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Water

The heat is a white shimmer that pushes on spine and pressures the brain.  Relief is inconceivable.  I gorge on chilled rainwater, dissolve ice cubes across steaming skin, then douse myself from garden hose, with barely any reprieve.  I am losing it, can’t finish a thought, am ready to chuck the day and turn on the ac in the truck and park in the shade somewhere.  Instead I head to the orchard to fix the reticulation. 

The citrus trees are starving for a drink.  I’ve been traveling and no one noticed the stuck irrigation.  The orchard has not been watered for weeks. There has been no rain.  The ground is littered with fruit and leaves dropped in desperate attempt to survive the drought. 

I crouch over a quilt of moldy oranges, interspersed with freshly fallen craters pecked out by thirsty birds. Freeing black snakes of hose from earth, attended by attentive hens intent on decimating every insect and worm I dislodge, I search for the junction. I unscrew and unblock every sprinkler head, pull apart every connector and steadily work the blockage loose.  The water returns inexplicably, just long enough to douse me and provide sufficient relief so I can continue, only to fail again.  I am forced to dig out the connector completely, take it apart and fully dislodge the muck that’s been pumped up from the soak.

I give the whole unit a mighty shake and with a shudder the water clears then jets into the sky.  It’s Geyserville-Australia! I am soaked and overjoyed.  Magically, the very slightest of hot breeze tiptoes across the paddock, lifts the leaves on the trees and tickles my wet skin.   And without further effort, my temperature and disposition equilibrates.   Water.  It’s a mindboggling miracle.  Changes absolutely everything.   

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Blogicide

Weevils are showing up on the edges of the vineyard.  I can see the telltale swiss cheese effect they’ve tattooed into the leaves. Some have made it into the tiny grape clusters, slicing away pieces of developing fruit, an action that demands a response.  I crawl on my belly, commando style, performing reconnaissance, searching for these well-camouflaged guerillas.  They are bivouacked in the mulch and under the bark and in some cases in the very band of dacron we’ve attached to the vines in order to slow their upward progress.  High weeds have thwarted the dacron perimeter, giving the critters a green bridge with direct access to the developing vines.  I gather one weevil at a time and pop them into a jar for “interrogation".

The guinea fowl were supposed to stand watch and devour insects, but have been rare visitors to this part of the farm.  They’ve become accustomed to the handouts of grain supplied to the chickens. Though I am contemplating ways of enticing them back into the vines, I realize that that will take time and the weevils are infiltrating now.  

Meanwhile, five female guinea fowl have nested in a somewhat protected corner near the orchard and are sharing the brooding watch.  They are somewhat indifferent nesters, taking frequent breaks to wander off for a feed, and in the process, leaving their eggs exposed.  When I approach the nesting site to snap a photo, I’m scolded by a sole bird who noisily, but ineffectually raises the alarm.  

Last year Peepling the duck sat on the eggs and mothered the hatchlings, killing several in the process. This year I’m letting nature take its course, and despite being dubious about their reliability as mothers, I’m letting them sit on their own eggs.  My expectations are low - we’ve only seen one baby guinea fowl emerge and thrive in this way in our ten years on the farm. And we’ve lost nesting guinea fowl to foxes as well, but this nest is close to our human presence whereas the previous ones weren’t.

There’s an approved organic spray for weevils, consisting of an extract from a root.  When ingested, it causes a tummy ache and discourages further munching.  Supposedly it’s specific for weevils, but that very claim churns my unease. How could it be?  All my trusted experts advise me to “bomb” the vineyard or risk losing a substantial amount of the crop, but I resist.  What effect will it have on the life in the soil?  What long-term consequences will there be for the many beneficial insects flourishing in the vines?   Will it affect the grapes?  Will it cause an imbalance I’ll have to deal with later?  More significantly, can I manually remove enough weevils to avoid the spray experiment entirely?

Rudolf Steiner suggested controlling insects with the technique of “peppering” – essentially spreading an ash, generally on the full moon, made from burning a quantity of undesirable pests.  Done properly, it is said to eradicate the critters entirely.  Though I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve yet to reach any conclusions about its efficacy. At the same time, I’m also wondering if this is too radical.  It reflects my ongoing dilemma about farming - every action I take has a noticable effect.  And so I’m stalking the vines, staring at weevil-shot leaves and calculating potential fruit loss.  It’s my ongoing quandary as I pick a peck of weevils to bake in a pie.

