How quickly we move from the grey short cold days of winter dormancy…

How quickly we move from the grey short cold days of winter dormancy (for vine, not custodian) to the green lengthening warm days of spring.  From the bud burst of mid September to the elongating shoots of October it is our most frantic time in the vineyard.  Mowing, cultivating under vine, applying sulphur, fish and seaweed emulsions as well as shoot thinning takes up a lot of time and demands a seven day a week commitment.

Add in establishing a new ultra close planted vineyard (finishing planting today) and it seems there’s barely a spare moment to enjoy the splendour of the carpets of greens.  But take a moment we do and things are really looking beautiful.  The mature plantings are growing very well and we approach the rest of the growing season with much hope, and a little trepidation after several small harvests.
Our new planting of Pinot Noir involves four clones (two new to us) and is mostly at a density of 11,300 vines per hectare.  A small section is planted to 22,600 vines per hectare.  This is very intensive (vines, materials and labour as well as some new equipment required) however we have high hopes for the specific site itself as well as the planning and work going into it.  Time, a long time, will tell!
The season starts off after a very dry winter which did not see any water run off in to the dams.  Which is obviously a concern however well timed rain during the season will be a welcome mitigation to this problem.  Pleasingly, the soil moistures are holding up very well and the composting work done in winter as well as the undervine cultivation sees the soil looking very healthy.

Winter pruning is upon us…

The task of winter pruning is upon us and forecasts of hail and snow are giving cause for digging deep into the winter clothing. Thermals are a must. The last of the 2013s are bottled and we will have news of these wines late in July. Suffice to say that despite the crop being 30% down on ideal yields the quality is exceptionally fine and as the wines settle post bottling they are beginning to sing their sweet tunes once more. The upsetting shortfall in 2013 is given context by the horrendous flowering experienced for the 2014 crop which has seen a reduction in yield in the order of 65%. As Bindi’s dad would say, Crikey!
Things move on, regardless. The peas and oats established in the new vineyard sites we are preparing are growing well and will form an enriching ‘green manure’ in the Springtime before we begin our planting. An interesting observation; we planted in 1988 and more in 2001 and will again in 2014. Thirteen year gaps. Nothing unlucky there (maybe the tiny addition in 1992 with Block 5 broke that hoodoo?). The new sites being prepared are all on the same contour as Block 5 and will have a diverse mix of high quality clones planted at very high density (11,500 vines per hectare). Exciting.

Until release time in late July………….

Frost. Hail. Cold. Dry. Hot. Fire.

Frost. Hail. Cold. Dry. Hot. Fire.
Dear me. The romanticism of grape growing and wine making is being tested continually at every stage of this gruelling season. Yes, of course, we are well versed in the various ways the weather can affect the crop quality and quantity and we are always prepared for some of these challenges to occur during any season. However this season has been quite breathtaking in its audacity to throw down challenges, to both vine and grower, month on month. We press on!

We began in September with some unseasonal warm weather which pushed the buds out earlier than usual. Our usual diligent attention to our frost protecting fan saw it serviced by the installer just prior to the first frost of the season. Unfortunately, the fan was rendered useless by a basic servicing error and it failed to run during a -2.7 degree frost event. We are still assessing the extent of the fruit loss, but it was certainly significant. Perhaps even more troubling was the weather in December when the vines began to flower and set their crop. The ideal is calm, warm, even weather. We had windy, cold, erratic weather highlighted, in the most perverse way, by hail. The result has been a poor fruit set. On the positive side, the good rains through October and November have seen the canopy grow very well and regardless of what occurs crop wise this season, the vines will be set up for winter pruning and a likely strong start to the 2015 season. Yes, we do think in long timeframes with these vines!

The start of December saw the rain clouds turned off and it has been unremittingly dry for two months now. We have had 25mm and a startlingly long run of hot weather, peaking with five days of 40 degrees or above in January. And on it goes. The day after the five year anniversary of the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires we experienced a high wind, 41 degree day and a fire exploded into life just over the hill from us, thankfully to the east. This fire, three days later, is no longer threatening towns but continues to cause anxiety and the risk of burning stumps and trees reigniting another front remains. So, we do have some smoke haze around us however the grapes are yet to begin ripening and the expectation, like in 2007 and 2009, is that we will mercifully be unaffected in a qualitatve sense.

Some good news; this season we have moved to under vine cultivation, as opposed to previous regimes of straw mulching (loved by wildfires) and undervine mowing (vineyard looks like a park however weeds push their roots deeper to compete with the vines’ roots). This move has been a wonderful success. As well as turning the undervine competition over and having the weeds die off and break down back into the soil it also opens up the soil (reducing any hard layer/compaction), to air and moisture, and it also has the ability to work compost into the soil. Like all things vineyard related, timing is the key and when this activity is done correctly the result is really excellent.

So, here we stand in February and wonder where the season is going. Hot and dry, a small crop. Where earlier in the season the expectation was for a mid April harvest this is being revised to an earlier start. Maybe early April, depending on the twists and turns of the Autumn. The Heathcote Shiraz vineyard is looking healthy and strong and the fruit will be ready in another couple of weeks. We have a bottling in mid March to begin to ready the 2013 wines for release later in the year.

