These archives consist of alerts and reports sent to a faithful band of pickers, centred around the Brisbane Beefsteak & Burgundy Club, who each year come and help us pick grapes. The pickers make a wonderful contribution and the alerts, sent originally as email bulletins, serve to document the harvest, so we have discovered. If you would like to be included on our pickers e-mailing list, then please drop us a line at:

Wednesday, May 22, 2002.
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"Let us not live in France; let us quit all
 And give our vineyards to a barbarous people."
Shakespeare (King Henry V)

 What a year for everyone on this lofty plateau. The best by far in anyone’s memory and it is fitting that it should coincide with the declaration of the Granite Belt as an official wine region. We (the pleasant pluckers plus some hired labour) picked the Shiraz just before Easter (March 25) and half of the Cabernet Sauvignon a couple of days later with two inches of rain causing us to leave the rest. One week later (April 3) we (hired labour only, hence the reduced quality!) picked the remaining Cabernet. I would have left it longer but I was concerned about bird strike and botrytis following the rain. So picking was finished early April. That was about two weeks earlier than the previous year, by the way - a result of the sustained warm, predominantly dry weather. 

The Shiraz arrived in the shed at a huge 14.2 Baume in perfect condition. The first load of Cabernet was 14.0 Baume and also in excellent condition while the second lot, after the rain, was 13.3 Baume. pH was a tad high for all three but excusable with those Baume figures, in that the winemakers have leeway to add acid without losing anything valuable.

After some heart fluttering moments for the winemakers trying to find room for everyone’s wines - it was a huge vintage all round - they settled down to ferment. A month later, they are in barrel (the wines, not the winemakers) and starting the slow malo-lactic fermentation process. Actually, the winemakers were ecstatic just to survive the vintage. Who could blame them if they were to take a little chardonnay bath to ease the aches and pains. Think about that next time you sample your favourite Barossa quaffer. 

"...we consider it was excess of wine that set him on;
 And on his more advice we pardon him."

Shakespeare (King Henry V)

 The Cab. Sav. (un-bathed in) is very full and, surprisingly, a little green. It will be a good wine (our usual Cabernet - long and fruity with smooth tannins) but it remains to be seen whether it will have that special je ne sais quoi that separates it from the pack. The Shiraz, on the other hand, is what my winemakers describe as a “monster”. It was fermented using a bleeding method which is a technique only used with good fruit because, in bleeding overflow from one tank to another it concentrates flavour and other characters, including bad ones. Fortunately, this Shiraz really didn’t have any bad traits and the resulting wine is wonderfully dense, dark, olivey and spicy. Wow! In the barrel it is our best to date. The bleed from the ferment - a little (but not much) lighter - will form the basis of the next Republic Red along with the two or three tonnes of Cabernet Sauvignon we picked after the rain.

This one is also marginally lighter than its pre-rain counterpart but with some lovely and complex fruit tannins. It was the best forward planning we have yet managed to achieve for our Republic Red and the result will be, methinks, interesting.

"for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass."

Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well)

 So, it augurs well. The best Shiraz is in a mixture of new and one year old American oak. The best Cabernet is in new French and new American oak. The rest of everything is in old (1, 2 years and over) oak. Given the luxurious treatment of the best liquids, we may yet produce differentiated varietals. ie vintage and reserve vintages although we may choose to blend back. These decisions are integral to the winemakers’ alchemy. It is quite possible we shall hold the best back for up to two years prior to release. I may yet buy in a little Petite Verdot and some Merlot (and maybe Cabernet Franc) to blend with some of the Cabernet to produce our first Bordeaux-style blend (called Blend de les Pluckers Pleasants, perhaps). The wooded chardonnay from 2002 is settling down in a mixture of new French, new American and older oak of both types. Barrel samples are beautifully fruity and elegant. We will almost certainly create a vintage reserve and a vintage wine with this material and while the 2001 Beverley Chardonnay is a little beauty, signs are this could be even better. 2002 really has been an excellent year.

2nd murderer: "You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon."

Shakespeare, (King Richard III)

 Thanks to all of this year’s dedicated troupe of Pleasant Pluckers. There were memorable moments through the haze. Most Consistent (Persistent) Plucker of the year award goes to Roger Jefferies who not only trod almost every row of the vineyard but managed to coerce several friends, now former friends, into doing the same. Most Out Of Pocket Plucker of the year award goes to Iain Meers who contributed a bottle of wine, half a finger and associated medical bills due to a bee sting, an automotive ignition system and an automatic transmission to the effort. Never mind, the Ford is back on the road now. Once again the Fastest Plucker of the Year award goes to Allan Robertson who is so quick that on one occasion I forgot he was actually there. My apologies Allan. I blame the alcohol. My personal favourite pluckers this year, for reasons I cannot fully articulate, were the backpacking twenty year old Swedish girls Charlotte and Elin. Sigh. 

