As the year comes to a close, I thought it timely to reflect on the 2017 vintage and more importantly write the inaugural vineyard newsletter. After attempting to do so year after year, it seems more appropriate than ever to finally achieve this 10 years after our first vintage!
Firstly a quick recap on the year at Silverstream Wines – in January we started the year off with our daughters wedding held in the Silverstream Gardens amongst family and friends. The happy band of passionate pickers joined us in March and April, proving again to be a reliable and resourceful group. Our 2010 Sparkling Chardonnay won the very first gold medal awarded in the history of the WA Wine Show. Australian authors Alan Carter and Dave Warner joined us for the release of the 2013 Riesling & 2014 Pinot in November, as well as launching their latest crime novels with the publishing team from Fremantle Press. I was also fortunate to visit John & Dorothy Priestley, at their Paterson NSW property where John grew his famous BD citrus. Sharing a day with John and Dorothy in the Hunter Valley was a highlight of the trip! They were so generous with their time and knowledge! I really hope John makes another trip to WA for a BD workshop.
The emerging popularity of organic and biodynamic farming is gathering momentum, particularly in the viticultural world. We started biological farming in the vineyard 6 years ago, having attended numerous soil biology courses, living soil workshops, and absorbing associated literature and case studies. We are now 100% behind this philosophy. We have joined ‘Biodynamic Australia’, and although we are not embracing all aspects just yet, we have every intention to do so. The return of early ‘Natural Farming Techniques’ is equivalent to the disruptive technologies affecting all different businesses in the economic ecosystem. The evidence at Silverstream after a number of years of applying biological techniques and compost are now visible with moist, living soil producing a diversified vineyard floor sword of clover, serradella and kikuyui, two legumes, one perennial all of which will provide the major source of nutrient to the evolving microbiology. The consequence of this is in the health of the vineyard where our inputs have eliminated herbicides and insecticides with only the allowable sulphur-copper fungicide being used during tough climate conditions in the 2017 vintage we managed to retain a healthy canopy with healthy fruit.
I leave you now with some notes on our block varieties. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and I look forward to sharing the highs and lows of the 2018 Vintage next year!
The location of our chardonnay block is the best of the soil type in the vineyard with north facing aspect at the highest point of the property. The fruit from this block has produced an amazingly consistent bubbly since our first vintage in 2007. The vintages in 2009 and 2010 have topped their class at the WA & Mt Barker Wine Show, and this year we were awarded the first GOLD ever awarded with our late disgorged 2010 vintage (4.5years on lees). We have a very limited amount available and therefore have released the 2011 Sparkling vintage (blanc-de-blanc) which has a refreshing lemon crisp taste with an explosive mouthfeel. We increased the chardonnay cane pruned vines of our wonderful workhorse clone 1 & 5 chardonnay by converting 400 spur pruned vines across to cane pruned. We believe the cane pruned chardonnay produces a far more manageable canopy allowing good sunlight and efficient ventilation all compatible with avoiding the common mildews during the season.
The chardonnay reserve block is the balance of the spur pruned chardonnay together with the Gingin/Mendoza clone (grafted 2013) and the Burgundian clones, 76, 95, 96 (grafted 2015). The amazing fruit from these new chardonnay clones will provide our winemaker Mike Garland with the choice in a chardonnay blend, the first of which will be released with our 2016 vintage. The new clones are ideally suited to the hilltop shaded corner of the chardonnay block. There is a trend towards leaner and more mineralised, less tropical big fruit flavours in chardonnay. The 2017 vintage in particular is going to be a leaner, lower alcohol wine. A lot of this is to do with the weather as it was cool with the odd shower during ripening, hence the baumé levels were struggling to increase and rather than pick on baumé which stalled it became apparent that falling acid levels were the green light to start picking.
What an avalanche of good news there is about riesling, and about time! How many show results, wine articles and comments about riesling have been topical during the last 18 months? The depth of flavour, character, and bouquet of both new and aged rieslings makes this variety an ecstasy in anticipation. Rhine riesling is a natural fit at Silverstream, it has the lower gravelly/loamy slopes below the chardonnay block. This more shaded and cooler location falls down hill to our permanent lake at the bottom of the vale. It is a picturesque, well suited location for this variety. The 2017 vintage was once again a consistent performing cane pruned canopy of adequate size to slowly ripen this fruit. The ripening progressed at snails pace with acid levels once again falling to an acceptable level to allow picking. We have nearly sold out of our 2013 vintage after the highly successful double trophy winning 2012 Riesling. We are now about to release the 2014 and not withstanding our successes are holding the price at $23 per bottle per the dozen. Riesling has great versatility as ageing produces such a different character, we implore you not to drink it all straight away but to cellar a proportion as it has the age capacity of an elephant.
We couldn’t be happier with the true form consistency of such a difficult variety. We have managed to come through an extraordinarily difficult wet cool vintage with minimum disease. Our biological approach is partnered with the location of the block next to our 2ac pristine Karri forrest with its teaming fungi bacteria, orchids and deep forrest litter. What an ‘insect resort’, and right on the pinot block’s door step! We are now out of the long lasting and first 2012 vintage and have released the 2014 Pinot which is a fruit bomb with underlying earthy mineral nuances.
This variety may be the old man (of Cabernet Sauvignon), who was pushed off the throne back in the 70’s but grown successfully in the Great Southern, it is a true cool climate red. Not all vintages are possible and this year because of the wet cool finish all our cabernet franc will be used to make a Rosé. Previous vintages particularly the award winning 2011 produced the most flavoursome wine so suited to spicy cuisine. It has a softness of subtle favours producing a seamless un-interrupting combination with food. We have just returned from a trip to South Africa visiting both Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, the importance of Cabernet Franc particularly in the highly suited location of Franschhoek has led this variety to be far more popular than in Australia, where Cabernet Sauvignon leads the pack. Hopefully Cabernet Franc will make a serious challenge in the near future.