting we took the ferry back to Sydney and got some great pictures of the sun setting and the Opera House all lit up! Best views were on the ferry! Once we got back to Sydney, we grabbed a beer at the oldest bar in Sydney. For dinner we ventured back into Chinatown to find some more good food.

The next day we rented a car! Our flight back home was out of Melbourne, so we decided to drive along the coast back to Melbourne. Robby had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road real quick. Getting out of Sydney was a bit stressful, but once we got on the highway it wasn't too bad. We took the scenic routes and stayed along the coast. Our first day we drove until sunset and I didn't realize that I booked a hotel for the wrong city, so we still had an hour drive to our hotel. The first night we stayed in a small town called Narooma. We woke up early that morning to catch the sunrise over the ocean. We also walked along a different part of the beach and saw some seals. We continued down south and stopped in at Bega Creamery. They are one of the biggest creameries in Australia. The second night we stayed at Lakes Entrance. The lady at the hotel desk told us about Raymond Island, which is a small island that is being taken over by koalas! So that's what we went to check out the next day. Koalas are thriving there and protected. We saw probably about 20 different koalas on our walk. They are so funny! From there we drove back to Yarra Glen and stayed at the guest house at the winery. The one last thing I wanted to show Robby in Melbourne was the Queen Victoria Market. It only happens on certain days and we missed it when we were first in the city. But it's a market filled with food, deli, farmer's market, and a random assortment of goods! And lots of souvenirs. We found some good cheese and bread and other treats to eat for lunch. And of course some boomerangs to bring home. We had such a blast on our trip, it was sad to know that we were flying home the next day.

I loved all of Australia and plan to be back!

My Birthday weekend

It’s my birthday! Today I turn 24. Simon and I work it out so that we go into work for a few hours in the morning, and then we both get Sunday off to celebrate my birthday! So we both go into work for about 3 hours, to complete some pump-overs and punch-downs. And then go home, have some lunch, and then got ready to head into the city.

Around 5pm we go pick up Simon’s mate TJ, and then head to Chapel St. It’s a long street with bars, restaurants, and stores. We grab a cocktail at Lucky Liquor. And then make dinner reservations at Saigon Sally. And this was some of the best food I’ve ever had! It’s this hip Vietnamese food atmosphere. And we start off with a salad. And it’s actually a little bit spicy! And then we had tender chicken ribs, bahn mi, spicy sweet potato, and really tender beef. And it was all sooo delicious! It was fresh, spicy, and so so good. I really want to go back or eat at another one of their restaurants. We ordered a bottle of Portuguese Alvarinho (Albarino). And it went perfectly with all the spicy food! I was definitely stuffed but we ordered dessert which was a tapioca pudding with coconut, popcorn, and honeycomb. And had a grappa cocktail to finish. After dinner we went to this bar called La La Land. Ordered some expresso martinis which I’ve never had until I came to Australia! We met a few more of Simon’s friends and then went to a dance club called Revel. It was such a blast!

We crashed at Simon’s Mum’s house. And the next morning Simon and I went to brunch at Cote Terra. Another fresh hip foodie place. I ordered the potato and chorizo croquettes. And it had corn, green onions, cheese, and poached eggs. And again was really good!

After brunch we head back home to the Yarra Valley. We stopped at the Yarra Glen Chocolatier and Ice Creamery. I had no idea this place existed right outside of Yarra Glen! I bought a bar of dark chocholae with strawberries and vanilla bean. And also a cone of wildberry sorbet. We sat on the grassy area and ate our ice creams with a beautiful view of the Yarra Valley. Definitely a great way to end my birthday weekend! Cheers to 24!

Harvest is slowing down...

SYKE.. so just when you think the season is slowing down, we receive more fruit!