"Thy flatterers yet wear silk, drink wine, lie soft;"

Shakespeare (Timon Of Athens)
John Arlidge 


Thursday, March 21 2002.

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The first official vintage report of the year:

17.3.02 Colombard  1 acre  3.5 tonnes 13.3 Baume
18.3.02 Chardonnay 1 acre  8.6 tonnes 13.5 Baume

Winemaker, Rod (oh matey) Macpherson, reports that all the acid and pH readings are hunky dory - well, actually he said “Oh, they’re okay, I suppose.” He reminds me more and more of A.A. Milne’s Eeyore every year.

The Colombard is unknown. Never tried on the Granite Belt before, we can report that it is very sweet but has excellent acidity - damn it, it is tangy, that’s what it is. Who knows what we can do with it? Only the good Lord, at this stage. 

Ron (Bob the builder) Hall, one of our Pleasant Pluckers on the weekend, having toiled in the field, built us a drying rack with a fine mesh material donated by Alan (the pool man) Long to test how well we can dry the fruit. Thanks Ron. I shall hang a plaque on it (or a plague if it doesn’t work). So far it is working, by the way. The objective in subsequent years is to make a sweet dessert style wine with the Colombard, drying the fruit and then fermenting it. This year the undried fruit will make both a stand alone sweeter style wine and a blend with Chardonnay.

The Chardonnay must set some sort of record for the Granite belt. Getting 8.6 tonnes from a single acre is virtually unheard of, let alone for quality fruit of high Baume. We’re pretty chuffed about it. Even Rod was upbeat (well, he grunted something anyway). The huge quantity means that as well as the Chardonnay/Colombard blend and the planned wooded Chard, we shall also produce an unwooded one (yes, yes, I can hear the critics crying “baby poo” already). 

We shall have to name all of these wines, of course. All suggestions gratefully received. While removing the bird netting from the Colombard we were struck by the number of lizards in the foliage that were flung into the air by the action of the machine and its operators. I am definitely considering a “Leaping Lizard Colombard”.

In what is becoming a tradition, some of the Pleasant Pluckers on the weekend brought with them some unusual items that are worthy of remark. Allan (och aye) Robertson brought some proper Scottish shortbread biscuits which were absolutely superb (and a bargain, no doubt). They were clearly made by his wife who is a genuine Scot. 

By contrast, at huge cost to himself and his cellar, Kerry (couldn’t we organise this differently) Robinson brought up a wonderful “vertical” pair - two Saltram Shirazes, the newer a 1992, the older a 1982. Ten years apart they both drank superbly and the 20 year old wine was about as fresh as the day it was born. Magnificent and thoroughly enjoyed by every drunken bum present. 

Derek (as I said to the Prime Minister) Churchill contributed song sheets that everyone managed to ignore. “They are not singers,” Derek intimated. He’s not wrong but, boy, they can snore up a symphony. 

Kerry (I’m no expert) Condon raided her late husband’s cellar for an absolutely superb 1994 Rovalley Ridge Cab Sav. The wine of the night, in my estimation but what the heck would I know.

Iain (ooh my back) Meers brought up a bottle of kit wine in an old Valpolicella bottle called MASI for which Churchill supplied several crude acronyms. Allegedly, Iain's son's father-in-law (it sounds like one of Peter Reith's better alibis, doesn't it?) made the wine from a kit of grape juice and yeast. "He can't remember what the grape variety was only that it had a French name," says Iain. Anyway it tasted like a light and very pleasant Shiraz/Grenache Rhone blend. It reminded me of an old summer wine trick I used to have prior to entering the viticulture business. I would buy cask red, chill it and mix it half and half with soda plus a few ice cubes. It would be interesting to do a cost comparison. I think we would have to say "relatively" well done, Iain. 

My own contribution (who said John (Adolph) Arlidge? Someone has to keep the troops moving, don’t they)? We did a vertical sampling of the 1999, 2000 and 2001 WGW Republic Reds. Not bad, if I do say so myself but what the heck would I know.

We ate well, we drank well, we worked hard but it was a wonderful time enjoyed by all. At least, that’s what they told me.