For sure, it’s a testing cycle that makes up vineyard and winery work, but contemplating new wines beginning their evolution in bottle and another harvest, regardless how small, is very exciting.

New Bottlings

After a winter that gifted us 14 frosts, plenty of rain and some biting, blustery weather we have broken through into an early Spring break. Whilst the drenching of warmth and the invitation to the birds to bring us musical cheer is lovely the less pleasing aspect is the vines’ buds pushing early and possibly exposing their new flush to damaging springtime frosts. We will see.

There is rather a lot of news to do with new bottlings, the evolution of the 2013s in barrel as well as the important work that has begun on preparing four new vineyard sites for planting over the next four years. More about these new vineyards in the next newsletter finalising the 2012 vintage release. Also, though perhaps more exciting for us that work here rather than those buying the wine and interested in less mundane things, we have been doing some much needed works at the winery and sheds. These projects on top of the normal vineyard and winery work are certainly demanding however it’s always very exciting seeing long planned projects begin and evolve.

The 2013 wines are still on yeast lees and are evolving well. Like the previous two harvests 2013 was quite reduced from the ‘normal’ crop level but the pleasing aspect of the vintage is the very good depth of flavour and balance the wines show in barrel. The 2012 wines continue to evolve slowly in bottle and as we always council, two years post bottling sees the wines relax and begin to open up and begin to really show well. Some recent tastings and dinners have seen the 2005 and 2006 wines drinking superbly and the 2008 and 2009s just beginning to show their beauty.

We shall send out the final offer for the 2012s in early October.

Wines on offer

Wines on Offer

We are offering the 2012 Bindi Composition Chardonnay, 2012 Bindi Composition Pinot Noir and 2012 Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz for immediate purchase and delivery.

We are also offering the 2012 Bindi Quartz Chardonnay, 2012 Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2012 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir as a pre-release offer (with credit card charging and delivery early October 2013). These wines will be released by way of our newsletter at the usual time in mid October however you can reserve your wine now.

2012 Season

The 2012 season is considered to be a fine success across Victoria for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz: at Bindi we hold a sentiment consistent with this view. Overall, the season produced a very small crop of healthy, balanced, expressive fruit. The wines are typical of the vineyard origins and, overall, they are harmonious, elegant, pure and worthy of ageing.
The spring of 2011 indicated we were in for a similar season to that that led to the 2011 harvest; rain and humidity and very slow ripening. Things changed, however, and changed again and again. December saw cold, windy weather disrupt the flowering significantly. From late December to late February 2012 we received barely a drop of rain and had eight weeks of contrast to the start of the vines’ season. Then, what was for many harvest interrupting, a deluge of 150mm of rain freshened the vines, pushed them through veraison and a stunning run of perfect autumnal weather ripened the very small crop.

2013 Season

The just completed 2013 harvest was a success in terms of quality with the wines showing power and drive and purity and depth of flavour. With hail and cold snaps twice at flowering in December and again at veraison in February the harvest was small, however the quality (being our objective, of course) is very exciting. The wines fermented well, in fact several barrels of chardonnay are still fermenting in early June at 15 degrees in a warmed room. This is not atypical, as the wines ferment without the addition of yeast and each barrel is its own unique fermentation with its own volume of solids and yeasts.

 

BILL D.S. DHILLON

BILL D.S. DHILLON

2/10/1937 – 26/1/2013

Bill Dhillon, founder of Gisborne Squash Courts (1972) and Bindi Vineyard (1988), passed on January 26th aged 75.

Bill was born in Punjab in northern India in the small farming village Bahman Wala, just to the south of Amritsar.  His name was Darshan Singh Dhillon.  He would be dubbed ‘Bill’ two decades later at Ballarat Grammar School.

He was the youngest of six children.  His parents farmed a small holding, just a few acres, which was insufficient to support the family.  His father moved to Malaya (now Malaysia) before he was born to establish a plantation of rubber trees and would return every two years to India to see his family.  The three youngest children were born two years apart, the timing coinciding with these annual visits, plus nine months.

The family’s village is now located alongside the India/Pakistan border and close to a major railway line.  During the time of the partition, following the departure of the British in 1947, this area witnessed much violence (estimates number those killed as approximately 500,000) as Hindus and Muslims crossed the border.  Bill (aged 10) and his youngest sister were sent away from this violence to live with another family for a year and a half to a safer town, Preet Nagar (Town of Love).

In 1950 his mother took her family to re unite with their father after he had successfully developed the plantation in Baling, in Kedah, Malaya.  For seven years Bill attended Saint Xavier Institute on the island of Penang where all classes were conducted in English.

In 1958 Bill came to Australia to complete two years of matriculation in order to gain entry to Civil Engineering at Melbourne University.  This period had a profound influence on his life.  Teaching at this time was Kostas Rind, a Lithuanian academic who escaped the Russian persecution (which saw 10% of the population deported) and arrived in Australia as a refugee.  At Ballarat Grammar he rose to become it’s leading maths and physics professor.  Kostas became a mentor and father figure to Bill and introduced him to the culture and pleasures of cellaring and drinking fine table wine.  After two years at Ballarat Grammar School Bill went on to complete his Civil Engineering degree, during which time he met Kaye King (of Bundaleer) whose maternal family, the Dixons, have a continuing connection with Gisborne dating to 1853.