It was a bit out of the blue, but a grower called up our winemaker Mario and offered some Nebbiolo he still had hanging in the vineyard. Chris and Mario go to check it out and they decided to take it. We were estimating 3 tons, but it actually came in at 3.9 tons. The vineyard is in a well-known region called the Pyrenees, a lot of quality fruit comes from that area.

Simon had already cleaned and put away the receiving agar, which then easily drops fruit into the de-stemmer. So instead of getting that dirty, we just dump the bins straight into the de-stemmer. Which is a bit difficult as the hopper on the de-stemmer isn’t that wide. Three of us were standing around the top of the de-stemmer with large plastic sheets to help guide the grapes into the de-stemmer. It actually went pretty quickly. Well, we did some of it whole bunch in to one tank, which is a bit unusual to do whole bunch Neb. But why not try it! And then we de-stemmed the rest.

So now hopefully it’s safe to say that today was the last day we received fruit and harvest is complete.

At this time, all of our tanks are dry except one. And all that’s left to ferment are these two tanks of Nebbiolo.  We still have so much more to press and barrel down!

 

Second week of April

April 3rd-9th

A full 7 days of pump-overs and punch-downs. Nothing too exciting.

Sunday April 10th

It’s my one day off and I can’t seem to get out of bed. I’m actually quite content. But later in the afternoon I decided to try Greenstone again to see if they are open. And they are! I do a tasting and sit outside. The have a big gassy area and nice view of their vineyard. I tasted a 2011 sparkling, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Chardonnay, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2014 Sangiovese, 2013 Shiraz, 2012 Shiraz, and 2013 Sangiovese. All were really pleasant. The stand-out wine was their 2012 Shiraz. It had elegant oak characteristics with a good balance of fruit flavors. And it was aging nicely. I bought one of those and also a Sauv Blac to take home. The 2012 Shiraz might be one that I save and sneak in my luggage back to the States!

Also here are some more work pictures!

Full Backpack

     My day off is Saturday. And initially I was just planning on walking to our neighboring winery Greenstone to have a tasting. It’s about a kilometer, really not that far, and I brought my backpack with me so I could bring home some wines. But when I get there, all the gates were shut and the Cellar Door (tasting room) was obviously closed. Bummer. I wasn’t about to turn around and walk home, so I continue walking on the road which I know will eventually take me to Yarra Glen. I get to town and I remember seeing a sign for a wine bar. I was still determined to taste wine! I found it tucked behind the street, and the place was called The Fermented Grape. It was probably 2pm and there was only one other couple in the place. I go sit at the front bar and ask if I can do a tasting. The lady, who I later found out was the owner, was so gracious and really informative about the wines I tasted. I tried all the wines she had open. It was a great way to try all different wines from local wineries. The wines that stood out to me, and ended up taking home were: a 2015 Pinot Grigio from Pizzini, a 2013 Shiraz from Cooinda, and a 2014 Pinot Noir from TarraWarra. I’d definitely go back!

     From there I wandered across the street to Hargreaves Hill Brewery. Figured I might as well do a beer tasting as well! I did a flight of their beers and sat outside. And I was really surprised at how good their beer was! I’ve only been drinking the tasteless light beers from work. And from Robby working at Firestone-Walker, I’ve been spoiled with really great beers. At Hargreaves, my favorite was their Cherry Sour. Unfortunately, the sour was only on tap, but I took home bottles of their Extra Special Bitter and Stout.

     With 3 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of beer in my backpack, I headed home. It was a bit of a workout on the walk back home, but definitely worth it!

 

 

April Fools and Lollygagging

So on April 1st, I ask Simon if he’s heard of April Fool’s Day. He laughs and asked me if I just made that up. Maybe it’s just an American thing, but it’s even programed in my iphone calendar! I try to think of a good prank, but just come up with some lame excuse of why he has to work both days this weekend. And he obviously doesn’t fall for it. I say it anyways, “April Fools!”

