A Year at Upper Reach Vineyard & Winery
Grape growing and wine making are seasonal activities, this is reflected in our vineyard and winery activities.
At Upper Reach we are dedicated to making the very best wine from our estate-grown fruit, so each wine is a reflection of the vintage and vineyard. Our philosophy is of hands-on management, through crop thinning and low yields, to ensure that the grapes are of the highest quality and a true reflection of their terroir.
In the winery we aim to preserve the character of the fruit, creating wines that are fresh, vibrant and full-flavoured. We’ve designed and built our wine production facility to make the very best of our estate grown fruit.
Upper Reach is rare amongst Australian wineries, in that we have full control from pruning and maintaining the vineyard through to making, bottling (with our in-house bottling line) and then aging the finished wine.
This effort has paid off. Over the last few years, Upper Reach has become one of the leading Swan Valley producers; with an extensive list of wine show awards.
By Autumn the frenzy is over in the winery, but they are still hard at it, this is when Derek gets to use his technical expertise with skillful racking and blending all the separate batches of wine, deciding how much of it goes into what barrels and at $1500 per barrel, these are big decisions.
They will also monitor and check how the older vintage wines are aging up.
They prepare all the wines for bottling, the Verdelho, Unwooded Chardonnay and the Shiraz, which was made the year before, it will have spent 12 months in the best French oak. Bottling happens in mid May, and then we all take a short holiday…ready to start the growing cycle again….
Summer means vintage in the Swan Valley. It’s busy but exciting in the winery, the culmination of all the hard work in the vineyard and the very beginning of the year’s new wines.
Vintage begins in the last week of January, depending on the weather and grape ripeness. In the winery everyone is flat out, all day every day. The hand picked fruit for our Sparkling Chardonnay is first, and then the Verdelho followed by the Chardonnay.
We may get a week or so to catch our breath, then we’re back into the fray with the reds! The Merlot fruit is handpicked first, followed by Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and finally the raisin-ed Muscat.
In between grape picks we hold our Twilight Concerts to celebrate vintage & harvest. These casual, picnic style concerts have been going for over 10 years, are great fun for everyone. Everyone relaxes as the sun sets over the vineyard, enjoy a picnic or dinner in the restaurant and then get your dancing feet on, the swing, soul and funk music is infectious!
Derek has done a full Vintage Report for last vintage.
In September, the buds burst making a haze of green across the vineyard, you can almost see the vines growing while you watch, each day the shoots get longer.
As the vines get bigger, we have to manage the canopy, so the fruit can grow perfectly. There is also constant monitoring for pests and disease.
Spring does send Derek back into the winery, blending reds from the previous vintages. He prepares the Reserve Chardonnay and most of the previous vintage’s red wines ready for bottling.
I’ve already got him working on the liqueur muscat…so it ought to be ready for Christmas!
Winter, is the grape grower’s favourite time in many ways it is the start of the season or the re-birth of the vines. The vines shut down during autumn and are dormant over winter; this is when we prune them right back.
We start pruning at the beginning of July. During pruning we cut away all the wood from last year’s growth and leave chosen buds to produce the next season’s fruit.
We look at each vine individually to decide how we’d like it to grow during the year. These decisions are influenced by which wine the fruit goes into.
Winter is a fabulous time to be outside; as the sun rises the vineyard is shrouded in mist, clearing during the early morning. By midmorning it’s often warm enough to prune in just a T-shirt.
The cooler weather encourages cosy nights by the fire enjoying a glass of Shiraz, and perhaps a bit of slow roasting. Long days of pruning do tend to result in thinking about food, a lot!