Wineries in the Clare Valley are gearing up for vintage

Assistant winemaker Sam Palmer is gearing up for his first vintage in the Clare Valley after joining Pikes from Western Australia late last year.
Assistant winemaker Sam Palmer is gearing up for his first vintage in the Clare Valley after joining Pikes from Western Australia late last year.

It is that time of the year again for the Clare Valley.

As the calendar has flipped over into February, wineries in the region have started to pick grapes off the vines as the 2019 vintage gets underway.

With a dry winter out of the way which saw minimal rainfall and an interesting summer, which included hail in December and searing heat in January, Pikes senior winemaker Steve Baraglia said they were just a few short weeks away from picking.

At the start of the week, their vintage staff were introduced to the facilities which included aspiring winemakers from around the globe.

Mr Baraglia said harvest would be slightly later compared to last year at Pikes but would not be as late as 2017.

“Vintage is looking a little later because of a late bud burst so maybe we will start picking in the last week of February,” he said.

“Water is a bit of an issue with grape vines at the moment but everything seems to be holding in alright so touch wood we get some conditions on the way through to vintage.”

Mr Baraglia said it was difficult to compare this year to previous vintages given that they are all different, but he had his fingers crossed.

“We will wait and see,” he said.

“You don’t have any expectations until you have got the wine ready to go to bottle so we will wait until we finish it off.

“We have had heatwaves in the past in vintages, 2009 we had five days above 40 degrees and we had a really good vintage so if the weather is nice and cool, which it is for this week, it could be a really nice vintage."

Assistant winemaker Sam Palmer will undertake his first vintage at Pikes after making the journey across from Frankland River in Western Australia.

He said he was hoping to stay in the region for at least 3 vintages.

“The first vintage is just learning everything and where everything is, second vintage is starting to pay more attention to how things are made and it is the third vintage where you are across it and comfortable with the fruit,” Mr Palmer said.

“My foundation is from a WA perspective so it is good to come over here and learn different fruit and different styles of wine.”

Mr Palmer had three vintages under his belt in his native land.

Joining Mr Palmer in his first Clare Valley vintage is Brookelyn Long from California.

Ms Long found her way to Pikes after undertaking a winemaking internship with the famed E and J Gallo Winery in Modesto.

This will be her third vintage after working two in the United States.

A long way from home, Ms Long was inspired to make the trip down under after working with an Australian contractor at E and J Gallo last year.

“I was asking him where in Australia would he recommend to work and he said Pikes,” Ms Long said.

“We had a girl that has already worked here before and then went back to Gallo, she did some vintage stuff and wanted to get an overseas experience. She said it was amazing and that was kind of how I ended up here.

“E and J Gallo is a large company, we did 520,000 tonnes at the winery so I wanted to get a smaller vintage under my belt just to see how hands-on winemaking actually works so I am hoping to get a little bit of everything out of it.”

Ms Long has been in the region for just under a week and was impressed by what she had seen in the short space of time.

She said she hoped to take the knowledge she would gain working at Pikes back home with her to the States.