Watch this space for more news. Anyone in plucking mood for this Sunday and Monday please drop me a line. We have three takers thus far and room for plenty more. 

John Arlidge 
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Whiskey Gully

These archives consist of alerts sent to a faithful band of pickers, centred around the Brisbane Beefsteak & Burgundy Club, who each year come and help us pick grapes. The pickers make a wonderful contribution and the alerts, sent originally as email bulletins, serve to document the harvest, so we discovered. If you would like to be included on our pickers e-mailing list, then please drop us a line at:

This alert was emailed to a select and trusty group of potential grape pickers on Wednesday, March 20, 2002.If you would like to be included on our pickers e-mailing list, then please drop us a line at:

Attention prospective pleasant pluckers. The picking of the Shiraz Blocks will go ahead next Sunday and Monday. We already have a few takers - Roger Jeffries is backing up from last weekend (stout lad) possibly with a friend of his and my brother in law Graham Muhl - yes, an ex-Ansett lad - was sounding suspiciously like a participant last time we spoke. I am hoping some other former Ansett crew may be able to come - Carol Collins are you out there? Hello? Please drop me a line if you can come. 

All at generous rates, of course, being lots of humour, food and booze. It’ll be the usual thing - up with the sparrows and hoeing into it. The Shiraz will yield about four tonnes per paddock we think. We shall be testing on Friday. With all this hot weather, I may need to bring the Cabernet Sauvignon picking forward perhaps to next Wednesday. Don’t know yet but it is looking increasingly likely.

Now, hats off to all those pleasant pluckers from last weekend. It was a sterling effort. Let us immortalise Kerry Robinson, Allan Robertson, Derek Churchill, Roger Jeffries, Iain Meers, Kerry Condon, Ron Hall, Ian Harris - what a team! Please note (especially Richard Smart who is highly clued into all these things) we picked 8.6 tonnes at 13.5 Baume in the shed of chardonnay from just one acre. 

Now that is a tribute to the Smart Dyson trellising system. It would just about be a record for this area. Along with the volunteers we totalled 18 people in the vineyard Monday picking and it was excellent quality fruit. Beautiful. 

We also picked 3.5 tonnes of Colombard off a two year old one acre block (13.3 Baume) the day before. What a team. Both Colombard and Chardonnay had highly acceptable acid levels and Ph readings.

We were all pretty knackered as it was a very hot day Monday but there was a great sense of achievement to wave off 22 bins of grapes for crushing following on from nine bins the day before. Well done everyone. 

Anyone who can come Sunday/Monday please let me know asap so we can figure out working and sleeping arrangements.

For the record, tests conducted on 15-03-02 were as follows:

Block 1 Own roots Shiraz 12.95 Be @ 3.73 pH
Block 2 Shiraz on Rugeri 12.85 Be @ 3.68 pH
Block 3 Cabernet Sauvignon on Ramsay 13.0 Be @ 3.68pH
Block 5 Cabernet Sauvignon on Ramsay 13.1 Be @ 3.62

Despite the advanced sugar levels of the Cab Sav it still tastes green so we shall let iot go for a week or two.

John Arlidge 


Saturday, March 9 2002

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Here we are again on the Vintage merry-go-round. As the birds circle our precious fruit - thankfully guarded by netting - I pace the rows raw-knuckled wondering whether this is our year to be heros or dopes. So far so good, loyal troops. The chardonnay is abundant and, as of last Thursday, was at 12 Baume which means it should be about where we want it on March 18.

The Colombard is also looking good, in fact a little in advance of that, so we are proposing to pick on the  Sunday and Monday. I have had generous offers of help from some of the usual crowd although Baggins and Alan Robertson have not yet responded. Derek Churchill and Kerry Robinson are okay, I believe and Murray Bladwell will be able to make it for the Monday. Plus we have some new candidates - a cellar door fan Allan Nutley and a couple of his friends may be able to come and our good friend Roger Jefferies has confirmed. So it looks like the A team will be in action.
Please let me know asap if you can come. 

The Sunday pick will be lighter than the Monday one so I don’t need as many bodies although many hands will make light work. Monday, however, will be a big day and I’ll hire in some extras if necessary. We’ll be starting with the birds both mornings, 6am, so if you can make it for the Sunday pick I would suggest you come up on the Saturday afternoon. 

I am not sure where we are going to sleep you all. Some of you may have to share with my wife. Down boys! Thanks in advance. It is the best time of year, made more so by the enthusiastic presence of friends. 

