Cellar Door now open 7 days a week!

We're very pleased to welcome Brooke to the Mount Majura Vineyard team. Brooke has taken over from Kate as Cellar Door Manager, so Brooke will be here from Thursday to Monday.

But Kate is not going anywhere! Kate will now work during the week, so that cellar door will also be open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So finally, Cellar Door is open every day of the week. No more wondering if we're open today, just come along! Of course, check here first for public holidays, be we're generally open then too.

In other news, vintage 2017 has started, with the picking of some chardonnay for The Silurian yesterday. We're very pleased that the hot weather has moderated, and now we have wonderful ripening conditions.

New Cellar Door Manager Brooke Edwards

New Cellar Door Manager Brooke Edwards

Pristine hand-picked chardonnay gets chilled overnight before whole-bunch pressing for The Silurian.

Pristine hand-picked chardonnay gets chilled overnight before whole-bunch pressing for The Silurian.

And the Winner is...

Back in November, we announced that one lucky online purchaser of our Gold Medal six pack would win a three-pack of our best Shiraz vintages from the museum. Competition was admirably fierce, but the winner has been drawn. Congratulations to Jim of Griffith ACT.

Have a very merry but safe Christmas everyone, with thanks for your support during the year from everyone here at the Vineyard.

More Riesling Please

A riesling bud grafted into the trunk of a pinot gris vine and just starting to grow. The blue twine is in place ready to train up the new shoot.

A riesling bud grafted into the trunk of a pinot gris vine and just starting to grow. The blue twine is in place ready to train up the new shoot.

Each Spring in the vineyard, we take another small step towards the ideal combination of varieties in our vineyard. What that ideal is exactly, is of course a moving target, but over the years we've seen the planting of more tempranillo and the introduction of new varieties such as touriga nacional and mondeuse. Our overall vineyard area hasn't been increasing, rather this is a re-balancing of the composition of our existing vineyard. Some varieties have been tried and failed (merlot) and some varieties we simply originally planted too much (pinot noir).

Sometimes these changes of variety involve removing the original vines and planting new ones from scratch, but often we do it a quicker way, grafting or 'top working' one variety to another. 'More' and 'Riesling' are two words that are often found together, so this year we're grafting a patch of pinot gris to riesling.

Pinot gris is an important variety for us, and that's not changing, but we have enough of it planted to usually have some grapes left over for sale to other wineries. Riesling on the other hand is one that really excites and frustrates us: exciting because its one of the best wines we make, and frustrating because there's never enough. The 2016 Riesling is likely to sell out in January or February, before the next one is even picked, let alone bottled or released.

The top of the pinot gris vine has been chopped off, and the riesling bud starts to elongate into a new shoot, with a whole mature root system driving it.

The top of the pinot gris vine has been chopped off, and the riesling bud starts to elongate into a new shoot, with a whole mature root system driving it.

So how do you graft one variety to another? In the Winter, Leo took cuttings from our riesling vines and stored them in the fridge. Then in the Spring, our grafting contractor (grafting is an expert job) came and slipped a dormant riesling bud into the trunk of each pinot gris vine. The grafted bud forms a callus, knitting the tissues of the two varieties together, so that the sap from the pinot gris roots can flow to the riesling growing tip. After allowing a couple of weeks for this to take place, we 'chop the heads off' the pinot gris, leaving only a section of bare trunk with that one riesling bud to grow.

This is the moment of truth: either the riesling bud takes off and rapidly makes a new shoot that can be trained onto the growing wire for next season's fruit, or it doesn't 'take' and the vine descends into a mess of pinot gris suckers, desperately trying to keep the vine alive even though it is unwanted. When done well, there are few of these misses to be re-grafted the following year, but its a demanding job, requiring constant attention to maximise success and maximise the growth and re-establishment of the vine as a riesling vine.

So while the 2017 Riesling from the Pines block is likely to be just as limited in supply as the 2016, in 2018 there should be some Riesling from the North block, and the chance to compare the two patches, one from established vines (planted 2000) and one grafted onto established vines (planted 1999).

YouthCare Canberra

In 2016 the Mount Majura Vineyard team came up with an idea to make a charity wine. We wanted to make a difference locally and repay in some small way the fantastic support we receive from everyone who enjoys our wines and helps us continue to do the work we love so much.

While every charity deserves support, we wanted to get behind one where our small contribution could make a big difference. YouthCare Canberra was the choice. We met with Zack, their first case worker who tirelessly works to improve the lives of young Canberrans who have found themselves homeless, escaping violence and abuse.

Later in 2016 we met Richie, Youth Care Canberra’s second case worker, doubling the impact the charity has on the lives of at risk young people in Canberra. Both Zack and Richie provide hope, guidance and counseling to the kids in their care for a few weeks or many months, whatever is necessary to help them get back on their feet and coping with life’s challenges.

Since the beginning of our partnership with Youth Care Canberra every member of the Mount Majura Vineyard team has been touched by their stories and the work they do. We are proud to be able to help in some small way and grateful to know there are people like Zack and Richie out there on the streets looking out for Canberra’s at risk youth.

