Spring in the vineyard saw warmer and drier conditions than normal. Days were warmer than usual. Nights were warmer than usual. Across Victoria mean temperatures for spring were their warmest in 106 years of observations, and it was the 6th driest spring on record. Many cereal crops in the district were so poor they were cut for hay, just to get something out of them. Fortunately we have access to water. Back in 2000, about 14 landowners in the district formed The Colbinabbin-Cornella Pipeline Association and built a 15km pipeline from the main irrigation channel at Colbinabbin to Cornella. This pipeline now underpins over 800 acres of vineyards on the eastern side of the Mt Camel/Colbinabbin Range. It is going to be a dry,hot summer. The El Nino is the strongest in years and I fear for those who do not have access to water. Indeed someone, who owns a medium sized vineyard on the western side of the range, recently sought to come to an arrangement with someone on the the pipeline to buy water from them and have it trucked over the mountain to provide water for their vines.
But we have water and we have a crop. We have a good bunch set and the berries are now getting larger.
Still it’s been a busy time making sure that we give the crop its best chance:
- Following a soil test, we added micro-nutrients, including boron and molybdenum, to improve the fruit set.
- The lack of rain has reduced the worry about powdery and downy mildew.
- We have lifted the training wires (some need lifting again!)
- We have spot sprayed some of the worst of the weeds (paspalum and couch).
- We have started slashing the mid-rows (you know it’s dry when the first slashing is in December)
- We’ve been training the young vines in the new 5 acre vineyard.
We are thrilled at the progress in the new vineyard. We took good care in planting the vines, having soaked the rootlings in Seasol before planting and have protected them with Groguard vine guards. This has seen a 99.85% strike rate so far. Only 6 vines out of 3600 planted have not grown to date. Good rootlings, good soil preparation and regular watering have without a doubt played a part in our success to date.
In an exciting development, we have secured the rights to fruit from the Tuohey vineyard which is located about 10km further north of us. It is a lovely little 5 acre vineyard, set high on the slopes of the Colbinabbin range. We undertook the pruning and are overseeing the management of the vineyard too. More about this later in a separate post.
It’s likely to be an early start to harvest. Last year the late February start took us all by surprise, so we don’t want to be unprepared this year. March is always a strange month with delivery dates that work for some and not for others, in 2016 we not only have the Labour Day weekend and the Grand Prix, but also Easter is very early.
If you are ordering grapes, please advise us of any “no go” days and we will try to give more advance notice of deliveries. First deliveries, especially if they are earlier than expected are always the hardest. But it IS a better class of problem.