It’s Not Just About Pinot Noir

It’s great fun to be involved with Peter Mitchell’s Heartbreak Grape course on the Mornington Penisula. Learning about and making Pinot Noir from this beautiful premium winegrowing region is a great privledge.

I have to confess that I have “a bit on the side”. Since 2013 I have been making Heatchcote Shiraz.

My 2016 “MYGARAGE” recently achieved a silver medal (17/20) at the Eltham & District Winemakers Guild Wineshow. I have to agree with the judges. I do feel this is my best Shiraz to date. Judge’s comments

“Perfumed – black fruit. Sweet mid palate. Black tannins (what does that mean?), cinnamon and spice.”


Chinamans Bend Vineyard 2017

Chinaman’s Bend Vineyard, Heathcote, December 2017.

This is Chinaman’s Bend Vineyard. On the Eastern slopes of the Colbinabbin Range, north of Heathcote.

The Vineyard is next to Shiraz Republic where I have previously bought Shiraz Grapes.

In 2018 I plan to upscale my endeavours. A tonne (1,000kgs) of Shiraz will be purchased. I have also purchased a new French oak barrel and will use 2 other barrels. The wine will be made with the expert oversight of Sam Scarpari.

So fingers crossed for great weather between now and vintage for all Victorian wines regions. Remember you can’t make great wines unless you have great fruit to start with.


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Tasmanian Trip 2017

On Friday 28th July past and current students along with Peter Mitchell and myself flew out to Hobart, Tasmania for a long weekend of wines and food.

Our first stop after the airport was Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed.

Freshly shacked local oysters offered both natural and with a variety of sauces. A good choice is the Bangor Wine Tasting Platter, four tasting of various wines and an accompanying platter, great value.

After lunch we continued to Tiger Bay Retreat on the Tasman Peninsula.

Tiger Bay Retreat consists of two houses, Semaphore House (which was also an old convict hospital) and The Surgeon’s Cottage just across the road but up a hill overlooking the bay below.


The Kitchen and Dining area at Tiger Bay Retreat, Semaphore House.

Semaphore house was our meeting place to have breakfast and dinners. The Kitchen, dining area reminded me of a similar room at Monet’s house at Giverny, France.

A warming fire in the fire place ran throughout the weekend.

Saturday we had to earn our keep and we assisted with pruning in a newly established vineyard near Saltwater River a few minutes away.


Old shed in front of the new vineyard at Saltwater River

We pruned for a few hours then broke for lunch. After lunch it was back to the vineyard for about an hours work.

We pruned cordon pruning, leaving a single cane on the downward slope of the vineyard.

Dinner that night was a whole roast pig accompanied by a range of Pinot Noir. Divine!




Sunday we headed to Richmond about an hours drive through some pretty spectacular landscapes. We arrived at Pooley Wines for a tutored tasting featuring  their 2016 Riesling, best Riesling at the 2016 Royal Melbourne Show ( I think our group bought it all but you could get the 2017). Two single vineyard chardonnays Cooinda Vale and Butcher’s Hill. Four Pinot Noir, the Estate, Cooinda Vale, Butcher’s Hill and Reserve. All wines are of very high quality, but I could not buy then all so I bought a bottle of the Riesling and the Butcher’s Hill Pinot Noir 2016. If I had room in my luggage I would have bought the Cooinda Vale Chardonnay.

After Pooley we headed to Tea Tree Valley in the Coal River region to visit Third Child Vineyard. this vineyard has recently been purchased by a long term student, Mark, who is about to embark on a new adventure. We were able to taste a number of past vintages that show this is a very special vineyard that has produced some special wines. All the best Mark.

Some on the trip stayed longer to either enjoy more time at Tiger Bay retreat, others were staying in Hobart for a few days or just using their last day to visit MONA.

I returned the mini  bus (designated driver) and flew back to Melbourne on Monday.

Looking forward to a return visit in 2018.






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Pruning Dromana 2017 and Tasting

Today we pruned our rows at the Dromana Estate Vineyard. We have 10 rows each with 40 vines.

Where possible we cordon prune. That is we keep 2, 1 year old canes and tie these down along the fruiting wire. Easier said than done. Sometimes we are faced with little choice and spur prune and hope that next year there will be suitable canes to lay down.

As everyone turned up today (thanks) we were able to complete pruning in about 4 hours.

After pruning we tasted 12 wines. Some from Northern, flatter regions of Mornington Peninsula (Tuerong) and some from the Eastern regions, Merricks and and Balnarring.

I found many really attractive wines with my highest scores going to Hurley Hommage 2015, Ten Minutes by Tractor Balnarring  2015 and Dromana Estate 2016. This shows what many have said, that 2015 is a very good year for Mornington Pinot Noir.

There where a few wines that were disappointing, finishing short and some with harsh finishes. Not a characteristic one wants to see in Pinot Noir.

Interestingly the Dromana Estate Pinot Noir has won this tasting a number of years previously coming 1st in tasting held in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. This wine is often overlooked by consumers who gravitate to higher priced but better known wines. why not get down to Dromana Estate and taste this wine at the cellar door and decide for yourself.


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Pressing Vintage 2016

On Sunday 20th March we pressed the wines at Dromana into barrel and demi-john. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures. However today we pressed the wines from the Advanced course grown on the Winbirra Vineyard.


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Vintage 2016

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Preperations for Vintage 2016

Today we prepared for the upcoming vintage which should be about 2 weeks away, depending on weather.

We removed green or damaged bunches.


Green or damaged grapes are removed now, about 2 weeks before harvest

Most importantly we undertook a bunch count and weighing in order to estimate our future crop. Bunch counts were done on randomly selected vines and this provides an estimate of the number of bunches across our 400 vines that we tend. Then we randomly take 4 bunches per row and weigh them in order to estimate crop size. All going to plan (the birds don’t attack) we estimated we will get about 1300 Kg of grapes, which should give us 700 litres of wine, perhaps 2 barrels and some spare if individual want to ferment small batch of their own.

The sample bunches taken for weighing are then crushed and sugar reading done. Two readings were taken, the refractometer indicated 11.5 Beaume, the hydrometer indicated a little below that. Acid readings will be done later today.


Sugar readings are done with a refractometer (shown) and a hydrometer.


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Pressing Winbirra Wine, approaching the end of vintage.

Today we pressed the wines from Winbirra vineyard.


Vintage is reaching its end. Due to a small crop we managed to fill our new barrel but only one barrel with a small amount of pressing wine, perhaps 40lt held in a variable tank. This will be used for topping up the barrel.

Unlike Winbirra, Bellingham had very good yields this year. one can appreciate why vignerons ideally have a range of sites and perhaps varieties to reduce risk.

A very late vintage with some late ripening varieties (Shiraz) struggling to ripen and time is running out. Recent wet weather an low temperatures over the coming days are signalling the end of vintage on the Mornington Peninsula.

As you can see pressing requires a large number of men looking at one or two people actually doing anything. where as pressing down the cap of the wine requires only one woman being supervised!

The wines pressed today will sit in barrel till early 2018 when we will be back to bottle.

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