Briefly in other news the Shiraz continues to outpace everything so it will not be too long on the vine either. It is at 12.5 Baume on both blocks (which is great) and I think another fortnight will do it. It is looking magnificent. So is the Cabernet but I haven’t yet tested that.

We had an article about us in Small Farms Magazine in January (yep, we’re the darling of the mainstream media). I have put it on our web site for those interested. Link is: small farms piece. It is called “Establishing a Vineyard” by yours truly. Also, I have published a menu for the Cappuccini Banquet on the May long weekend which you will find on our news page: news and events.  Take care, Pleasant Pluckers and I shall see you anon.

John Arlidge 


Tuesday, March 5 2002

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Yes, vintage is here again, folks, and time for the pleasant pluckers to gather at Whiskey Gully Wines. Anyone interested in joining the team could drop me an email. It will be at the usual superb rates - board and lodging and some good tucker. 

I tested last Friday and it shows the Chardonnay is still some way off at 11.7 Baume. We want to get it to 12.5+. My best guess at this stage is Monday, March 18. That’s about two weeks later than last year! I shall make a final decision on this next Saturday after the next test. 

It will be a two day pick as we shall take the Colombard off next day. That is currently running at about the same Baume. The juice tastes sensational, by the way, and we are looking forward to seeing what sort of wine eventuates. It is very much an unknown quantity at this stage as the variety has not previously been tried on the Granite Belt. I am hoping that Alan Long can bring a metre or so of that close knit screen to the next meeting so that we can lay some of the Colombard out to dry and see what happens to it.

The puzzling thing about this year so far is the Shiraz that, when we tested it last Friday, came in at 12 Baume, so it is ahead of the Chardonnay for some strange reason. We shall be looking to pick that as close to 14 Baume as possible so I am not really expecting to pick it before the last week of March at the earliest.

We haven’t bothered to test the Cabernet yet. It is at least a month away and probably more. On the whole, everything is looking wonderful at present and, although Hughie could change all of that in a couple of hours, we are confident that this will be a bumper harvest - 18 to 20 tonnes of very good quality fruit, we are thinking.

In other news, we were in Weeroona Park at the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival last weekend along with tens of thousands of partygoers. We sold heaps of wine, had great fun and made a bit of money for a change. Emily Bronte was part of the choir which, along with an orchestra that even included bagpipes, performed Ode to Joy (surely only a Scotsman can find joy in bagpipes!). There were Reggae bands and German bands and aboriginal troupes and latin bands. It was bloody magnificent and I can’t wait for the next one in two years time. “We’re stuffed,” adds Denice. “No we’re not,” says EB. Who is writing this thing anyway?

Pretty soon now we shall be publishing our winter specials for the cottages. I think we shall do a “buy two nights, get an extra one free” deal again as it was very popular over spring. We have about 40 bookings already for our Saturday night Cappuccini Opera Dinner on the May long weekend (which is pretty amazing because we haven’t yet advertised it), so if anyone else wants to come give us a bell very quickly. I am thinking that, post harvest, I would like to do a special Vintage dinner and vertically taste all of our wines to date. I am thinking maybe June would be a good time. If anyone has any thoughts about this please let us know.

That really is about it. Thanks once again to all our supporters. It was pretty clear in the park last weekend that we’ve achieved some modest fame and support for our efforts and that is indeed gratifying.

PS: We discovered some botrytis in the chardonnay today and will have to spray to kill it. We shall deselect the bunches before harvest.

John Arlidge 

Thursday, November 15, 2001

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"All's well that ends well"
Yes, a difficult year for everyone on the Granite Belt, apparently. First there was drought then there was a flood and in between we got hail AGAIN. 

But don't despair. In fact the Chardonnay in barrel would appear to be the best we have made to date; and the Cabernet, while not as good as 2000, is pretty good stuff.

The Shiraz is really the only disappointment. It is a bit light. But while we would have preferred a heavier Shiraz, this one is fruity and tasty and it will make a fine base for this year's Republic Red.

We are going to combine this season's Chardonnay pressings with some that Preston Peak has to make a light, sweeter style white which we shall put out under the Beverley label. This will be bottled within weeks.

The Chardonnay and the Republic Red will be bottled prior to Christmas too. The Cab Sav will wait until the New Year - probably around March. If we can, we will hold this back in bottle for about six months prior to its release.

So, all in all a difficult year produced reasonable results. I don't believe we will surpass the 2000 Vintage's incredible tally of 4 trophies, 2 golds, 7 silver and 4 bronze, however we'll do our best.

