Of Syrah, Lambs and Weeds-as-Flowers

Larry McKenna (Larrikins) came over on Thursday evening, on his way home, to taste the Syrah (or Shiraz, as this Aussie calls it). He was impressed with its progress. The six barrels still have another fermentation to go through – malolactic fermentation – and if you put your ear to the hole in the barrel you can hear a faint crackling. But it’s “strong”, showing good promise, and hopefully will be a great James Syrah from Redbank Estate Martinborough when we release it in 2010.

Writing this reminded me of another lovely line in that book I was reading, which I blogged about a few days back, and which I have now finished and highly recommend. Two gentle Irishwomen of the 19th century, Somerville and Ross, wrote in a book called “In the Vine Country” about their trip to the Medoc during vintage, and there’s a great observation where one of them writes:

…the best wine in the world is made in places where there is no tall chimney or hideous range of manufactories. All that one sees is a two-storey country-house, with pointed towers at each end, standing in green vineyard slopes, with somewhere in the background a group of inoffensive and often picturesque houses, painted pink, or some other frivolous colour, and not taking up as much room as the stables and yards at big houses in England. It is the extraordinary independence of grapes that gives this simplicity in wine-making. They do the whole thing themselves, only demanding to be let alone, and not all the tall chimneys in England could coerce them into fermenting a day faster than they choose, or could give them any better flavour than their own laws decree.. (my emphasis)

It reminds me of the lyrics of my favourite hymn, “Jerusalem”.


Yesterday I could hear a new lamb plaintively bleating repeatedly, for its mum, down at the end of our vineyard, through the fence in Te Hera, John Douglas’s vineyard. I walked down with Taja, and sure enough, there was a newborn lamb, sitting alone on John’s driveway, mum nowhere in sight. To give you some idea of the scale in size of a newborn lamb – this is what it looked like through our fence, in front of John’s vines:

The ewes in John Douglas’s vineyard, cleaning up between the rows, are meant to be Farmer John’s “dries”, ie, the ewes not in lamb, but so far about four of them have lambed. I squeezed through the fence and picked up this little sweetie and mum appeared, finally, and led it away. How could we eat these little darlings?

However, my fears were not totally allayed because the silly mum wouldn’t let the lamb drink – every time it tried, she walked away and knocked it over. Should I interfere? Should I bring it home, bottle feed it, and tie myself to a thrice-daily ritual which means every time you go out the back door your ears are assaulted by the sound of the hungry lambs? No silence of the lambs out here, I can assure you. On the one hand, I knew the little granddaughters would love it; on the other, we shouldn’t interfere too much in nature because we can make the issue worse. I decided to keep an eye on the situation, and when we turned in for the night, all was quiet. I didn’t like to look too closely, in case it was dead, but imagine my delight this morning when little lamb was up and about, fresh and strong and well bonded with mum.


I’m a bit of an eccentric gardener. To me, some weeds are just flowers in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thus I’ve preserved this lovely wee groundcover out the front, removing with the weedeater the shepherd’s purse which grows above it, and when the sun shines, as it is today in full force, I wake up to be greeted by a front “lawn” covered with grateful, cheerful, dainty blue flowers:


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