Noted wine scribe Max Allen wrote about our charity wine in The Australian in September:

‘Nino is the name of a new wine from Mount Majura Vineyard in the Canberra district. It’s a 2016 pet nat — petillant naturel, naturally sparkling wine — made from the juice of pinot gris grapes, and it’s delicious: full of the flavour of white peaches and lemon pith, crisp, refreshing, clean-tasting and more-ish. It was made with no additions at all — wild yeast, no preservatives — and it finished fermentation in the bottle, which means the wine is cloudy, thanks to the presence of the yeast lees (Nino stands for “nothing in, nothing out”). This makes it more delicious, giving the wine a round, caressing texture on the tongue.

‘It’s one of the best locally produced pet nats I’ve tried, but that’s not the only reason it’s worth tracking down. Mount Majura is donating all the proceeds from the sale of the wine to YouthCARE Canberra, an outreach service for young people at risk — and at $25 a bottle with 180 sixpacks made, that’s a fair chunk of useful cash to be raised.’

So not only is NINO a great source of summer refreshment, it's a great feeling to know that you're making a difference at the same time.

Canberra District and Hilltops excel at National Wine Show

Congratulations to our friends Alex McKay of Collector Wines and Celine Rousseau of Chalkers Crossing, dominating the results at the National Wine Show.

Congratulations to our friends Alex McKay of Collector Wines and Celine Rousseau of Chalkers Crossing, dominating the results at the National Wine Show.

Chalkers Crossing 2014 CC2 Shiraz from Hilltops, near Canberra, has won the Len Evens Memorial Trophy for wine of show (and three other trophies) at the National Wine Show. This followed the success of the same wine at the Sydney show and others. Its a beautiful wine, thoroughly deserving these results.

But the wine that was runner up for the Shiraz trophy was our very own 2015 Shiraz, which won the top gold medal in the 2015 Shiraz class, against 88 other shiraz wines from around Australia.

One of the other most prestigious trophies at the show, the Red Wine of Provenance trophy, was won by Collector Wines for their 2015, 2009 and 2005 Marked Tree Shiraz.

Altogether, these are stunning results for Hilltops and Canberra District, dominating the shiraz classes at the National Wine Show. As others have said before, we're seeing the rise and rise of cool-climate shiraz in Australia.

 

2015 Shiraz Released

Gold Medal six pack

Gold Medal six pack

Being one of our best varieties, from one of our best-ever vintages, the 2015 Shiraz was always going to be a wine worth waiting for. Rarely have we been able to release a wine with three gold medals already to its name, and yet this is a wine that is still to show its best. It would certainly be a worthy addition to the cellar. (Edit: the 2015 Shiraz has just won top gold in the 2015 Shiraz class at the National Wine Show).

Win three of our best Shiraz selected from the museum collection

Win three of our best Shiraz selected from the museum collection

Not only has the Shiraz been successful: rarely have we had such a set of highly-awarded wines on release at the same time. With six of our range currently sporting one or more gold medals, not to mention a few trophies, the obvious thing was to put together a Gold Medal six-pack. This includes one bottle each of our 2016 Riesling, 2015 Chardonnay, 2015 Noble Pinot Gris, 2015 TSG, 2015 Shiraz and 2015 Tempranillo.

To make this even more appealing, if you buy this six-pack online before Christmas (or while stocks last) you'll go into the draw to win a three-pack of our best Shiraz vintages (2004, 2007, 2012) from our museum collection.

Seeking Cellar Door Manager...

Many of you will know Kate, who has been our lovely Cellar Door Manager for the last five years. The good news is that Kate is not going anywhere, but as we grow, Kate is taking on some new challenges at Mount Majura Vineyard. So that means we're looking for a great new person to join the team and take over the Cellar Door Manager role.

Perhaps you're interested, or perhaps you know someone else who may be? In either case, we would love to get some applications. There are more details on the Employment page.

What’s happening in the Vineyard with all this rain?

Leo Quirk, Viticulturist

Leo Quirk, Viticulturist

Graciano inflorescences pre-flowering

Graciano inflorescences pre-flowering

That is question that everyone is asking when they look at the current weather pattern. So to answer this question let me give a few numbers and then explain how this is affecting us at Mount Majura Vineyard.

We have had approximately 710mm of rain in 2016 compared to 510 mm this time last year. This is 200mm more that last year. You can also compare this to our average rainfall for Canberra of 562mm (for this time of year) so we are well above the average.

Just like everything we do at Mount Majura Vineyard, it’s all about timing. So the rainfall through the Winter and Spring was most welcomed as it filled our soil moisture profile and gave our grapevines the best chance to grow strongly and develop healthy canopies.

However the rainfall through the spring, combined with very mild temperatures, has lead to less then expected canopy growth. This has produced less then expected disease pressure.

So in summary, the rain has not caused us too much worry. We expect that as the season warms up we will see the vines really start to stretch out adding a lot more vegetative growth to the grapevine canopy.