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Swirling into the Light

I’m swimming up through foaming waters into awareness, dimly registering that my phone alarm is singing away in the kitchen.  I shuffle sleepily through the house but shift directly into alertness the moment my bare feet touch damp earth.  The sea is quiet, Mercury and Venus lifting above the horizon, Sun on its way.  A magpie trills and little birds are chatting, and when I thoughtlessly flick on the light in the shed, the rooster sends out an eager crow. I switch it off and light a candle, focus my prayers, calling to the realms.

I am bringing light to the vineyard, magnetizing the air, raising the vibration. I’ve felt a heaviness here since my return.  The work has been sluggish.  Progress on every front has been lethargic at best, but mostly halting, excruciating, blocked.  Weeds press in from all directions.  Clarity has fled.  I know the outer reflects the inner and so this practice works on me as well.

I swirl the 501, carrying an embodiment of mantra, of dream, of light.  And for moments I am able to bypass my chattering mind, to be with the essence of the now awakening world.  This for all sentient beings!  This for Veritas!  This for the ancestral dream made manifest!  I carry all of this into the vineyard.

The earth is exhaling.  The winds are yet to stir.  The vines stretch skyward drenched in dew, gossamer webs shimmer in yellow rose light.  Shoots and tendrils reach for me as I move through expectant plants.  I am soaked in mist.  I’m respiring various nectars of peppie flowers and wet earth and moldering weeds and I’m feeling everything.  And as the sun hits, little rainbows sparkle and drift off into patches of vineyard.  Bursts of Light shimmer across creation and I swim with them out into the sunlit world.

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I'm Starting to Return

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I'm Starting to Return

It’s the new moon and I’m in the limbo between jetlag and frustration as I face an extensive catalog of overdue projects after a month of travel.  I’m spinning my wheels, and I’m just shy of coherent, and I’m basically perturbed, and it’s physical.  And I can’t help feeling that I’ve been away too long, once again.  The vineyard is full of weeds, the chardonnay is flowering and we need to shoot thin and wire lift and just thinking about what’s required for the new trellising is confoundational.   I can’t even complete a single thought.

In an effort to ground myself, I bare my feet and head off across the land.  The peppermints are in bloom and the grasses are in full seed and there’s a heady breeze of blossom that’s practically hallucinogenic.  I see the waves of hoary tipped seed heads dipping in the wind and it looks like glistening frost and the peppies appear covered in snow and I’m a bit cold although it’s effectively summer.  The scent is calling to me and I will it to transport me somewhere and I step on something sharp and am immediately carried into a world of pain. My feet have lost all condition in one short month of shoe wearing travel.

The rain gusts in, and I’m shivering and thinking about returning to the shelter of the house and then I’m excoriating myself for weakness.  I shiver into it, haltingly easing my resistance and suddenly I see a gang of white tailed black cockatoos patrolling through the seeds.  They are feeding and walking along and now and then one lifts up and heads to the front of the pack and they are oblivious to me.  A mob of roos lope in and start to feed and I must be invisible cause I’m holding up my Iphone, videoing all of this and they are simply placid, newly domesticated, unruffled.  I am close enough to see the details of an earflick, a belly scratch, a mouthful of munched grass and then they are onto me and lope off in a great circle.

The rain has abated, sun ducking through silvery grey wisps, drifting elsewhere.  I notice that I’m no longer shivering and that the rough grass on my bare feet actually feels pleasurable, sensual, tonic.  A calm is on the land and I’m starting to return.

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The New Season

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The New Season

The change has arrived before it is perceived. The morning light appearing earlier, the chill of night dropping out sooner in the day, an increased nesting activity of swallows under the eaves, an escalation in boxing by our resident “teenager” kangaroos. I’m seeing new wildflowers popping up everywhere, and the weeds are taking on greater vigor as they choke their way across the vineyard.

I’m being called out to get to work after a winter hiatus and my body, mostly my back, is protesting. I resolve to ease into it, to keep my perceptions open, to listen to myself strengthening into the season. But then there’s the little matter of my racing mind. 

I’m calculating a world of weeds and the hours needed to pull them. I’m looking at several weeks’ worth and it’s overwhelming. I’m looking at thousands of vines calling for pruning, and I’m noticing that the chardonnay’s buds are already soft, introducing urgency, adding to the mounting pressure in my head. And there’s the major matter of planting thousands of posts and drilling holes and stringing wires and the attendant demands and costs of trellising. And the time and organization needed and this desperately churning mind is just not the way to approach returning to the vines! 