Besides April Fool’s Day, I also taught the ozzies the word “lollygagging”. I used it one morning when we were all just standing around. I said, “Let’s stop lollygagging and get back to work”. And they all looked at me so weird, like what did you just say?! In Australia they use the term “lolly” for like candy, gummies, and of course lollipops. It’s a pretty commonly used. And to them lollygag was just absurd, like it literally meant gagging on lollies. And I just started laughing, nooooo. And I had to explain what it meant and googled it for them. Lollygag: spend time aimlessly; idle; dawdle. And now they use it all the time telling us, “Quit lollygagging!”. It’s hilarious to hear them say it.

 

 

Last week of March

The weather has really started to cool down, making it feel truly like autumn. It’s such a complete change from when I first arrived to Australia in late summer. It was pretty hot, even at night. And now you can really start to feel that coolness in the breeze. And with the cooler weather, it’s brought the temperature down in the cellar. Which has slowed down some of our fermentations. On Thursday it was pretty sunny so we stuck one small tank outside to help keep it warm. Yeast are more active in warmer temperatures, and when they are really active they can generate their own heat. Some fermentations can reach 80-90 degrees F. Since we can’t stick our large tanks outside, we had to figure out a different way to heat them back up. In the past I’ve used various type of heaters: heat exchanger with hot water, glycol heaters, and even a space heater next to some macro bins. This year we used an electrical heating probe. And let’s just say know the capacity of your heater… you don’t want to burn your grapes/wine. (Insert nervous laughter here.)

Besides that, it’s just another week full of fermentation management and pressing finished tanks.

Large spiders everywhere!

Large spiders everywhere!

Second day in the city

     On Saturday morning Connie, Doug, and I walked down to Brighton Beach. It was relatively close, maybe a 10-minute walk. And then there it was! The ocean! I actually missed being so close to it. In SLO it’s less than a 5-minute drive to the beach. And now I hadn’t seen the ocean since I arrived to Australia. We stopped in at The Baths and grabbed coffees. What was neat is that they had a rectangle pier that surrounded a part of the beach, and bars at the bottom, so it created this secure swimming area for people. (AKA no sharks can get in!) After we had our coffees, we walked down the beach and Connie showed me the bathing boxes. Which are these little sheds that are on the beach, and the owners can leave their towels, surfboards, chair etc. Apparently it’s really costly to own a bathing box. They were all so cute and colorful! There was one box that had the Australia flag, and of course everyone was taking pictures in front of it. Even me. When we were walking back, you can see the skyline of the city! It was a great view.

     We walked back to the house and had breakfast. Today wasn’t a legal holiday, so more shops would be open in the city. We took the train to the city and Connie took me to the Queen Victoria Market. I really had no idea what to expect. But basically it’s this huge market place! There’s a meat market, and then you walk in another building and it’s a grocery market with cheeses, bread, coffee, spices, candy and so much more! And then there’s a fresh produce market in another part of the street. I bought a fresh olive loaf of bread, some marinated feta cheese, and a spicy salami roll. And in the produce market I got a bag of apples for $1. And then there’s a random goods market! There was so much to look at! In the random goods…well it was all random goods like leather jackets, uggs, painted boomerangs, sunglasses, and plenty of typical Australian souvenirs. All my friends might get a koala keychain.

     After the market, Connie walked me through more of the city. We walked through narrow alley ways that all had restaurants and coffee shops squeezed in on both sides of the alley. And everything smelled so good. She said that we were walking towards the arcades…and in my head I thought oh, I’m not really a fan of arcade games, but that’s not what they were at all! They might have been old arcades at one point, but they were these long fancy buildings with more shops inside. There were art galleries, chocolatiers, clothing, and so much more. And they all had beautiful architecture.

     As the day was winding down, we walked back to Flinders Station and walked across the street to grab a late lunch. I had a simple caprese sandwich that was really tasty. I thanked Connie for taking the time to show me around the city and for her hospitality, she was a great tour guide! And then we said our goodbyes and I caught the train to Lilydale. Simon picked me up from the station and headed home. It was a great weekend to finally get out of Yarra Glen and a chance to relax without work!

