The 2009 harvest is now safely in the tanks after a strange summer, in fact we didn’t have a normal summer, average temperatures were a good 4 to 5 degrees centigrade cooler. This resulted in a longer ripening period which should be good for this year’s wines and all the early signs indicate this will be so.
This year’s Sauvignion Blanc has developed surprising characteristics with a greenness noticeable on the nose and the palate, most unusal for a warm climate sauvignon and very pleasing with a balanced acidity that gives a very fresh and lively taste.
We have made an unwooded Chardonnay for the first time in a fashion that attempts to emulate some of the style of North Italian Chardonnays, with good varietal character while remaining fruity, fresh and dry, without the overbearing use of wood.
Viognier, one of my favourites, is again showing signs of fresh apricot and peach, this dry wine is starting to show the character of the vineyard or terroir and we expect it to develop as the vines age, showing a more serious character and less of the exuberance of youth.
This year’s harvest of reds is still undergoing malolactic fermentation and causing the winemaker, Suzanne Miller pictured above, the usual headaches as the season drifts into the winter’s lower temperatures. First indications are for a lower alcohol with good colour, structure and body.
We have just bottled the first wine under the Schalkenbosch label. A 2006 southern Rhone style wine made from Shiraz, Grenache, Mouverdre, Cinsaut and Viognier. The wine spent 18 months in new and 2nd fill French and American oak before being transferred to older barrels to mature. This is a really good wine with full body, dense colour and a complex structure. The nose is very appealing and it is clear that we did not make enough of this big, fruity wine. Only 2200 bottles will be released in June. This maiden vintage will sell out very quickly and “Schalkenbosch Stratus” will only be available in years where it can match or better the 2006 vintage.
Speaking of winemakers headaches, the Baboon population were a real problem this year and still managed to do damage to the crop in spite of us having people patrolling the vineyards. They are clever enough to know when it is knock off time and how to get up earlier than the workforce. Baboons are really destructive, as they break off a bunch, take one bite, then throw the remainder away before moving on to the next. In desperation, we set a cage trap, which does not harm them, in order to try and capture and relocate them. The trap works on a simple trigger plate which the baboon must cross to get to the food, once triggered the door slams down and the Baboon must sit and wait until he is released. So far, this has not proved very effective but the cage did cause some excitement. I arrived at the trap early one morning to find a really annoyed large male porcupine. He didn’t understand that I was trying to help him get out and kept charging at me, tail first. Even though there was strong wire netting between us, it took quite a while to get the door open and let him out. He scuttled off somewhat imperiously, rattling his quills as he went. Some of the quills he left behind were a good half metre in length. I have not seen such a big and handsome specimen before. The porcupine’s tactic is to present his backside full of quills and rush backwards at a predator which is enough to put off any but the most hungry or the most stupid. In the wild a quill can inflict serious injury which often becomes infected and larger animals have been known to die as a result.
The leopard population have also been active recently and the spoor of large male was seen 50m from the manor house, two days ago. These beautiful creatures are mainly nocturnal and there are several pairs living in the mountains behind the house and evidence of their presence is seen often. They appear to be rearing young families as the spoor of the cubs walking with their mother is also evident.
We were pleased to see our two Secretary birds back on the farm this month, these large and serious looking birds stride through the fields looking for snakes and rodents and are quite rare in this part of the country. In past seasons they have nested here and we hope they will do so again this year.
We have had the first rains of the season with a fall of 60mm being recorded last Saturday, they bring a freshness to the valley and evidence of new growth and life is everywhere. The cattle have started calving just in time to benefit from the new food supply, but elsewhere, trees are losing their leaves and the vines are almost dormant, waiting for the winter’s pruning.
For those of you who know Rusty the Ridgeback – more popular than his owners with the farm’s guests – he is well, though showing signs of age (like his owner) and getting a bit windy (not like his owner!). He still has a problem with Nelson, one of the gardeners whom he often chases, but he is not quite as dedicated as he used to be and soon retires to a shady spot after a couple of barks, growls and a few mock charges.
With warm wishes to all our friends!
Jill, Peter, Suzanne and Rusty