An interesting addendum to this year's harvest was the second crop on the Cab Sav and Shiraz, caused by hail. We ended up picking it about May 10. There was a couple of tonne of it, it was 12.5 Baume and very tasty. Now, in barrel, it is really tasting good and we will share it between the Cabernet and the Republic Red, I think.

This is the second time we have had a second crop due to hail. Previously, this second crop was okay but not as good as the primary crop and we used it in the 2000 Republic Red. 

This will be the final report on the 2001Harvest. 2002 rapidly approaches and so far, we have had the best start to a season since we've been here. The vineyard is a riot of green and flowering like mad. 

A final bit of news for the season - Tony Golledge, who was my vineyard hand and who was with us since the start - decided to move on during the year. We wish him well and thank him for his input into what has become a very tidy and productive vineyard.

John Arlidge 

Monday, April 10, 2001.

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"It's a hard rain 'a gonna fall"
Bob Dylan 
The story of the vintage thus far is that rain has come in the wrong quantities at the wrong time. 2001 is not to be a great year for the Granite Belt. It should be manageable, although it is distinctly odd, for reasons I shall explain later.

We finished the major pick with the Cabernet Sauvignon last Wednesday, April 4. We got about 1.75 tonnes but had to leave as much on again in mature second crop (that was a legacy of hail earlier in the year and we'll pick it in a couple of week time when it gets ripe enough).

The cab. sav. was 12.7 Baume and a pH of 3.63 - good figures, really, and it should make fine wine.  It's bubbling away now and will shortly go through malolactic fermentation for a month or so.

So, we have high hopes for this and for the Chardonnay which, if you will recall, hit the winery at 12.6 Baume and 3.60 pH and seems buttery and good. Once again it promises to have full marmalade and peach flavours. We hope so. 

The one we are worried about is the Shiraz which went into the shed in the low 12's and came out of fermentation a little light on but with curious and quite lovely dark olive overtones. "Vin ord.," Rod Macpherson says of it but he is a professional pessimist. The jury is still out.

It definitely will not be a blockbuster but could be a good stand alone lighter varietal. If this won't work we will blend it all with Cabernet to produce the 2001 Republic Red. 


Yes, we vacillate about these things and that is how we make fine wine.

Truth to tell, it is dangerous to make early calls on wine. Past experience shows that the ones you think won't make the grade often do and those you think will kill 'em sometimes don't reach their potential. Hmmm.

We are still in the vineyard and that is odd for this time of year. The rain has given everyone a hard time with Baume readings bobbing about like corks when they should be steadily rising. That is one of the things that is making the vintage odd. The other is the second cropping mentioned previously. There is fruit left on on the Cabernet and the Shiraz which we are hoping to get ripe. Time is against us with the days getting shorter and cooler as winter approaches.

I think we shall have to pick it regardless of ripeness by the end of this month. If it is over 12 Baume then well and good. But if it comes in at less than that then we may yet make the first Whiskey Gully Wines sparkling red. Wouldn't that be fun!

Never a dull moment. 

John Arlidge 

Friday, March 30, 2001.

Second Red alert

Loyal troops (he wrote hopefully)

Next Wednesday is Cabernet day - 13 point something and going strong, we believe. Problem is, we need six pickers and we have none confirmed at this stage. If anyone can see their way to coming up we’d be greatly obliged.

The Shiraz pick was tedious in the extreme - because of hail damage earlier in the year, we had to carefully select the grapes to be picked. It took six of us 12 hours and we ended up with a miserable 1.25 tonnes and Tony Bilbrough, sometimes known as Baggins, managed to cut his finger! Never mind, there’s another tonne left on the Shiraz (and a bit of Baggins' finger) which will hopefully ripen in the next couple of weeks and we’ll pick it again. The team did a sterling job under trying conditions and everyone knew they had done a darned good day’s work.

Similar problems are not expected with the cabernet, although there is some second cropping. But the primary crop is easier to see and there is plenty of it.

Last Friday's Baume figures, not previously published by the way, were thus:

Block 1 shiraz         12.8 Be / 3.56 pH
Block 2 shiraz         13.5 Be / 3.63 pH
Block 3 cab sav      12.7 Be / 3.55 pH

We have formed the Pleasant Pluckers Society to describe (but not constrain) the band of pickers which comes up each year to help. 

I suspect that as the years go by and the crops grow heavier, we shall have to curtail these activities but we shall try to reserve a day or two each year for the pluckers.