I hike off across our farm looking outward/inward for perspective, noticing how thoroughly unmoored I’ve become by focusing on Cloudburst’s business concerns. I’ve been spending way too much time on the phone and the internet and I need to reconnect with the earth. I remove my boots and socks and dig into the cool wet green. The very muscles of my feet are aching from disuse, every step is a tretch and a yearning. I’m feeling the perspective already, this is real, it hurts so good, this is what I need, what Cloudburst needs. 

And then a flock of White tailed Black Cockatoos, chuckling like a great gang of clowns, scatters in over the ridge, nestling into the ancient marris above me.

I’m smiling, all cares forgotten until a rain of honky nuts threaten to brain me. I head out into the open, entering into the springtime, lighter-hearted, perspective restored, determined to bring this into the vines. 

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Winter on the Farm

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Winter on the Farm

A tumbling wall of gray rumbles across the orchard obliterating everything. The din on the roof is overwhelming and unrelenting. The rain just won’t stop. The wind pushes against the house, sings in the wires and hums down the stovepipe. I step out to greet the storm and am buffeted back by massive gusts. I bend into it heading towards the garden, noticing spears of branches tossed in my direction. Massive avocados are strewn everywhere, some opened in creamy yellow, split by the impact with the ground. A brief flash coupled with an exploding crack resonates in my chest and I’m drenched and running, all the while sending out gratitude for the precious rains. 

I’m bringing in firewood. The stove will be lit for months, a presence in the home, giving warmth and light and counsel. I start and end my days here and it is the focus of return, the heart of the household, the focal point, the center. 

Meanwhile another fire has entered our lives. We sit before it’s silver glow, transfixed and captive. And inexorably it burns through bigger and bigger chunks of our day. Though painfully intermittent and at its best, quite slow on our rural farm, the internet is an unavoidable presence. Our connection is through the cell phone tower many miles away and is glacially slow. When the net actually functions, a page takes an age to load. Some days, emails don’t send. This precious connection to the outer world is tenuous at best. 

On my last trip in NY, ensconced in some tall building, I needed my weather app to know how to dress each morning! My iPhone use in the city was vital and I was on it constantly - I actually had to recharge it several times a day. Here it is barely exercised, so my focus is blessedly elsewhere. 

The storm rumbles out to sea and harmonizes with the reassuring crash of waves. I dodge raindrops, levering the splitting maul into yielding chunks of jarrah. Overladen with rain-splashed load of fresh split logs I stagger to the house, a draft of woodsmoke swirling deliciously past my nose. 

I’ll sit with my back to my fire, and my front to the computer, listening to the wind in the eaves while the screen haltingly loads. There’s time to dream, ruminate, and remember. It’s winter on the farm. 

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Placing the Posts

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Placing the Posts

The truck rolls in in the squeak of morning, mist rising off low ground, magpies swirling a hymn in the highest branches in the first touch of sun.

We climb up into the gritty flatbed and heave heavy spears of wandoo, like Ulyssee's soldiers aiming to blind the Cyclops of vineyard.  Quickly warmed by the effort, we discard jumpers and fleece which join the disarray of salmon piles of posts.  The truck rolls off into the morning as we sort them into semblance of neatness and then haul them in twos and threes to their new homes in the sleeping cabernet sauvignon.

We auger holes in the living ground, place posts and ram, the steady thunk of metal on wood counterpoint to the crackling ocean.  We backfill and tamp in, lining up each post in perfect symmetry aided by brickie’s cord and tape measure and dumb luck, trusting our eyes and the strength of our hands.  And gradually, we plant out the vineyard with these lithe and hardy beings.

Finding rocks and small boulders, we lever them out, making exceptions in our strict lines when we fail to penetrate the ledge.  There are still spikes on the ground instead of in, while I struggle to figure out how and where to place them... 

Days later, I wander through this forest of poles that seems as if it’s always lived here.  In serried rows, like soldiers summoned to attention, awaiting the discipline of wire, and the next thrilling command.

I wander through this exceptional block with smiling face.  It is so beautiful and so "right".  It's like a sculpture that’s been released from the marble.  Was the vineyard always here, calling to be freed into this particular manifestation of perfection?

Oh Cabernet Sauvignon.  

