It seems appropriate at this time of year to talk about weather. As inclement and cold and bitter as it may feel in a Central Victorian winter, it is generally a much safer time of the year for vines that are dormant and not vigorously active in terms of growth and development. While winters are often dry and cold, summers can be dry and hot for extended periods. Access to reliable water is therefore essential and the proximity to the Loddon River flowing along the north-western boundary of the Turners Crossing vineyard is of significant value in that sense. To compliment the water entitlement from the river, a back-up bore on the property has the capacity to supply water for a whole growing season, if required.
It is in the growing season that weather variations are far more critical to vine development and fruit production. Although not common, frosts can be expected in late spring, just as we are reaching bud burst. This is when vegetative material and flower parts in particular are tender and most vulnerable. A sub-zero frost in one night can have devastating results causing flowers to not bloom and the subsequent fruit, to not set.
To manage this situation, a solar-powered online weather station has been installed at the Turners Crossing vineyard. It records variations in temperature, relative humidity and rainfall. While the weather station itself is fairly non-descript and located centrally within the expanse of vines, it is the capacity of the unit to initiate an alarm that proves its primary benefit. In the event of frost conditions, for example, the temperature alert is set at a level that when reached, automatically sends an alert to the Vineyard Manager. He then is able to respond by activating an overhead spray system to ensure damage is averted.
Slow-cooked beef cheeks, parsnip purée and watercress with
Turners Crossing ‘The Crossing’ Shiraz
- 800g (4 – 8) beef cheeks
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 200g celery, chopped
- 200g carrots, peeled & chopped
- 1 large brown onion, chopped
- ½ cup red wine
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 tbsp warm honey
- 8 juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- freshly ground black pepper
- 200g cooked parsnips, puréed
- 180g cooked Pontiac potatoes, puréed
- 100g unsalted butter
- ½ cup cream, lightly whipped
- 1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 1800C.
Trim fat from beef cheeks – seal in half the oil and keep warm. De-glaze the pan with a little beef stock and keep to one side.
Heat the remaining oil in a large casserole dish and add the celery, carrots and onion and lightly brown. Sit the cheeks on top of the vegetables – add the de-glazing juices, red wine, stock, honey, juniper berries and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 1½ hours, then rest for at least ½ hour.
Put the parsnip and potato into a saucepan and whip in the butter over medium heat; remove from heat and fold in the cream and salt. Mix with a blender until smooth.
To serve, lift the cheeks from the liquid. Spoon the purée into the centre of a plate, top with the beef cheeks and freshly ground pepper. Ladle cooking juices around the purée base and serve with a bowl of watercress leaves.
Enjoy with a glass of the finest Turners Crossing ‘The Crossing’ Shiraz!
What’s happening in the Vineyard? ...
While the plants themselves are ‘resting’ in this period of dormancy, that context of complacency does not extend to the activity of vineyard employees! Far from it. There is much to be done on the ground and in preparation for the next active growing season… The pruning is almost completed now…. That in itself is a mammoth task with nearly 130 kilometres of trellis to attend to!! Wires are dropped as vines are pruned and tied down and dripper lines and frost spray units damaged during harvest are repaired or replaced. Equipment and machinery is checked, serviced and maintained to ensure effective operation when it counts most.
The pumps, housed inside an on-site shed for protection against the elements are an integral component of the irrigation function, which will be the next most crucial aspect of operations throughout August. This has been a notably dry winter and the vines will require ‘wet-feet’ at bud-burst to enable maximum shoot and foliage development.
In the meantime, the Loddon River continues to manifest its raw, peaceful beauty as it wends its way gently north towards the mighty Murray!....