Harvesting the grapes at Leahy estate

Mark’s parents arrived yesterday after two days of non-stop travel from Dublin. Two days! From Dublin to Heathrow to Bangkok to Sydney to Melbourne. As the Irish say, sweet jaysus!

And what did we do to welcome them to our place? Well of course we put them straight to work the next morning, harvesting the grapes! In-laws are an excellent source of manual labour…

The grapes were a source of constant anxiety and drama for us and I’m just glad we got this far. I’m quite sure that having a vineyard is the stress equivalent of breastfeeding triplets. Only that you have less control over the outcome!

Firstly we inherited this vineyard along with our new house while we were still living in a rental in Mornington and had to trek to Merricks 3 times a week to spray the vines and examine the leaves in the interim before we moved in. The babies were cranky that the vines were getting more attention then them and so was Mom.

Then after we moved in, Mark realised that he had misdiagnosed the mildew on the vines as powdery mildew when it was actually downy mildew. All that spraying was for nought as it was using the wrong chemicals. Much alcohol was consumed and Mark nearly wrote off the vines. In the midst of the night, I caught him mumbling “Downy… Powdery…. Downy..” like a man possessed.

As a last ditch effort, Mark took a chainsaw to the vines and brutalised them to try to save the grapes. And then summer set in and the 40 degree heat started making the grapes shrivel up as there wasn’t enough of a canopy to protect them. So we thought they were a goner now.

Mark started talking about next year and what he would do differently, but I refused to give up on the grapes and told him that we would go ahead and make the wine even if we just had half a barrel to show for it. No grapes shall be left behind! Not under my watch!

Suddenly, it occurred to us that we needed some help to make the wine. All I knew about the actual making of wine was the stuff I’d vaguely recalled from in old Wizard of Id cartoons- buckets and much stomping. Not good. We tried calling all our neighbouring estates but to no avail since it was already high summer and everyone was busy with their own harvest.

At last, we had a stroke of luck at the verylast minute as a nice lady from the Vignerons Association of Mornington Peninsula managed to put us in touch with the affable owners of Eldridge Estate of Red Hill, David and Wendy Lloyd.

If you haven’t heard of them, that’s because they are a relatively small boutique estate just 8 minutes drive from us. Ahem, they produce absolutely beautiful pinot noir wines and have garnered many awards and rave reviews from the likes of Jancis Robinson and Peter Bourne. (Spot the product placement!)

David and Wendy very kindly offered their assistance and expertise and we were soon to learn that we were in extremely capable hands as David was a ex-school teacher and a true academic on the subject of winemaking. He soon got Mark running sugar alcohol tests on the grapes every few days or so and fretting about even more things that he was unaware of until he had met David!

Some nights when it started raining, Mark would wake up suddenly with cold sweat pouring off his brow. I would ask him if it was a nightmare, and he would wail miserably “Oh! Sudden rain after a dry spell… The vines will suck it in and the grapes will burst of overindulgence!”, much like the witches of Macbeth intoning their ominous portents. Honestly, I didn’t know whether which I wanted to strangle more, Mark or the grapes.

Anyway, we have gotten this far, and now the 300 kg or so of grapes are trundling along in a trailer over to Eldridge Estate where they will be weighed, cleaned, processed, fermented and bottled for our future drinking pleasure. That should be about a barrel of wine. All that effort!

We still haven’t thought of names for the vineyard, but we have our housewarming party (and Finn’s birthday party) next week, where we will be holding a competition to see who can come up with the best name. Winner takes home a few bottles of plonk! Of course, you can submit your suggestions on the blog too, good luck!

Dylan helps count the barrels

I think Dylan must have consumed at least half a bucket as her grape tax

John asks about minimum wage in Australia

I’m dreading the nappy outcome…

Sean charging down the rows

Grandma gets in on the act

The grandparents get mutinous as more tasks are invented

It’s just you and me now, Dylan!


Daddy and the grape monster

2 thoughts on “Harvesting the grapes at Leahy estate

  1. Goodness, that’s a lot of grapes. I would love to gobble up buckets and buckets of sweetened-on-the-vine grapes.

    Why not just name the wine, Leahy Estate?

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