 

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Labor of Label

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Labor of Label

We’ve all been there.  A beautiful day, a perfect strategically arranged project with every detail anticipated and planned for, steadily, inexorably turning into an absolute nightmare. We’re labeling the freshly bottled wine.  Normally we’d label at the same time as bottling, but we failed to get our label approvals in time from the TTB in the States and so are at the warehouse engaged in remedial labeling at additional cost.

I show up in the near dark to hire a three-phase generator at a town forty-five minutes away. I tow all two tons of it against the morning commute, sipping honey-spiked green tea, a contemplative Dylan loop moving me into the day. Meeting up with the bottling crew on the highway, we caravan to the warehouse and begin the set up.

I fire up the forklift, lining up the crates of bottles and cartons and inserts, shifting pallets of wine and supplies as if engaged in some sort of oversize Tetris game. Meanwhile the crew is tearing out their hair as they labor to get the labels to go on properly. First the machine can't detect where one label ends and where the next begins, causing labels to spew everywhere and posing the very real threat that we might run out of labels before we even label a single the bottle! Luckily they succeed in training it to put on one label at a time, but then it refuses to fix them on evenly. 

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There’s been an ongoing discussion about our label.  Until this run, every single label had been hand numbered by yours truly, which entailed reopening every sealed box, removing every bottle, writing the number, returning bottle to box, sealing the box, stacking the box, resealing the pallet. It’s a big job and is extremely time consuming.

Just as every single one of our vines has many passes, so do every one of our bottles! In the case of the vines, I carry an unsubstantiated belief that the intensive human to vine interaction makes a tangible difference in the grapes and thus the wine produced. As for the handling of bottles, I’d be hard pressed to say that multiple handling of the bottle makes any substantial difference in the taste of the wine, but each bottle gets handled a bunch of times, both in the bottling, the labeling, the numbering, the picking and the shipping. Honestly I’d rather cut off this particular type of intensive human contact!

The way the labels end up also has great variability from bottle to bottle. Sometimes they go on perfectly flat. Other times they’re affixed across the seam of the bottle, leaving a vertical line through the label. On other occasions random patterns of air bubbles end up under the labels. I’ve always liked the look of the bubbles because it reminds me of clouds and this is Cloudburst after all. And I’ve received comments from consumers and from various sommeliers that this look matched the artisanal feel of Cloudburst.

My design people, however, have been adamant that such “imperfect” labeling doesn’t match the “classy” image of our brand. They want every bottle to look airbrushed perfect. Unfortunately it just is not possible to do with the bottling technology available in Margaret River.

To insure that the label is not placed over the seam requires a “keyed” bottle, one with a built-in indentation in the bottom.  The bottling line utilizes a “key”, a piece of metal, placed in such a way to catch the bottle and hold it in place so that the label is affixed in the precise spot wanted.

Our clear label was designed for it’s elegant minimalist feel.  It’s subtle, feeling like it floats off the bottle.  But the bubbled execution is artisanal elegant, a different type of classiness, but one somehow suited to Cloudburst. In visions I see our Facebook wall hung with pictures of Cloudburst labels from drinkers across the globe. And like snowflakes, no two are alike… 

It was calculated to be a three-hour day. Accordingly I hadn’t packed a lunch. And the day wore on. We had to shut down numerous times. We actually ran out of back labels for the 2013 Chardonnay, a headache that keeps the work incomplete. Most distressingly, many labels went on with bubbles. Sometimes the bubbles were so egregious that the labels had to be scraped off, the adhesive washed off the bottle with solvent, and the bottle placed back on the line. 

It wasn’t a fun day. I had to remind myself that I am a spiritual being in a material world. Eventually I did find my breath, my humor and my hope. It helped to finish the day with a drink of 2012 Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a mind blower. Thank goodness for that.

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Home

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Home

I leave New York City and fly through the day and then night and into the following day and am met in Perth and driven south into the late afternoon. Through open car windows waft the smells of my country, bringing welcome and relief. Reaching home, I hug dear ones, throw off shoes, and step out into the land. The ocean roars a greeting, frogs chirumph a lullaby, and the sun sets into the silver. Soon I am setting into my own silver, drifting off somewhere in search of my astral body, as rain thrums the sheltering tin roof.

