Friday, 27 April 2012

Night shift from hell

Vintage 2012 at Vavasour Wines is officially over. The fruit has all come home and my last night shift is a thing of the past. Thank goodness!

The last shift, at least part of it, was seriously messed up. At some point I was genuinely afraid what would happen next and if I was going to get through the night alive. It was a model Friday 13th, except it was Thursday 25th...

It all started with disconnecting a hose...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Vintage is full on... and almost over

Vintage has been going for over two weeks now, and after harvesting over 2000 tons of grapes we're almost done. Tonight is my last night shift and then the 24/7 cycle will be over. The juice is still fermenting, but there will be no more fruit coming in.

Being on night shift means working every day from 6pm till 6am, and sleeping most of the day. It doesn't suck, as you may think, although seeing hardly any daylight for three weeks is rather unsettling. On the other hand, nights are nice around here, the sky full of stars, during Easter there was an incredible full moon, and I get to see a fantastic sunrise every morning. It looks like one of those pictures advertising fantastic holidays in the tropics (only the palm bit is missing). It always starts with what I call the "northern light" - a thin white strip of light on the northern horizon, between the sky and the hills, and a bit later, before you even realize it, the eastern horizon will be on fire - a strong orange light going lighter and yellowish, until it changes into various shades of blue. This magnificent view is topped up by the stars and the moon still clearly visible high up in the sky. The house I'm living in is west of the winery, and as I cycle home each morning, I see this show of lights and colours in my mirror, while in front of me the day is still dark. Incredible, breathtaking.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Eleven months in NZ, time's almost up. What to do next?

Today is the 8th of April 2012. I've been in New Zealand for almost a year and in exactly one month I'm supposed to board a plane to Europe. Or maybe I'm not. I don't want to leave NZ, I like it here!

I planned big things for 2012 ages ago, but now that my time in NZ is almost up, everything seems to be losing importance. It's hard to leave a place which I enjoyed so much and where I feel at home after all this time.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Vintage 2012 finally starts!

After a month of scrubbing, sun dancing, cleaning and scrubbing some more and then dancing again, we finally commenced harvest. The excitement was big as the first truckload of 2012 grapes was being tipped into the receiving bin and vintage at Vavasour Wines could start at last.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Cycling NZ - Molesworth Station (Blenheim to Hanmer Springs via Awatere-Acheron road)

If you're up for a real cycling challenge, try riding through the Molesworth station. There are 200 kilometres of gravel road connecting Blenheim and Hanmer Springs, with beautiful scenery, really tough climbs, heaps rivers ideal for swimming and fishing, and long hours of quiet solitude in the middle of nature. Here's a map with the key points' description.

Molesworth is New Zealand's biggest farm (181 000 acres), it's operated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and it's only open to the public during summer (late December till early April, check here for details). It runs through some impressive scenery and it makes for a bloody challenging ride. If you haven't got enough at the end, you can cycle back via the Rainbow Road.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Vineyard warzone

In case you didn't recognize the shooter, it's me;
shooting for the first time and winning a tournament!
Do you know what it's like to live in a place surrounded by thousands of hectares of vineyards with ripening grapes? It's like being in the middle of a war! Actually, take out the word "like" and you get the real thing. There's a war going on, a war for juice, a war between birds and farmers.
It's happening right outside my window and the usual saying "wake up and smell the coffee" feels more like "wake up and smell the gunpowder".

The first line of defence is netting; entire vineyards get wrapped in white nets - from far away it almost looks as though they've been snowed in - but that's hardly enough to keep the pecking flocks away. There are always holes in the nets, cheap solutions such as fake plastic hawks fail miserably, and therefore heavier measures need to be adopted. Most farmers adopt noise!

New Zealanders have two very effective weapons, and they love to use them from the very wee hours right until sundown (just because they're not allowed to make noise after dark). The first one is to drive around on quad bikes and shoot from double-barrel shotguns (if you're thinking of taking a stroll between the vines, think twice). When trigger-happy old farts don't do the trick, it's time to call in the heavy artillery. I don't know who invented this genially simple device, but I'd put my money on a Kiwi. All you need is a gas bottle, a steel pipe to send the gas in, and a car battery to create a spark that makes it go BANG!