 

Trip to Melbourne!

     It’s Easter weekend and my boss wanted to give us two days off in a row! So I got Friday and Saturday off, but that meant I had to work on Sunday and Monday. Which was fine. The fact that I had two days off in a row meant I could actually go do something! I had been in contact with my mom’s friend Connie, she lives in Melbourne. And she offered me to come visit the city and stay with her! On Friday morning, Simon dropped me off at the Lilydale Train Station. From there I took a train into Melbourne. I had never ridden a train before, but it was actually quite pleasant! And the hour train ride went by fast.

     I got off the train at the Flinders Street Station, which is a big station right in the middle of the city. Walking out of the station, I was just in awe of the fact that I’m finally in Melbourne! And that there were A TON of people. I was going to meet up with Connie and her husband Doug later in the afternoon. Connie gave me some suggestions of what to do, and I went to go check out the Ian Potter Art Gallery. It’s a free galley and displays art from many different eras and from the native Aboriginal people. It was a really neat gallery and I spent about an hour walking around in there. From there I sat on a bench along the Yarra River and checked out Google maps to get my location bearings. I walked along the river for a bit and crossed a bridge to the other side of the city, around Southbank. There were some fancy muscle cars on display, watched a magician street performer, and then started walking towards the Botanical Gardens. On my way over, Connie called me and said she would be in the city soon. I went to the Melbourne Visitor’s Center and they had so much information about what to do, where to eat, and different tours of the city.

     Met up with Connie and her husband and we went and ate lunch at the Riverland Bar. It’s a small bar/restaurant right on the river. I had a black bean and cashew burger! It was really good! And after lunch we went to Federation Square, which is basically a big open area and stage. They were having a Good Friday celebration. After that we just walked around a little. Good Friday is a holiday in Australia, so most shops were closed. We walked through some parks, got to see the Melbourne Cricket Arena (the biggest sports arena in Australia I think), walked through a plant conservatory, and got to see Cook’s Cottage. Captain Cook is the person who discovered Australia. This cottage was built in England and then deconstructed and rebuilt here in Australia. From there we caught the train at the Richmond station and went to Connie and Doug’s house in Brighton. Brighton is a suburb of Melbourne. Connie made some good margaritas! Which was refreshing after a long day of walking. She also cooked dinner and then we all went out to see the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It was cute and funny, but worth waiting until it's free on Netflix haha. I went to bed ecstatic knowing I didn’t have to go to work the next day!

The last fruit arrives!

     I felt like I was having another crummy day. There were so many pump-overs to do and we were also receiving fruit, and I could just tell it was going to be a long day. I had to do all the pump-overs and punch-downs and two delestages. A delestage is where you drain all the free run juice/wine from a fermenting red wine tank unit it’s empty and you’re just left with the skins. All the free run juice/wine goes into another tank. Then you pump the juice/wine back over the skins, well more like spraying it over the skins. Delestages help get more oxygen into the fermentation which can help soften harsh tannins and also give oxygen to yeast. It’s a relatively long process as you drain an entire tank, and then fill it back up. A 10k liter tank takes about an hour to drain, and then another hour to fill.

     I didn’t feel very motivated knowing this is what I was going to be doing all day. And there was a decent amount of fruit to process. We received Petite Verdot, Cab Franc, and Cab Sauv. When Simon loads the last bin into the de-stemmer, he starts to do donuts on the forklift. What I didn’t know was that today was actually our last day of processing/receiving fruit! Hallelujah! And at the end of the 12-hour day Mario brought out a 2007 champagne and lots of good cheeses. We cheers’d and he said thank you to a great harvest. There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel!