The Shiraz arrived in the shed at a surprisingly low Baume - 11.9 - despite a considerable amount of shriveling in the grapes. We put this down to the fact that the shriveled grapes got through the rollers of the crusher intact. Sure enough, the Baume had risen by next day although, because fermentation had already begun, it was impossible to get an accurate figure.  We’ll have to do an alcohol test on the finished product to get a conclusive result - my guess is about 13. Rod Macpherson says the must looks good, smells good and tastes good so all should be well. It’s a strange business this wine-making.

Grateful thanks to Baggins, his son in law Peter, young Bladwell and his Rotary exchange student Etienne.

PS. Saturday, March 31. Did a Baume test today (sample taken yesterday) on the Cabernet which showed 12.9 and a pH of 3.77. 

The more perspicacious among you will note that the Cabernet readings have been fairly wild this year - which is what happens when hail damage throws a second crop. It makes it very difficult to get consistent samples. 

John Arlidge 
This alert was emailed to a select and trusty group of potential grape pickers on Tuesday, March 20, 2001. If you would like to be included on our pickers e-mailing list, then please drop us a line at:

Eeyore Eeyore Eeyore - Red alert

The time, it seems, has come for at least the Shiraz and, possibly, also the Cabernet, to be picked. Readings we took on Monday actually have the Cabernet being riper than the Shiraz, although I think there is a sampling error there. If it were true then the Cabernet would have gained a whole Baume point in one week, which is unlikely given that the weather has been quite mild. Nevertheless, the Shiraz is definitely in our sights at 12.4 and 13.1 in blocks one and two respectively.

At this stage Monday is definitely on but we’ll do another test Friday to double check whether we will pick one variety or two. One will mean one day in the paddock; two will mean Monday and Tuesday.

Pickers could be a problem – the evergreen Tony Bilbrough will be there, of course, as will Murray Bladwell and a South African Rotary Exchange student (yes, forced labour in the vineyard. I knew it would make a comeback someday). However, I am still unsure as to Derek Churchill’s availability (let alone the state of his hands after the last effort) and Alan Robertson is going away! Our fastest picker, absent! We shall miss him.

There’s about two tonne of Shiraz – maybe a bit more, but the cabernet is loaded. We’ll need at least six pickers for the Shiraz and eight for the Cabernet (if we take it off next week). We’ve definitely got five, thus far. I was rather hoping that 

Monsieur Buntain and a couple of others may be able to join us to get a bit of quality into the pack. I can always hire in pickers but human nature being what it is they won’t do as good a job as the volunteers.

For the record, the full figures from last Monday:

Monday, March 19, 2000

Block 1 Shiraz           12.4 Baume/3.66 pH
Block 2 Shiraz           13.1 Baume/3.76 pH
Block 3 Cab. Sav.     13.2 Baume/3.70 pH

Note how the pH climbs with the Baume. It is not yet panic stations but we don’t want it over 4. When it rains it has the effect of knocking the Baume back without reducing the pH. That is one reason why dry years tend to produce better wine. Is this sort of stuff interesting, by the way? I would hate to think I was boring you.

The chardonnay is now bedded down in French oak. The ferment began extremely well and Rod and Phil reckon we should have a fine wine. Yes!

So, all of you, especially those of you feeling somewhat steatophygous after long hours behind the desk, come and join the pickings. Not only will it do you good, you’ll go down in history. 

John Arlidge 

Tuesday, March 13, 2001


This is a tiresome season. Three inches of rain last week is enough to make anyone nervous. Thank God we got the Chardonnay off the week before. The long and the short is that it now looks as though the Shiraz will have to come off on Monday, March 26th, and the Cabernet Sauvignon the week after.

Anyone who thinks they can make it for either session please let me know and we’ll start a roster. My apologies to Murray Bladwell in advance for mucking up his well prepared plans yet again – the grapes won’t co-operate with a standard media plan, Murray. We’ll have to go into crisis management mode. 

The rain knocked back the Baume a bit and increased the pH – neither of which we want. Monday’s assay gave the following results:

Block 1 Shiraz  12.05 Baume @ 3.60 pH
Block 2 Shiraz  12.65 Baume @ 3.73 pH
Block 3  Cab. Sav. 12.00 Baume @ 3.59 pH

The theory is that if we get two straight weeks of sunshine, the Shiraz should be okay. However, we’ll have to see. Be prepared for an emergency email. I’ll put out a red alert next Monday.

