Vintage 22 looks like another very good year, a great crew and beautiful fruit. It was a long and slow season with picking far more spread out than other years. We rarely had more than 3 days of picking a week - with the season stretching to just over ten weeks. Yields were lower than average, the longer nature of the season due to a cool summer until after Christmas. Even when Summer finally arrived there were no heat spikes, so a moderate and dry season. Unlike much of Australia this summer, we missed the rain, with only a few showers earlier, towards the end of whites and just before Shiraz that could have caused some stress. Fortunately dry conditions held up right through till Autumn - a classic 'Indian Summer', with all grapes harvested before the break in the season. The dry conditions created very cool nights, with some risk of frost a couple of nights before we picked Cabernet.
Early on Wrattonbully Shiraz stuck its' head up as a real star, possibly our best Shiraz yet, really fragrant, spicy and beautiful colour. Barbera and Malbec are also amazing, but once again the fortunate end to a long mild season of low crops has rewarded us with very good Coonawarra Cabernet in early Autumn. A return to the old normal or perhaps the new late, suggesting that right now is a great time to be a winemaker in Coonawarra and the Limestone Coast.
Stephen (our filmmaking surfer from Lennox Head) might be turning into a winemaker, joining us for his third vintage. Throughout the year we have built a fabulous crew of overlapping part time people. Jo, Chris and Natasha have worked some days in the winery during vintage, while still helping with cellar door, the campground and other duties. Nich from Clare joined us to work vintage but was enticed earlier to help in hospitality and every other facet of the business over Summer, we will miss her when she leaves. Catherine and Taryn kept us well nourished with healthy daily lunches from our garden, accompanied of course by a glass of wine. There aren't many wineries where your final vintage activities include setting up for an Asado BBQ, a Drag show, art exhibition and music event for our local Arts Festival, before having the vintage show. But Bellwether is far from a usual winery so having a bunch of really diverse multi-talented people makes all the difference.
We had three join us for a week of vintage ,David, Deidre and Claudia - all wonderful people we loved having in our midst, who kept us real with their honest questions. They slept in one of our Bell tents for their week, visiting vineyards meeting growers, tasting grapes ripening, seeing the decision process, then help with picking, pressing, de-stemming, plunging, filling barrels, doing ferment rounds, eating, meeting and having fun in the local community and getting to see exactly how we make wine!
(L--> R) Natasha, Nich, Sue & Chris in Freckleton's Wrattonbully vineyard; Hand picked Coonawarra Cabernet from Wetherall; Sue, David & Deidre in Laycock's Wrattonbully Shiraz vineyard.