Tired

     Some days I don’t feel great. And granted I’m writing this after a 10 hour day and absolutely tired…but there are definitely some things about work that make me feel like the winery team isn’t as efficient as it could be. Not that I’ve been working in this industry too long, but I know what it feels like to have a good winery team. This year…I don’t know. There’s something off. And maybe it’s because we are shorthanded. There’s more wine work than energy to work. We are just a small team of 4. For the amount of work to be done, I definitely think we could’ve used one more person or maybe two to help with harvest. I’m exhausted, and harvest is usually grueling, but I think that this is the hardest I’ve ever had to work. I can tell it’s been mentally draining for everyone.

     I’ve been working 65 hour weeks for the past 5 weeks. And have only had 4 days off in total. And I hate to sound like I’m complaining about working long hours and about my work problems. But it’s made me think about why I love coming into work every day. I honestly love what I do, and that’s why I put up with the hard work. The end result is so rewarding. And it’s even better when you have a great team - the day goes by faster, more is accomplished, and you feel good about the work you just completed. This year, I’m not quite feeling that vibe. Life goes on and you learn a little bit more with each harvest. Still have about 6 more weeks until I start my holiday!

     Also, we tried a 1981 Cabernets from Mount Mary Winery from the Yarra Valley. It was a blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and something else I can’t remember. Mario used to work there, and he pulled it out of his cellar for us to try. It was actually really good! Still had really bright acid, soft tannins, and a slightly oxidized raisin on the nose.

Yarra Valley Cup Day

It's Sunday. Simon and I go into work at 10am. I did all the punch downs. And Simon did all the pump overs. Bung check. And then home! Only 4 hours of work which was nice!

Did some laundry. And then Simon suggests that we go and check out the horse races! To be honest, as much as I've been around horses, I've never been to a horse race before. There's a race track in Yarra Glen and it was the annual Yarra Valley Cup Day, basically the last big race of Summer. We only made it to the last 2 races of the day. We got some drinks, walked around, and checked out the horses as they were being warmed up. Simon explained the betting system. And their bookies. Betting and gambling is legal in Australia. You can either place your bet with the government run betting system (TAB) which will provide their set of odds. Or you can place your bet with a Bookie, and they may have different odds. For the first race. I bet on horse number 1. It's odds were in the middle. But when I looked at the horse when it was warming up, it looked like a winner to me! Reminded me of the days I used to foal watch thoroughbred horses. I've probably foaled out 20 or more babies... hopefully they've made good racing horses! Anyways. I bet on number 1.... And number 4 beat him by an inch. Number 1 came in second. So Simon explained more of the betting to me. How I can predict a trifecta. Or if a horse will place in the top three. So I placed my bets a little differently on the last race. My top three were horses 8,9,3, just from looking at them. They were also the top three on everyone's odds. I bet 8 would win and on a separate bet that 9 to win, just $1 each. And that 3 would place in the top. Number 9 won, 8 was second and 3 was third! It was the last race of the day and only 6 horses raced. So they only paid the top two places... But my bet on number 9 got my $3.60! Makes me want to go to more horse races!

After the races we stopped by the grocery store. I bought a bottle of Shiraz. Hoping it would be good... But it was awful. It was really tart and possibly a bit sweet. It was pretty bad, I didn't want to drink it. I was a bit bummed... I haven't tried an amazing Yarra Valley Shiraz yet. I want something big, balanced, full bodied and filled with spice. Simon and I opened up a Cabernet instead. The search continues...

Herb and Chili Festival

     Saturday! A day off! It’s raining in the morning and it had rained last night. Whenever it rains, it reminds me of Portland. Not only because Portland rains so much. But the smell. It takes me back. It just smells so fresh and clean and crisp. I love it. It makes me miss Portland, I’d really like to go back!