Dawn lifts up with dew fogging paddocks. New green mixes with autumn yellow suffused with purple and lavender and a rose blueberry light all around. Clouds pillowing in great full-scale articulation, call of honeyeater, a crow swooping darkly through misty distance, guinea fowl chuckling loudly. Acacias and bottlebrushes in full bloom, leaves pendent with wet, wave salaam. I look out towards the vines. 

I cross the new plantings noting proliferation of well-watered weeds swiftly overtaking. Fresh leaves shooting from the base of rainwet canes mark a too early spring. Startled roos scatter, thumping earth, vibrations echoing up my legs. Through spirals of swirling damp, I get glimpses of the vines. I reach the Malbec, whose yellowed and brown leaves still cling to canes. A smaller cloak of tan and taupe leaves grace the Cabernet. But the Chardonnay is mostly bare, though scatterings of new green leaves have already appeared at the end of shoots. And winter isn’t yet here.   

A lone crow taunts me from high in a marri. Is he scolding me cause the compost heap needs serious attention? Is he chuckling about this incalculable number of weeds? The inventory of work in front of me has simply got me reeling. A vastness of new posts and wires and infrastructure will be woven soon throughout the new plantings. It's a huge undertaking. New York is still too fresh, and getting a handle on this is way too much, way too soon. I turn my rear on the crow and limp back to unpack, to wash clothes, to settle into a different order, to get perspective, to return.

The magpies are singing an ethereal song, breakfast spatters on the stove, the sun sparkles through drops of water, reflecting golden light everywhere. The ocean pipes in with a gurgle and a roar, and is answered weakly by the rooster. I’m missing cockatoo song, but it’s early in the day. And suddenly I notice I am home.

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What Is Real Today?

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What Is Real Today?

As I got ready to travel to the other side of the world, I had an idea I wanted to write about. But with so much to do prior to departure I opted to write it on the plane where I wouldn’t be distracted. Alas, my attempt to access it from the context of the jet was too much for me. I was fatigued from vintage and the arduous travel compounded it. It slipped away.

Now, twelve time zones distant, in the excitement of NY, it’s even harder to retrieve. The rhythms of nature seem to be overpowered somewhat. And in jetlag’s disassociation, my body and spirit keep reaching back to the feel of back there. Again I’m bridging two worlds, missing the simplicity and directness of life on the farm while being drunk on the sparkle and speed of this realm.

When I left Margaret River, the autumn rains were beginning. The sky had grayed down. Moisture kissed breezes greened up the pastures, while leaves were browning in the vines. My post-vintage fatigue was matched by a world that urged sleep. The season of summer had drawn to a close, and the season of Djeran had arrived, bringing blustery winds out of the southeast, a smattering of rain and noticeably shorter days.

I’m asking myself what is real, as there’s a different scale of real for me today. Nature has been "banished", the bright lights drown the stars. I encounter lovely trees in full spring blossom, tethered to discrete little squares of ground surrounded by concrete. I’m not about to go barefoot around here, but I need to touch the earth. I hold onto a tree, gather blossoms and sniff, pricking distressingly vague memories. Inside the apartment the disconnect is surreal, extreme. It’s normal here to google the weather in order to dress appropriately for it. Back home the weather is woven into the fabric of my existence, I couldn't escape from it, nor would I want to. 

I'm drinking Cloudburst (and Lynch-Bage) on an amazing rooftop with a new friend. New York is spread out before us in the gloaming, as the sun drifts Australiaward. Alpenglow bathes the edifices in a burgundian light and I look off across the Hudson and see the purple hills of New Jersey. My eye is drawn back to the glittering city, the cacophony of horns rising from Lincoln Tunnel gridlock, then back. There's land over there. I see a fox slipping through spring flowers. A gurgling brook. Trees yawning with baby green leaves. The cool living breathing earth exhaling into the gentle dark…  

Bright lights, big city. Darkness. Country. 

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Putting the Cosmos to Barrel

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Putting the Cosmos to Barrel

The Cabernet Sauvignon has finished its transmutation from grape into wine and rests quietly in a pair of open steel fermenters. We finish cleaning the pumps and hoses and press. The wine snakes its way down the tube and slithers into the machine as I wash down my legs and feet with rainwater. Then I climb into the resonating gong of the vat, squishing down into the cool magenta sea. Clumps of skins swath my legs like rich tendrils of purple dulse. I'm breathing a spicy fragrance redolent of mulberries and time. I clutch the rim of the fermenter as the forklift gently carries us up to the open lip of the press. And with blaring rock and roll echoing through the winery, I raise shovelfuls of grape and seed and wine slush into the press. I am breathing a lovely cab sauv perfume, along with carbon dioxide and I keep losing my breath. I’m not intoxicated, but I must be drinking this in through my skin, cause despite the exertion, I’m feeling euphoric. A booming reverberation ricochets off the vat as my plastic shovel strikes its curves. The cd ends, the crew has drifted away, I'm alone with the wine, with the last sloshes of the entire year's effort. I am afloat and at the same time I've come back to earth. 

