Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Day in the Life… Vintage 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy,

About a lucky man who made the grade,

And though the news was rather sad,

Well I just had to laugh,

I saw the photograph…….”

As I sit at my laptop with The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’ playing loudly, I ponder the lyrics, deeply. Behind my laptop (which is on the kitchen table) is a beautiful bottle of riesling that I am yet to taste. It was a gift to me today from one of the nice guys in the wine industry of the Barossa; John Hughes aka ‘Riesling Freak’. He’s a top bloke. I am ashamed to say I have not tasted his wares before, though I have heard highly of them. John is making a name for himself in the wine business with his amazing rieslings from the Clare & Eden Valleys - the best of both (riesling) worlds.

I visited John today because I was delivering something to him, to pass on to our mutual friend, James Hook, of ‘The Lazy Ballerina’ at Kuitpo (McLaren Vale). I unashamedly adore McLaren Vale and its wine, particularly the Cadenzias, being the massive grenache fan that I am.

But what's in my glass, tonight? What am I sipping on as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard? I picked up the bottle of Kurtz Family Vineyards 2008 GSM from my kitchen bench but alas, it had barely enough left for a taste. I do love Steve Kurtz’s GSM. So much in fact, that a nickname I gave it in 2010, (‘Sexy Berries’) has become synonymous with this wine, far and wide, as it should. At $18 a bottle, it truly is one of the most sensual, best value wines from the Barossa. I call this one 'The Johnny Depp of Wine'. Hence, 'Sexy Berries'. Yours truly is as much in awe of Johnny Depp as I am of grenache.

Steve, much like John and James, is a champion. Good people make good wine. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times – I don't drink or buy wine produced by people I do not admire and/or like. And I have a very good wine in my glass, right now, but it’s not from McLaren Vale, nor the Clare, Eden or Barossa Valleys. It’s from Western Australia.

Thus, I introduce you to what I call the ‘Sean Connery of Wine’: the Blue Poles 2008 Reserve Merlot. Simply amazing, and made by another exceptionally nice fellow (whom I am yet to ‘physically’ meet), Mark Gifford. The last time I opened a bottle of this beautiful wine, I cooked a (home grown) mutton pot-roast to accompany it. It was divine; the meal and the wine. These are the parts of being in the wine industry that I love. I have made some incredible friends, and yes folks, some enemies. That’s life. My life is too short to have people in it that are not worthy of my very rare free time or energy. I have buried too many dear ones, at far too young ages in the past few years. I like and love good wine and good people. And I love this Blue Poles Merlot. It is an absolute cracking wine!

Now, somewhere in this post, I have been distracted from the main subject, by thoughts of these fine men and their fine wines, but that is part of the process of pondering ‘A Day In The Life’.

What I intended to write about primarily, was Vintage 2012. It appears we are not having one. We lost our entire crop from the precious little hill-top vineyard on one of the highest ridges in the Barossa Ranges in 2011. Too much rain, too much spraying, too much disease and in the end, we decided the quality we were seeking simply wasn’t there. In 2012, the crop is looking fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, actually. Our canopies are still amazing, and a lot around, aren't. It's a very important thing, at this stage of the harvest.

The jury (the two of us who are partners in Karra Yerta Wines) has not returned yet from the deliberation process, and a final decision will be made in the next few days, but by all accounts, I am of the opinion that Karra Yerta Wines is not going to make any wine from this years crop of shiraz, semillon and riesling and that we will simply try to on-sell the grapes. Why? Because it’s simply not a viable business proposition, and no matter how much passion you have, no matter how many hours you have spent hand-tending the vines, no matter how truly skilled you are in viticulture (as James from Karra Yerta is, after decades of tending to vineyards), thus producing excellent grapes with minimal intervention, there comes a time when you have to make decisions which are sensible, especially in this economic climate. It is not viable, nor sensible to spend another twenty thousand dollars (maybe less, maybe more) on making yet more wine (around two or three hundred cases, only) when you still have a backlog that is costing you daily for storage.

Our wines are not of a poor quality, in fact our rieslings are becoming well known and much loved all over Australia, and are very reasonably priced, yet still we have a backlog, even of the infamous Aussie red blend – shiraz cabernet. We have too much in stock, so for the first time in a number of years we have declined the regularly sourced Barossa Shiraz grapes and the Eden Valley Cabernet that we purchase (usually between one and one and a half tonne only of each). I can only speak for myself, as the writer of this post, but today, I am losing my passion. Slowly but surely. It’s time to wind things down a bit and stop living to work, and start working to live. There is a big difference.

I have just closed the Collective Barossa shop (one week ago today) after twenty five months of an average of ten to twelve hour days, with no real holiday in between. The timing of closure of the shop has fit in perfectly however, with the launch of a new online wine business called Wine Buzz, and David and Amber have taken over sales of the Collective Barossa group of wines which is simply fantastic. It certainly is great to see their passion, and to have someone else helping me sell our wines. As I have already stated in a previous blog post called 'The Battle of Evermore', I can only spread myself so thin. I will write more about the closure of Collective Barossa in the coming week/s, but for now, what is relevant is Vintage, or the lack of.

All around me, be it in the Barossa Ranges or on the Barossa floor, the harvesters or the hand-pickers are out and about. Unlike 2011, the region is bustling with trucks and extra vehicles and people. It is a great sight. It means there are many grapes to be picked, and from what I see and hear, some very, very good grapes. I hope the good guys of the game have a fantastic successful year. I also hope they are able to sell their grapes at good prices, or sell their wine when it is bottled and ready to go. I have many opinions on much, but really, to write them here today, is not necessary.

What is necessary is to think about the future. My future, and my family’s future. My children have grown up and it makes me realise just how fast time has gone in the past ten years. I want some of my time back. I want to have a holiday and let’s face it, I could have an incredible holiday for ten thousand dollars. Of course, there is still the issue of selling the wine we have left in storage, and now with the closure of one business, I will have more time for that, if I stay in the wine game. It's ironic, considering that our family are fifth and sixth generation Barossans, that I am seeing many things through different eyes, and frankly there are lots of questions to be raised about much. The Barossa is changing a lot, on many levels. It is going to change a lot more by the end of 2013, that's a given.

The next month will give me more direction as to much, and I look forward to many new adventures. Change can be scary, but it can also be good. I do believe that everything is as it is meant to be, right now. And that includes The Beatles playing in the background as I read over this post for a final time, choose a photograph to accompany it, and look at the bucket of riesling and shiraz grapes which will be given a baume` test later on today, Sunday March 4th, 2012. Just another Day In The Life. It's been an interesting day/week/life, indeed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow..... after all, I may be of 90% German heritage, but there is also a wee bit of Irish in me:)

Cheers for now,