     Simon and I have the day off together. Usually we’re on alternate days. But since he has a car, I’m hoping we can go do something and finally go outside of Yarra Glen. We talk about maybe going wine tasting and going out to lunch, but first Simon needed to go buy some new work boots. The work wear store closest to us, in Lilydale, closed at noon. So Simon found this guy who sells work boots out of his garage! At really cheap prices too. Sounds sketchy, but Simon talked to the guy on the phone, and well, we went to check it out. And just as it sounds, this guy is selling work boots out of his garage. He has a small display of all the brands and styles he has, and then in the back and all around are all the shoe boxes. He was selling boots for $50-150 bucks (Australian dollars). He had Uggs, Rossi, Redback, Mongrel, Blue Steel, and he makes his own slippers too. It was actually a really good deal! He’s an actual retailer for these brands, and the reason his boots are so cheap is because he has little to no overhead costs (especially when you run your business out of a garage!) Simon got his new work boots and the guy even threw in a free pair of socks. We were all joking around that I should bring back a suitcase full of Ugg boots and sell them for twice the price back in The States. Uggs are relatively cheap here in Australia.

     After that, we didn’t really have any plans. As we were driving back to Yarra Glen, we passed a sign that was advertising for an Herb and Chili Festival, and it was this weekend! So Simon and I made a game time decision and to go check it out! It’s only a few kilometers away… and when we get there it’s on a nursery farm. Which I thought was pretty cool. There are probably about 20-30 vendors, and all are selling products related to chili peppers or herbs! Chili pepper salt, chili olives, chili hot sauce, olive oil with chili flakes, sausages with chili, beer made with chilies, and there was even a chili cook off! And we got to taste and vote on three chilies. They had educational talks on cooking, how to grow peppers, and of course a chicken-wings-covered-in-super-hot-chili eating contest! I was literally in heaven at this place. If you know me well, then you know how I love spicy food. And that I like it REALLY SPICY. Every tasting station, I asked, “What’s the spiciest thing you have?” I tasted some spicy hot sauces, salsa, oh and I got to try Kangaroo sausage! My first time eating kangaroo. And it was good! At the food court, there were vendors with all types of food. German, Indian, Peruvian, Mexican…and I went with the Indian food. I ordered a Bhel Puri, which was a conglomerate of things: puffed rice, cucumbers, potato, bean sprouts, lime, tomato, naan bread bits, and chili! I told the lady to make it extra spicy. It was probably the spiciest thing I ate that day! And I loved it. From another vendor I bought a loaf a bread that was made with chili and honey. And as we were leaving, they were giving out baby chili plants to everyone. I took home a cayenne plant.

     The chili festival totally made my day…well more like my month! After we left the chili festival, we briefly stopped in at the Yarra Glen Dairy. It’s a small little shop filled with fancy dishtowels, fancy butter knives and fancy chocolate. But more importantly cheese! And wine too! There were actually a lot of people in there so I didn’t have a chance to taste any of the cheeses, but I bought a bottle of Syrah from the Yarra Valley.

     When we got home, I opened the bottle of wine and had some of my chili bread. Dinner is served!

Third week of March

Monday 14th – Friday 18th

It’s a busy week of fruit processing, pressing finished tanks, pump-overs, and punch downs. This week we received mostly Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Merlot, and I think some Cabernet as well. But on Friday morning, Simon and I had to dig out a 3-ton whole bunch ferment. It was a Pinot Noir that we didn’t de-stem. Whole cluster Pinot Noir is common, but the difficult part is draining the tank and getting the skins to press. (You press the skins of a red wine ferment after it’s done, to get all the wine that’s left over in the skins. And in a whole bunch fermentation, many of those berries are still intact and contain lots of juice/wine.) The tank is too short to just open the door and empty the skins into a bin, from there you would just dump the bin into the press. And we can’t use an agar pump like we normally would, the whole bunches would just clog up the pump. So to empty this tank: drain all the free run wine, then get inside the tank and bucket/shovel the grapes out over the top and into the press. Basically that hard way. It’s a smaller tank. Maybe 6-7 feet in diameter, and probably 6 feet tall. And the more Simon and I stood in the tank on top of the grapes, the more compact it became and harder to shovel out. But we finally got it done. That was definitely a work out.  We tasted the wine as it was coming out of the press. And it was really floral with some tannins and you can definitely get some of the stem characteristics. I really liked it, and if it’s paired with a new French oak barrel, that wine will be fantastic.

