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Viewing entries tagged
autumn

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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Taste of Autumn

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Taste of Autumn

I'm getting a taste of Autumn here, deceptive for a New Englander in this hot climate, but change is in the air. I plod through the emptied chardonnay vines amidst the yellowing leaves and am transported to New Hampshire and the White Mountains. I've got a touch of melancholia and vintage isn't nearly over. Everything transforms. The seasons streak by too quickly to catch -- what is born, dies, to be reborn in a different form. Likewise the wine, memory of what preceded, is translated into something new, captured living and changing in the bottle.

Will my offspring succeed me? Will what follows match the effort expended? Does my stand matter overall? At a certain point in inebriation, and, I imagine, at the point when I die, letting go of my attachment to everyone and everything so that I can move on, will anything matter at all?

A cooling wind has risen off the sea and is shuddering through the peppermints. I stand in the gentle rain of thin purpled fragrant leaves and see signals of endings everywhere. The light is dampening and I’ve only begun. 

Last night I saw a mother kangaroo and her joey hopping across the road and to my horror the oncoming car didn’t stop until it had nicked the joey. I saw it struggling up the hill, mother zigzagging in panic. They disappeared out of sight and I was left with a dread in my heart. Could it survive that? If it did, what would it’s future be like? Was it suffering? Clearly its mother was, and I still am.

Such thoughts must be consequences of the hour and of the time.

It’s the turning of the season, the waning of the light. Dawn arrives noticeably later, and darkness falls earlier. I can smell rain on the wind, feel the prayer of the expectant parched earth. Those unbearably hot days are mostly behind us. The harvest moon is waxing towards fullness, the Cabernet is ready to come in.

In the US I’d be hearing Canada geese winging southward, the crunch of dead leaves, apple spice in the air. Endings are new beginnings. Wine is this moment, captured. The year lives in the bottle. Autumn is the death that sets up rebirth. I taste the bitter in the sweet, the dark in the light.

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When the Cows Come Home

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When the Cows Come Home

It is early morning and I have driven 2 ½ hours north of Margaret River to a beauty of a farm. It is set back where the scarp rises from the coastal plain and is well situated in a spot with abundant water. Even now, in early autumn, the fields carry great vibrancy and diversity, with a density of luxuriant grasses. The cows look exceptionally healthy and energetic as well, and it is no wonder - this farm is alive. I pull up to the barn and join a group of longtime biodynamic farmers, who are hard at work making the “500”, the critically important biodynamic preparation.

We labor filling cow horns with gorgeously scented manure freshly produced from their lactating cows which we then orient in circular patterns in a specially sited pit. They have designed a machine that extrudes the manure in such a way that it is possible to fill the horn much like filling an ice cream cone. But you have to keep up with it, because if you don’t, a pile of you-know-what will accumulate quickly. After a while I get the hang of it - tip of the horn down, held securely with one hand when placing each filled horn in the wheelbarrow and so forth. We actually are able to get into the swing of it enough to be able to carry on a conversation while we work. I turn into a question machine – the opportunity to learn from experienced farmers comes rarely. So I question and they reflect and time passes quickly. I learn tons – not just about how to make 500, but also insights about its application and effects.

We fill wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, which then are ferried over to the pit. We establish a layer by placing the horns in tight circles, based on their proper orientation, one next to the other in an area approximately one meter by five. Each successive layer is covered with a thin topping of deliciously rich loam, which is wet down slightly with water. The next layer of horn is then arranged on that and the process is repeated. When a meter and a half pile of layers is completed, we move out and start another one, adjacent to the previous column. Finally everything is covered with tin sheeting for sun protection, secured by the weight of old tires.

The preparation will remain in the ground until early spring, at which point it will be sent out to many of the biodynamic farms in Western Australia, including ours. This particular pit is capable of producing enough preparation for 100,000 acres, although this year there is only a need to cover 20,000. Since Cloudburst is small scale, we will hand stir a small amount before applying it to our land and vines. We’ve applied this preparation since we began and our soil is integrated and vibrant. The health of this farm and their magnificent cows is further testimony to the validity of this practice.

The day passes quickly and I shower off and head down the road to the winery in the dwindling light. We will be pressing the juice off the skins tonight and I don’t want to miss a thing!

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