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2020 reflections from Cathy Marshall

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us….”

Charles Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities, written in 1859, can be easily juxtaposed to the conditions we are currently being subjected to during this time of Corona Virus in 2020. I can certainly apply these famous lines to how we struggled, worked and suffered during this most intense harvest.

On reflection, as we are enjoying some post-harvest down time, one thing that stands out the most is the resilience, effort, support and loyalty that was given to me by my fabulous team, from the start in January to the end of the season in mid-April. The frustration of lockdown whilst harvesting and with all white (Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc) and red (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon) grapes ripening at once made for a particularly stressful time. 

As I decant wines to barrel, consolidate white wine tanks and general winemaking husbandry – magic and alchemy has surpassed all the struggles and difficulties thrown at us during this vintage. We have some wonderful components to work with and are looking forward to bringing them to market soon.

Some highlights in this dark season include the arrival of three new amphora made by ceramic artist extraordinaire, Yogi de Beer. Our Chenin from 3 vineyard sites is resting and maturing in these amphorae until the end of the year. New and exciting Pinot Noir from vineyards at Stanford and Hemel-en-Aarde Valley add to the depth and complexity of our range of Pinot Noirs and is extremely exciting. With the increased demand locally and internationally for our sought-after Riesling, another site has been included from the cool climate Elgin Valley to match the demand. We are looking at release in July – if the lockdown is lifted in time.

One of our shareholders, Jeff Jolly who resides in Perth, joined us for 6 weeks after completing his online course through US Davis in winemaking, and was thrown into the chaos. He rose to the occasion with magnanimity during this intense time and we are hoping he will join us again soon.

My son, Jono, has stepped into the key role of assistant winemaker with aplomb and managed the season with all its trials and tribulations seamlessly – for which I am eternally grateful.

We also took the brave step in January of opening our tasting room to the public for the first time. Since the harvest was close at hand when we opened tasting room sales, we needed to find someone to run front of house. We were extremely fortunate to find a brilliant outgoing, enthusiastic young Australian, Ben Burger, who happened to be travelling to South Africa to spend time with his parents over the summer holidays. He is a trained Japanese chef – a huge bonus since we had a delegation of top end chefs and wine traders from Japan visit us for a tasting. He stepped up and produced incredible Japanese delights to complement our range of wines. He was certainly well received by them all. A real rock star on the day!

Currently, many winemakers would head to Europe and other destinations for the various trade shows and visits to our importers. With the lockdowns in place, travel bans have prevented showcasing our latest vintages which means that we need to be more online savvy and creative in reaching our customers and potential friends in wine. We are looking to increase our online shop activity and online tastings via the various apps like Zoom and Skype. I am looking forward to this new platform of reaching our fans. There is nothing better than being live in front of audiences, however, during this period  we will continue pursuing our passion for winemaking and sharing our wines with all our friends around the world. 

From the team and I – happy imbibing and be safe!

Cathy Marshall, April 2020