The Cab. Sav. is quite a hardy berry and really looks good. Tastes good too, though still green. It is really only the Shiraz we are worried about. 

The Chardonnay came off well. The “A” team of Baggins, Churchill, Robertson, Robinson, Golledge and yours truly did a sterling job, clearing 2.3 tonnes in a little less than eight hours. It arrived in the shed at 12.6 Baume and 3.6 pH. 

It was cooled to 4º C in the cool room overnight and crushed next morning, then racked off into a tank ready for fermentation. Once the ferment is well underway it will be transferred to French and American oak barrells (50/50). I tasted the juice this morning – it was at 11º C, still not quite warm enough for the ferment to begin. The juice was beautifully sweet, clear and buttery. It may not be quite as good as 2000 but I think it’ll pass the test. Well done to all concerned and thank you.

I’ve noticed that each year at this time I begin to suffer from heartburn. The grapes are stressful little beggars. I really don’t know why I worry. They always seem to turn out fine. Anyway folks, polish your quims and merkins for the next round. How about a few women this time. It may keep Baggins’ mind off sex. But on second thoughts….

John Arlidge 

Tuesday, 27 February 2001.
One and all

Yes, we are well and truly on the white knuckle arc of the annual viticulture cycle - a test yesterday showed that all the grapes have taken a quantum leap in Baume due to the hot weather of the past week. 

The Chardonnay was sitting on a finger nail biting 12.9 Baume at 3.47 pH - great figures, and so close to the desired Baume that yours truly has been vacillating ever since about whether we should hang on until next Tuesday! I mean, if they keep gaining sugar at this rate they could fall apart by then... If we get rain in the meantime the berries will split... On the other hand, chances are they will gain about half a Baume by next Tuesday which is perfect... And the weather forecast continues fine... Yes, but.... Nrrrr, Grrrr... Whose stupid idea was it to grow grapes anyway?

They should be okay. I'll keep a daily watch on them from now on and if there's any indication that there could be trouble, well then, stand by for some frantic e-mails. 

The old faithful crew is on its way for the chard pickings: Baggins, Allan Robertson, Derek Churchill (I think) with the possible addition of Kerry Robinson. What a team! 

The full results of the tests are looking equally alarming:

Block 1 Chardonnay  12.9 Baume / 3.47 pH
Block 2 Shiraz  12.0 Baume / 3.47 pH
Block 3 Shiraz  12.6 Baume / 3.54 pH
Block 4 Cab Sav 12.1 Baume / 3.52 pH

Note that all have come up a long way and that even the Cabernet Sauvignon is getting into the zone. Still no change to the forecast picking schedule at this stage, although if it stays this hot and fine then we may need to revise dates forward. We'll make a decision on the Shiraz next week.

I hope none of you mind sharing my folies de doute. They probably have something to with the fact that my chrematophobia outweighs my ergasiophobia - anally retentive, to those of you less multiloquous, although, I suppose my main problem could be aposiopesis... but that's another story. 

Any of you who did not nod off during the preceding paragraph should check out the following link, it is a wonderful website:

John Arlidge 

 February 14, 2001. 
Ladies and gentlemen,

I call this a green alert for reasons which shall shortly become obvious. We did a Baume (sugar level) check on the chardonnay and shiraz yesterday and, as expected, the recent copious rain knocked them back a tad. The chardonnay registered 11.1 Baume and the two shiraz blocks scored 10.6 and 10.9 respectively. We didn’t bother testing the cabernet sauvignon at this stage since it is always the last to ripen. 

What all this means is that the chardonnay is anything up to one month away from picking and the shiraz probably a week more than that, working on an average 0.5 Baume gain per week. At this stage, our best guess is that the chard will be ready late in the first week of March. The cab sav is usually last week of March but will probably be a bit later this year. They are green, you see. Hence the green alert.

Now, the good news (or the bad news for those of you in the know) is that we shall need some pickers – retired geriatrics preferred, of course, for each of our three picking sessions: one day each for the chard and cab sav and two consecutive days for the shiraz. 

It is really easy work with shifts no longer than 14 hours. The pay is brilliant (if you can survive on nowt) but we do seem to eat and drink a lot when we are not working. Since he purchased a stock whip, nobody has ever complained about the boss. There are literally acres of fresh air, beautiful views (if you are tall enough to see over the vines), and there is the added pleasure of conversing with Denice first thing in the morning. We sit around in the evenings singing lumberjack songs ‘til weariness overtakes us.

Anyone who thinks they are up to these arduous duties should contact me and I will work out a rough roster. All contributions will be gratefully received. 

