Sunday, October 17, 2010

On the road again.......

I'm in Singapore this week for the NZ wine promo. Tonight (Saturday evening) was a consumer tasting at Loof. Loof is a rooftop bar/restaurant in that great city. They describe themselves as: "loof is a bar on a roof, a playfully versatile space which is multidimensional, split-level, and a juxtaposition of raw against refined. loof is designed as a refuge for the bedraggled office worker, a respite for the brilliant mind, a sanctuary for fools, a canvas for the budding artist and the launch pad for a brilliant night." Sounds great eh? That's what I thought too, but try pouring tastings for a big crowd in 30 degrees plus, and near 100% humidity! Anyway, good fun and lots of new converts to Murdoch James Estate wines. And a great location. The bar is on the roof of an office block with spectacular views of Singapore and nearby skyscrapers. Think I'll just come for a glass of Murdoch James Pinot Gris and enjoy the view next time though.

Tomorrow is a free day then Monday is full on with trade and media promotions. 

While I am away working hard to get Murdoch James established in the key Asian markets, back at home wine-maker Carl is preparing to bottle our specialty wines: 'The MacIntyre' (our port style fortified red, named after a much loved old friend who died last year), the 'Rhiannon Rosé (this is our Pinot Meunier rosé named to celebrate the birth of my first grandchild), the 2010 Riesling, the 2009 Blue Rock Pinot Noir and the 'Trafalgar' (our ice-wine style late harvest wine). Lots on, but very exciting. There are some great wines in this grouping! Make sure you are on our contact list if any sound interesting as most of these will just be sold at cellar door or direct to our regular internet customers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our Chardonnay vines bite the dust!

A few months ago, we made the hard decision to remove our 26 year old Chardonnay vines.

They were ungrafted plants which, for those that do not know, meant that they were vulnerable to phylloxera which is a sap-sucking bug related to aphids. This bug eventually drains so much goodness from the vines that the plant will die. Martinborough was free of this problem until about two years ago when poor quarantine practices at one of the local wineries saw it established here. Now with phylloxera one thing is certain - if it is in town it will spread to all the local vineyards eventually. So the upshot is that all ungrafted plants here are going to die.

What folk now do to avoid this risk is to graft the vines you want (i.e. Syrah, Reisling or whatever) onto phylloxera resistant Amercian rootstock

But phylloxera was not the main driver for the decision. We are in Pinot Noir territory and if we make a great bottle of Pinot, we can sell it for upwards of $40, while a chardonnay will command a much lower price. So it came down to simple economics. In this difficult financial era we have to optimise our efforts, and so we have decided to replace the chardonnay with Pinot Noir.

Now that is an easy decision to make in the winery office, but as you can see from the photo above, heart-breaking when you look at the consequences for these old vines. Specially when one then looks at where the other vines are up to at this time of year. All are now bursting with new life as the sap starts running and the buds break out; as the accompanying shot of our Pinot Noir vines shows.

As you can see we have cut the charonnay right back and will pull out the roots by tractor, leave the ground fallow for a year, then replant with grafted Pinot Noir. For those wondering why everyone did not just graft from day one, think about this: an ungrafted vine is free (just stick a cutting in the ground and the vine will grow), but a grafted vine comes from a nursery and costs between $4 and $6 each. So you can see why folk were tempted to go with ungrafted plants when they might need thousands of vines!