Well, I have never picked grapes in my life, so when Katrina Hill, a good client and a friend of many years asked me if I could come and help as her grapes needed picking a week earlier than planned, I tough it would make a great day out in the country side. A good two-hour drive south of Sydney in Canyonleigh, at 700m of altitude, Far Ago Hill is a boutique vineyard making an excellent Pinot Gris and soon to be released, what should be a great Shiraz. The vines have been progressively planted since 2004, so int is quite established and the Pinot Gris has an excellent reputation amongst the high end of Chefs in the Southern Highlands (Biota Dining) and beyond, as it is now poured at the new Peter Gilmore restaurant Bennelong. It is also served on Qantas First Class. Not a small achievement for what started as a hobby!
Once you leave the small road which leads you to the entrance of the property, you need to drive up hill on a very rough dirt road for two kilometres until...
After a welcome (and welcomed...) cup of coffee, I was offered to taste the juice of the first grapes picked to assess the ripeness. I am not an expert, but they were very tasteful and sweet, and after the approval by better informed people than myself, the grape picking had commenced a good two hours earlier by a hastily assembled crew, as the grapes were ripe earlier than forecasted and the vineyard was pounded by heavy hail the night before, hopefully to little damage thanks in part to the netting...
Après le réconfort, l'effort! Down to the vineyard and start picking grapes after a quick training with the secateur. Fortunately, even though the clouds eventually melted away, it was a cool 20deg in the morning
It took two days to a crew of ten people to harvest the 16 rows of Pinot Gris producing 8 tons of beautiful fruit. The grapes were then transported in two trips to the winer, a two hour drive from Canyonleigh...
After six hours of picking grapes under an increasingly sunny sky takes its toll, but the sense of accomplishment, the camaraderie with people i didn't know earlier in the day and a shared lunch of sausages, boiled potatoes salad and some Pinot Gris 2015 are the biggest rewards of the vendanges!
Not to mention the fact that when we finally drink the 2016 vintage, I will have that particular connection between the land, its bounty and the labor of love which went into producing the finest bottle of wine! Merci Katrina
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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