Bill and Kaye Dhillon farmed sheep at Bindi, formerly part of Bundaleer, and to support the family established the Gisborne Squash Courts and Wool and Wheel craft shop in 1972.  This business grew to four courts and played a significant role in the sporting and social lives of the then small township.

After Kaye’s death (1985) Bill determined he would pursue a venture on the land which would give it the opportunity to become self sustaining.  The establishment of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards, now six hectares, in 1988 led to the building of the winery and Bill developed further projects such as farm forestry (15 hectares), reforestation and the preservation of important, rare grasslands.

As the vineyard matured and Bindi wines became established here and overseas he turned his mind to other activities.   Bill learned of Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.  Bill visited Yunus several times to learn more about micro credit (lending to those too poor to receive loans from normal banks, particularly disadvantaged women).  With this in mind, he sought meetings, and developed a rapport, with Noel Pearson at the Cape York Institute.

Bill Dhillon’s motto in life was Balance.  To this end he balanced his energies for family, community, work and the environment.

A Spring of sorts is emerging…

A spring of sorts is emerging after a bitterly cold and wet winter. A rather nostalgic three months it has been. If a little confronting, not unwelcome. At this time of year we hold high hopes. Vines pruned and prepared. Old canes mulched back into the soil, new canes layered along the wire ready to shoot their new foliage, ready to set their crop for a harvest seven months away. The journey towards Vintage 2013 begins.

Recently Bindi was involved in tastings in Brisbane and Sydney with nine other family vineyard/winery operations, each having more than twenty vintages released. Small vineyards, hands-on wineries, operators working the same terroir into their third, fourth or fifth decades. Several sites were even established over 150 years ago. It was a lot of fun tasting wines going back to the ‘80s. There exist a lot of opportunities in the wine world today. There’s more diversity than ever before for maker, seller and consumer. These tastings and conversations, of families discussing their land, their decades of learning and evolving in the winery, of relationships with customers enjoying the wines for twenty plus years were incredibly rewarding. We were left with the thought ‘we should do it more often!’. So, Melbourne will be next then we’ll revisit it all again in a couple more years.

We also have two upcoming Bindi events which may be of interest. Bistro Vue in Melbourne will host a dinner on 16 October 2012 featuring Bindi sparkling (a blend of 1993 to 2000 with ten years on lees) and multiple vintages of the Original Vineyard Pinot Noir. Please contact Bistro Vue directly on (03) 9691 3838. And on 23 November 2012 The Dispensary Enoteca in Bendigo will host a 5 course degustation matched with Bindi wines. Please contact them directly on (03) 5444 5885.

We are having a proper winter!

After a real sumer then a real autumn we are really having a proper winter! Cold, wet and windy in Gisborne was a norm that was disrupted by the decade long drought. This uncomfortable nostalgia is welcome for vine dormancy and soil moisture but makes for robust pruning conditions which ensure we draw upon the the very best thermal wear. With this a few things are certain; the job has to get done and every evening after pruning warmth derived from water, wood, food and wine is enjoyed for its elemental reviving gift.

The last of the 2011 wines are now bottled and starting to emerge from their subtle trauma. The wines of this vintage are really evolving beautifully and are such a joy for their seductive aromas and pure, intense, flowing palates. They certainly require another twelve months or so to really begin to show their truest form and will improve for many years onwards.

June 2012 release

We are currently releasing 2011 Bindi Composition Pinot Noir, 2011 Bindi Composition Chardonnay, 2011 Pyrette Heatcote Shiraz and a mixed six pack of Bindi Sparkling Museum Stock. To order, please click here.

A quick note on the just completed 2012 harvest and season. The spring of 2011 indicated we were in for a similar season to that that led up to the 2011 harvest; rain and humidity and very slow ripening. Things changed, however, and changed again and again. December saw cold, windy weather disrupt the flowering significantly. From late December to late February we received barely a drop of rain and had eight weeks of contrast to the start of the vines’ season. Then, what was for many harvest interuppting, a deluge of 150mm of rain freshened the vines, pushed them through veraison and a stunning run of perfect autumnal weather ripened the very small crop. At this early stage, despite the meagre volume of wine, 2012 looks very exciting.

A quick note on the 2012 harvest and season

A quick note on the just completed 2012 harvest and season. The spring of 2011 indicated we were in for a similar season to that that led up to the 2011 harvest; rain and humidity and very slow ripening. Things changed, however, and changed again and again. December saw cold, windy weather disrupt the flowering significantly. From late December to late February we received barely a drop of rain and had eight weeks of contrast to the start of the vines’ season. Then, what was for many harvest interrupting, a deluge of 150mm of rain freshened the vines, pushed them through veraison and a stunning run of perfect autumnal weather ripened the very small crop. At this early stage, despite the meagre volume of wine, 2012 looks very exciting.