Driving northwest from Bendigo, the landscape begins to flatten out and open up through pastoral country divided by serpent-like bands of River Red gum trees that line sporadic river courses meandering slowly to the mighty Murray River. Not far from the tiny settlement of Serpentine, some 200 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, Turners Crossing vineyard rests on the banks of the Loddon River on the Old Bridgewater- Serpentine road. It is here where Paul Jenkins and Phil Bennett found property available to establish their vision for a productive and viable vineyard. The initial assessments involved intensive soil testing and irrigation planning before site preparation began followed by the extensive planting and trellising of the vines.
The entire property is just over 225 acres in area of which 105 acres is planted with 70,000 vines comprising 4 different grape varieties. The majority of the vineyard was planted in 1999 with over 70 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz selected for the initial vine establishment. Another 30 acres of the same grape varieties were planted the following year while a further 5 acres of Picolit and Viognier were added between 2000 & 2006.
The Vineyard is 268, above sea level with a nor-west aspect and falls no more than 2 metres in height away from the Loddon River, which runs along its western edge. The soil is typically a medium clay loam infused with a ridge of limestone pebbles that influences a neutral pH across the profile.
Climatic conditions at the site generally include warm to hot days (up to 40 degrees Celsius) during summer and throughout the growing season with mild night-time temperatures just below 20 degrees Celsius. Frosts can and do occur in October and into early November on occasions. Variations in weather are monitored using an online weather station, while an overhead spray system is activated in advance of forecast frosts to ensure crop damage is avoided. The prevailing wind in the growing season is generally of warm northerly inland origin.
Quince and Hazelnut Tart (Dessert with Turners Crossing Picolit)
Preheat the oven to 100C. Juice 1 lemon and combine with 1 cup of water. Peel and quarter the quinces and drop them into the lemon water to help prevent them from browning.
Quarter the remaining lemon, then place in a flameproof casserole with 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Drain the quinces and add to the sugar syrup. Bring back to the boil, and then remove from heat. Cover the surface closely with baking paper, and then transfer to the oven. Reduce the oven to 75C and cook for 3-4 hours or until the fruit is tender and a rich crimson colour. Cool in the syrup. Meanwhile, lightly grease a loose bottom 23cm x 4cm tart pan. Line with the pastry and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C
Line the tart pan with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the baking weights and paper and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until dry and lightly golden. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the butter and remaining 125g sugar in a food processor and whiz until combined. Add the flour and whiz to combine. With the motor running, add the eggs and vanilla and then add the hazelnut meal and whiz until well combined.
Drain the quince, then arrange in the tart shell to completely cover the base. Pour over the hazelnut mixture and smooth the top with a spatula. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the hazelnut layer comes out clean.
Allow the tart to rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and dust with icing sugar. Cut into slices and serve with vanilla bean ice cream.
What's Happening in the Vineyard?
With the arrival of winter, the vines are well into their annual period of dormancy. While the immediate world around them shivers and shudders in sub-zero night temperatures and frozen white landscapes dominate the early morning vistas, the vines rest with their stored carbohydrates reserves from the previous growing season lying latent in the woody trunks and roots ready to burst into foliage production when Spring appears.
This is the perfect time to start pruning back the last season's lateral shoots that now have a layer of wood around them. This serves to 'train' the vines to make harvest and management easier, but to also encourage the ideal balance of fruit and foliage production in the next growing season.
At Turners Crossing, mechanical pre-pruning is undertaken initially to remove the excess shoot growth followed by hand pruning to objectively leave around 50 buds per vine. It is from these buds that the fruit bearing shoots will arise throughout spring and summer months.
Back in the winery, the first of the latest vintage wines have been bottled already, a new and exciting Rose and that scrumptious Viognier that we followed through its dynamic fermentation.