The serious side of the business is wine quality and I have to report that this year is unlikely to be as good as last. Rain was untimely for the chardonnay, in particular, and it may well be that we will need to pick them before they reach 13 Baume, particularly if it rains. There has been some botrytis in both the chardonnay and the shiraz, principally through wounds inflicted earlier in the year by hail, but we have controlled this with sprays. The grapes taste good but they are watery at present. We are hoping that if it stays dry from now on, the chard will get somewhere near 13 Baume as it becomes fully ripe. That will give us a good but not brilliant result. Conversely, if it rains we will just have to pick them when they are fully ripe, regardless of Baume. That would tend to produce a less buttery wine (sigh!). My concerns for the shiraz and cab sav are less but these too will not benefit from more rain. 

It is timely to remark that picking makes an important contribution to wine quality. While the job is monotonous and not all that complicated, it has its challenges. It is amazing what an appreciation of good wine and the motivation to produce it does to the quality of the pick. Thus far, all of our grapes have been picked by such people – notably Tony Bilbrough, Alan Robertson and Derek Churchill. I have no doubt that their efforts have made an important contribution to the quality of our wines. We very much appreciate their efforts to ensure that the grapes are treated tenderly, with interest and due respect. No doubt this year’s crop will present its own challenges but we shall overcome. 

John Arlidge 

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Second Vintage Banquet

Beverley Vineyard Restaurant, Saturday, February 10, 2001 at 7.30 pm

In December, 2000, Whiskey Gully Wines bottled part of its second vintage – the 2000 Republic Red and the 2000 Beverley Chardonnay. This banquet is a first tasting of these wines, plus some other excellent Granite Belt wines, accompanied by food designed to match.
Aperitif  Roast tomato and olive tarts  1996 Robinson's Family Reserve Brut
Entrée 1 Char grilled salmon with roasted beetroot salsa 2000 Whiskey Gully Beverley Chardonnay
Entrée 2 Warm salad of figs, proscuitto and pears Barrel samples of the 2000 Whiskey Gully Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz
Main  Barbequed eye fillet of beef with nectarine relish 2000 Whiskey Gully Wines Republic Red 
Dessert Mango and lime mascarpone mousse 1998 Bald Mountain Late Picked Sauvignon Blanc 
Petite Fours Coffee with walnut macaroons and almond biscotti Inigo Pale Rose Muscat 
Join John and Denice Arlidge and winemakers Philippa Hambleton and Rod Macpherson for this special event. It will be a superb night. Price: $75 including all food and wine. For those who get in quick there are two accommodation packages available.

For bookings, please contact John or Denice:; Tel: 07 4683 5100

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Wine and Food Affair

Sunday, February 18, 2001; 10 am to 3 pm

Whiskey Gully Wines and Beverley Vineyard Restaurant will be in Stanthorpe's Weeroona Park for the Wine and Food Affair's "Affair in the Park". We'll be serving wonderful wines and food snacks. Everyone is going to be there and the event will showcase the district's multicultural background with food and wine styles from around the world.

The organisers promise it'll be bigger than Ben Hur with entertainment and lots of activities for both big kids and littler ones. See you there! The following link WINE & FOOD AFFAIR has more details about the Wine and Food Affair which runs from Friday February 9 to Sunday, February 18, 2001.

We haven't yet decided what snacks we'll be serving in our tent but chef promises they will be exotic and tasty. We will be tasting our 2000 Republic Red.

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First Vintage Banquet

Beverley Vineyard Restaurant, Saturday, 12 February, 2000 at 7.30 pm

In January, 2000, Whiskey Gully Wines bottled its first vintage – a Republic Red and Beverley Chardonnay. This banquet is a first tasting of this wine, plus some other excellent Granite Belt wines, accompanied by food designed to match.
Aperitif  Rice cakes with prawns, mango and capsicum 1996 Robinson’s Family Reserve Brut
Entrée 1. Cucumber crayfish rolls with Avocado 
2. Potato wafers with smoked salmon, creme 
    fraiche and salmon roe
1999 Whiskey Gully Beverley Chardonnay
Main  Marinated lamb backstraps with eggplant purée, roasted baby beetroot and red onion salad 1. 1999 Whiskey Gully Republic Red 
2. 1997 Preston Peak Shiraz
Dessert Semolina and cardamom galettes with fresh figs 1993 Ballandean Estate Sylvaner
Petite Fours Coffee with walnut macaroons Old Caves Armchair Port

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