Rollercoaster vintage | Fires, floods & pestilance
What a vintage, it started early and with low yields. Then WA went into a 6 day lockdown, which meant we had to postpone two concerts.
This was overshadowed by a bush fire and smoke taint that threatened us for a few days.
The fire was put out by drenching rains, but they caused the Swan River to flood. Fortunately our new levy bank held back the water; saving the Tempranillo & Cabernet grapes.
The Result: amazingly 2021 vintage looks great
January 7 | Our 21st Vintage
2020 is Upper Reach's 21st vintage.
We picked the first grapes Tuesday, 7 Jan, 4 days earlier than we've ever picked before; due to warm weather and lower yields.
However the fruit looks fantastic, no sun burn, no bird damage.
I've just tasted the Verdelho juice and its as good as our best...so bodes well!
The good news is quality looks fantastic but the bad news is that we've got 30% less fruit; yields down means less wine.
February 10 | Floods
We're called Upper Reach as we're on the banks of the Swan River and didn't we know it when the Swan River flooded in 2017.
A cyclone in the north of WA caused unprecedented rains and floods, in Perth but also in the Swan River's catchment areas.
The rainwater came rushing down the river valley, the Swan River flooded its banks and started running through the middle of our vineyard. A nerve-racking night.
The water kept rising for a couple of days, stopping just at the base of a retaining wall.
It was devastating we lost the whole of our premium Shiraz wine crop, after spending all year growing the grapes.
August 1 | New Tasting Space
In 2010 it was time to update the Cellar Door and we needed the space in the winery!
We redeveloped the restaurant, so that it was more 'weather-proof', now it can be heated and cooled. We brought the Cellar Door a lot closer and really framed the entrance and view.
March 30 | First vintage | Tempranillo
Derek wanted to have a play with the Spanish variety Tempranillo, one of the main varieties in wine from the Rioja. He thought that it would work well in this region.
July 30 | The Birth of our Cellar Club
We invited our very best supporters to join our Cellar Club, a small and select group of VIPs.
Many of these early members are still a part of Upper Reach today!
February 22 | First Twilight Concert
Summer evenings on the vineyard are so beautiful, we wanted to share them so with some trepridation we decided to hold two Twilight Concerts.
We had Sabroson and Libby Hammer with Hip Mo Toast- the hottest Salsa this side of Cuba, to cool jazz WA style.
September 20 | Upper Reach Cafe Opens
Clearly we didn't have enough to do, so we thought we'd build a cafe!
Ideally we all want to sit amongst the vines and have servants bringing us beautiful meals.
However that didn't seem very practical, so we created a pavilion open to the vineyard on three sides.
Because of Laura's Spanish heritage we served a Tapas Platter along with an Antipasto Platter and a small selection of individual meals.
September 10 | Building a Winery
Probably one of the most stressful times of my life, was when we started building our winery.
It wasn't just the building, we had to choose and order all the winemaking equipment, which is made to order in Italy, so of course they all needed significant deposits- and we didn't have planning permission yet!
It was all finished in time (just) we sealed the floor two days before our first pick!
February 12 | First Vintage at Upper Reach
We were so young and foolish, here we are about to dig out our very first fermenter of Shiraz grapes.
Laura would like to point out that she was new to Australia and trying to fit in!?!
July 1 | Crazy Derek & Laura buy a vineyard
What were we thinking?
After travelling Derek ended up in the UK and got a job in a Wine Merchant, Oddbins. This was the olden days, before the internet, when you had to 'know' stuff, Oddbins were really hot on teaching staff about wine and where it all comes from.
After a few years (we were in Manchester, in winter its dark from 4pm until 8am) Derek decided he wanted return to Australia, grow grapes and make wine....'yeah, right' thought Laura 'who wouldn't?'.
A year on and Laura from London (never seen a tractor) and Derek from Dalwallinu and we've bought a run down, half planted Chardonnay vineyard.
October 8 | Derek's Grandfather settles the farm
There are many beginnings to our journey, but Derek's Grandfather taking up one of the state's land grants is definitely a significant one. In 1927 Geoff Pearse along with his brother walked all the available land grants and chose the grant that is still the Pearse family farm, west of Wubin in Dalwallinu shire.
Imagine him carving a path through the bush on his newly acquired tractor, his wife following, driving the truck loaded with two young children and all their worldly possessions. It took them two days to get there and then all they had to do was find water, build a house, grow some food, clear some land and grow a crop to help feed others in WA....
August 8 | Subdivison of Baskerville Estate & building the Worker's Cottage
Baskerville was an early land grant and in 1924 the Barrett-Lennards sub-divided the block to sell 15-25 acre parcels of land, I imagine these were targeted at servicemen returning from World War 1.
Upper Reach is on one of the larger blocks that abut the Swan River
Our rich soil is great for growing things and these properties were often market gardens.
It was one of the early owners that built the cottage that still stands here today. A typical 'Californian Bungalow' layout with a central corridor with two rooms each side and an outdoor privy.
June 1 | The Dalmatian Invasion of the Swan Valley
Migrants flocked to the Swan Valley in three waves: after World War I, in the 1920s and following World War II. Croatian farmers were a huge part of this migration and were largely responsible for transforming the Valley from traditional agricultural lands to the vineyards we know and love today.
June 1 | Voyage of Discovery | Captain James Stirling
Captain James Stirling left his ship in the natural harbour that we now call Fremantle and explored the Swan River on a sailing dingy, the type of boat know as a 'gig'. (Inspiring the Gig Wine).
They camped on the opposite riverbank to us, but explored from the river to the foothills. It was 'the richness of the soil...the majesty of the surrounding trees, the abrupt and red-coloured banks of the river...made the scenery around this spot as beautiful as anything.'
Stirling returned to found the Swan River Colony in 1829.
Noogar people of the Whadjuk tribe
The Noongar Aboriginal people of the Whadjuk tribe, are the traditional landowners of the Swan Valley.
They have lived in the region for over 40,000 years.
It is said that a Dreamtime Serpent, the Waggl travelled across the country, carving out the Swan Valley and Swan River and still resides deep within the Swan River.