And then finished the day with more pump-overs and pressing one more pinot noir lot.

Second weekend of March

Saturday March 12th

Finally got to do something else other than pump-overs! I was more than ecstatic to be doing something else. Basically I just had to barrel down some wine. We had some 2016 Chardonnay that was just starting to ferment in tank. Normally all the Chardonnay is barrel fermented, but we were waiting on some new barrels to be delivered. The Chardonnay was a little difficult to barrel down as it was pretty foamy, those yeast were pretty active and happy to be seeing some oxygen. And normally you fill a ferment barrel much lower than a full barrel. But this chardonnay kept foaming over even when I was trying to underfill the barrels. After dealing with the Chardonnay, cleaned my pump and lines, then barreled down some 2014 finished wine. We needed the tank space. Even though it didn't seem like a lot of wine or barrels, it still took me all day. But happy to do it!

 

Sunday!

My third day off since I’ve been here. Being so exhausted from work, I don’t have energy for much else. Let alone I don’t have transportation to go anywhere. So the usual catch-up with laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and then went for a walk. This time I walked East along the aqueduct. Met some friendly cows and this way leads into Yarra Glen. It was after hours, but I walked past the Cellar Door (Tasting Room) to Greenstone Vineyards. They are a close by winery. I’ll have to check them out next time I have a day off and they’re open!

One month since I've been in Australia!

Monday March 7th

     12 hour day. What we did? I can’t remember. Other than it was just a really long day.

 

Tuesday March 8th

     11.5 hour day. So not only did we process 15 tons of Cab Sauv, but we drained and pressed our first tanks! Two Pinot Noir lots. It’s a sign that we’re at least on the downhill side of harvest. And including all of that, I completed all the pump-overs and punch downs myself. As fermentations are finishing, instead of pumping them over, we will start to punch down the cap. And some of these can be brutal to punch down if there’s a thick cap. I was exhausted. And it was really hot that day too. At lunch Mario brought us some amazing cheeses and fresh bread, and some cannoli from this Italian shop. Mmmm they were good! One cheese was wrapped in grape skins that Mario had given to the cheese lady. He told us that we would go visit the creamery after harvest was done. I’m actually really excited about that! I love cheese!

 

And the rest of the week…

     More of all the same work…and just busy working long days. One day Simon and I were discussing how to spell certain words. I think it’s also a UK thing, but they put random U’s into words – colour, flavour, mould etc. And also I noticed on the cereal box it said “fibre” instead of fiber. And Raisin Bran is called Sultana Bran in Australia. Also they measure energy content of food in kilojoules, instead of calories. It’s also interesting whenever I go to the grocery store. I’m still thrown off by prices when they are in price per kilogram (which is almost two pounds). And it’s funny to see what they have in their “American” section – Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, Tabasco hot sauce, Louisiana spice mix, Heinz ketchup, and other pretty generic American condiments. Oh and another thing I found out, they don’t have graham crackers in Australia! Simon told me he’s never had a s’more! And neither had Mario or Chris! I’ll need to have some graham crackers imported in to show them what they’ve been missing out on.

Also here's a video of a peristaltic pump! To show you how it works.