A cool breeze lifts decaying grape leaves as I shovel the newly pressed skins onto the pile of desiccated malbec skins. The compost pile is growing huge and needs turning and I put it off for yet another day. The light is escaping, the world wants to sleep awhile, to dream a dream of renewal - I am utterly in harmony with that program, I am bone weary. The smell of moldering earthiness mixes with lifted mulberry, rose and cassis and various alcoholic nectars, earth combining with heaven, and everything blending its way into new soil. The slightest rain kisses a benediction and suddenly I see the year bookended neatly. Just about there now. I'm weary, yes, but the job isn't yet finished.

We've tested the wine for residual sugar and deemed it dry. The barrels have been washed and are formed up in an expectant line, like diners at a banquet, awaiting their fill. I've thoroughly cleaned pump and hoses with caustic and citric and flushed them thoroughly with water and I'm preparing to bring the wine home. I tune out random winery cacophony with a mantra of sound generated by my trusty iPod. I’m armed with a flashlight, a silver wand and a focus. I fill each successive barrel slowly with great care, attentive every moment as the liquid swirls its way in.

Soon I'm lost in the richness of all the thrilling smells and the look of it coming in. It circulates with a cosmic Brownian motion and it's the Pig Light Show, Live at the Fillmore. I see universes whirling in perfect harmonious orbits, up and out and away. First this nebula of white blasts a trajectory across the purple to meet a galaxy sliding in from somewhere, only to drift, join, smash and whirl away from and then to collide with yet another and another. The macrocosm shifts through the microcosm and I'm still on mantra, waiting with hand on switch and an eye to properly dock the mothership in its berth, without spilling a drop.

A world spins by and I can make out this guy out on some Gondwanaland peering into a barrel with a flashlight and a silver wand and he sees another guy on the edge of another world watching the rising magenta tide, who in turn is watching some other guy watching the wine. Infinitely so. The wine is dreaming me. Cosmic as ever.

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It's All About the Cabernet

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It's All About the Cabernet

Two weeks later we’re easing up to the equinox and going in for the Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the very opposite of the Malbec harvest – the moon is full, the energy, autumnal, the light silvered, brooding, quiet. The sea is snapping, blasting powerful low timbre pops that rise to reverberate over the ridge, like the sound of a faraway storm. I’m receiving the sounds in my gut like a type of foreboding and I will my breath to slow and my silly human thoughts to empty out so that something else can come in.

The ground is damp to my bare feet. The slightest breeze feathers up laden with moisture, redolent with anticipation. The fullish moon sets down below the horizon and the light has been extinguished. The night has been switched back on. Mercury and Venus have risen and gleam in the East, Saturn and Mars blaze in the western sky. It is a celestially rich moment with various forces and planets lining up perfectly. I’m feeling positively biodynamic as I rock down to the vineyard.

I compose the horoscope of this vintage in my sleep-deprived skull. Addled, grinning, I physicalize the least profound thoughts in all of astrology. I’m giggling with the chill energy of the morning, tasting grapes as we roll up the nets. I pause and listen to the world waking up -- first kookaburra, then magpie, lark, honeyeater, western ringneck parrot, the convoy of crew rolling in. 

Dawn discovers us picking with golden puffs of clouds flying sacred missions through the azure. Then in come the white tailed black cockatoos like a benediction. They station themselves in the marris ringing the vines and set up a cacaphonious hymn that’s immensely cheering. Their presence bookmarks an amazing year – they were here at the beginning of pruning and again as we pick the sum of the year’s work.

We pick and sort and sample brilliant grapes and we’re beaming. The whole lot is relaxed and focused, and dare I say it, fun? The fruit arrives steadily, bursting with flavor, life and energy. This is the essence of harvest.

I arrive with the first fruit at the winery and more cockatoos scoop in for a greeting. The whole world is talking, and I’m smiling as I listen.

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