First weekend of March

Saturday March 5th

     It was just Mario and I working in the winery, Chris and Simon got the day off. My day off would be tomorrow. So as usual, just started with pump-overs. Mario said he would take care of all the punch-downs for me. It was basically a full day of just ferment management. We had lunch around 2:30 pm. And it was just had awkward small talk at first. But I start to ask him about where he’s been in Italy. And he starts telling me all these stories. And then he gets his laptop, and starts showing me all these pictures he took of Italy and the wineries he went to when he visited Italy last year. It was amazing to see all the vineyards. And just the ancient buildings and caves. It started to spark something in me again, how badly I really want to travel to Italy. And France too. We took a lot longer lunch than expected, due to all his stories. But I did enjoy it. Later that evening when I got home, I facetimed with Robby. And then Simon and I went and got dinner at the Grand Hotel. We stayed to watch the “live band” but it was just one guy playing guitar. He was really good and at about 10pm, everyone was dancing. Even me! Ozzies know how to party.

 

Sunday March 6

     Day off! Went for a hike along the aqueduct, heading east. It was a really pretty walk with more views of the valley and the Yarra River. When it started to get really hot, I just turned around and walked back. I also checked out the orchard to see exactly what fruit trees we had and if anything was ripe. And well lots of pears! There’s also a fig tree, persimmons, and lots of citrus. But those weren’t ripe yet. And finished the day with some laundry.

Third week of Australia - My name is Merl

     So apparently in Australia, they're big on nicknames. On my first day, Simon asked me if I had any nicknames. And I don't really. Sometimes my parents call me Mir. Most of the time, people mispronounce my name on accident and call me Merin. So that's become a running joke to call me Merin on purpose. But other than that, I don't have any nicknames.

     Simon is determined to come up with a nickname for me. And I have no idea where he got this one, but he starts to call me Merl. All I can think of is Merle Haggard... I'm not really a fan of the name and tell him to think of something else. I told him it wouldn't stick. He starts calling me Merl all day and even in front of the winemakers. They think it's funny but still call me by my first name.

     And then one day Mario calls me Merl. Oh no, it's finally stuck. Simon's nicknames: Simone, Simo, Murph. Chris' nickname: Crispy. Mario's nickname: Mazdog.

     As for work, it's another long week of processing fruit, pumpovers, yeast inoculations, cleaning the floors, etc. Some of the fruit we receive are some Italian whites I've never heard of like Picolit and Fruilano. We also get some Malvasia, Pinot Bianco, and Sangiovese.

     Also Friday morning, Simo locked himself in the bathroom. Which was hilarious. It was bound to happen to someone as the painters took all the door handles off. And they've been off for about a week. And while there weren't any handles, the latch on the inside of the door was still there. So yes you can shut the door all the way, but no handle to turn the latch and open the door. (Which was annoying that you couldn't exactly close the bathroom door, there was only one bathroom, and I'm the only female working in the winery... anyways the handles are back on now.) But to open the door to get Simo out, they had to get a screwdriver to turn the latch. Great start to a Friday.

     At the end of the day Mario brought out some wines, the wines that are the components to his 2014 Grazia white blend. Mario produces his own wine under his label called Vinea Marson. The blend had 7 to 8 different wines. Picolit, Fruilao, Pinot Bianco, Malvasia. And some interesting stuff too. Like Pinot Bianco that had 7 days of skin contact. And one white that was a wild fermentation, meaning that it wasn’t inoculated with a commercial yeast, but that fermented with a wild yeast on its own. That one definitely stood out to me. It was more complex that the others. It still had a slight funk to it, but that’s what made it interesting. And we also tasted his 2015 Pinot Bianco. I really liked that one, it was my favorite out of all of them. It had good flavor and was really easy drinking.

     Went home at 8 pm. Cooked a frozen pizza. And then booked my flight home!!! Robby is coming to see me the first week in May. And I decided that I will just fly back with him! I talked with Chris (the other winemaker) and he asked me when I wanted my end date to be, and I told him that I was hoping to be done at the end of April. And I can spend the first two weeks of May on Holiday. And he was good with it! So might as well book my flight now rather than later before the price goes up! I paid for it in Australian dollars, with my first hard-earned paycheck.