It is business as usual. We are currently training young vines up to the cordon wire, monitoring for pests and disease, doing our initial bunch counts to forecast the coming yield and keeping on top of the grasses throughout the vineyard.

Vintage in Germany 2016

Our Assistant Winemaker, Monica, has returned from Germany where she completed vintage at Reh Kendermann Winery in Rheinhessen. Rheinhessen is the largest winegrowing region in Germany, and whilst they produce the country’s flagship variety, Riesling, Monica also worked with other varietals including Muller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Scheurebe, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Dornfelder (a red hybrid developed specifically for the German climate).

Having very different growing conditions to what we’re used to in Australia, German vineyards are constantly striving to achieve ripeness before the pressure of disease sets in. The Riesling vines stand proud and tall, with little canopy protecting the naked bunches, to ensure maximum sunlight exposure. Quite different to our Pines Block where we manage the canopy to protect the bunches from sunburn, especially on the western side. Most German producers make a range of wines from sweet to dry. Monica was intrigued to learn that a wine with less than 7g/L of residual sugar was considered dry! As the fruit has very high natural acidity, even a little bit of sweetness helps to round out the palate on wines, without losing the minerality and drive of a German Riesling. Monica’s love for Riesling has only increased during her time in Germany and her only complaint is that we don’t have enough of it at Mount Majura!

Monica also visited a number of other regions and smaller producers in Germany, tasting as she went. We all benefited from a special bottle she brought back and shared at our staff tasting yesterday!

Mount Majura Vineyard Two Peaks Trail Race

Mount Majura Vineyard has been hosting the start/finish of this Mountain Run for about ten years, and each year is just as much fun as the last. The competitors perform incredible feats of speed and endurance, covering either 26km or 10km over Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie. This year's course was even more challenging than usual due to temporary closure of Majura Pines.

Very efficiently organised by John Harding of the Australian Mountain Running Association, the whole event is very laid-back. The runners all have great smiles on their faces, and all finishers receive a bottle of wine. At the finish line! It's our pleasure to hand this out as well as providing three-packs of our finest as prizes for the winners.

Congratulations to all finishers, but especially to the winners, Alan Craigie, Jane Gordon, David Osmond and Marnie Shaw. The results are posted at the AMRA website.

Riesling Challenge Trophy

Riesling is one of the best varieties in the Canberra District and one of our great favourites. It is fair to say that making excellent Riesling is one of the greatest challenges and most rewarding results for our team, both in the vineyard and in the winery.

Not surprisingly then, winemaker Frank van de Loo was very excited and proud to receive another trophy at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, for best Riesling of the Canberra District, for the 2016 Riesling. The same trophy had been won for the 2014 Riesling (which also won the trophy for the best dry Riesling of show).

2016 ActewAGL Canberra and Region Wine Show

Judging began for the local Canberra show on Monday the 19th with results being announced on Friday 23rd September. There was a number of local (including our very own, Kate) and interstate judges, led by this year’s chairman of judges, Sebastian Crowther the head sommelier of the Rockpool Group.

Mr Crowther said while Canberra's signature varietals, shiraz and riesling, still shone at the judging, there had been a lift in the quality of other varietals such as chardonnay and pinot noir.

"I think one of the most exciting classes at the show is the alternative red varieties, these are like not the mainstream grape – your gamays, grenache, tempranillo. It's a catch-all category that has all these really delicious, really interesting stylistic wines in them which are very exciting."

We are particularly thrilled with the performance of our alternative varieties, tempranillo, graciano, and touriga, all of which scored silver or gold medals, while our Tempranillo landed the Trophy for Best Other Red!

With chardonnay, shiraz and our noble pinot gris also scoring gold medals, there are plenty of reasons to come and try the wines the judges loved so much! Aside from the 2015 shiraz, all of the wines listed below are currently available for tasting and sale at the cellar door, or if you can't make it to us, you can always find them in our online store. Don't forget, all online orders are freight free and there's no minimum order quantity.

Gold & Best Other Red Trophy – 2015 Tempranillo

Gold – 2015 TSG

Gold - 2015 Shiraz currently looking to be released later in the year, 2014 available

Gold – 2015 Chardonnay

Gold – 2015 Noble Pinot Gris

Silver - 2015 Graciano, 2015 Touriga, 2015 Little Dam Tempranillo & 2015 Dry Spur Tempranillo single sites Tempranillo's will be released on the 8th of October

Sunlight into wine... and power

Solar arrays facing East in the morning...

Solar arrays facing East in the morning...

And facing West in the afternoon, maximising energy generation throughout the day.

And facing West in the afternoon, maximising energy generation throughout the day.

Everyone loves sunshine, especially a winemaker thinking of Galileo's famous quote 'Wine is sunlight, held together by water'. But we have new reasons to value the sun, with the development of a large solar farm in our bottom paddock. As some of our least vineyard-suitable land, it was not being well utilised, but is now the site of Mount Majura Solar Farm, capable of generating up to a nominal 2.3 MW of power into the electricity grid.

The solar farm  has 7,340 panels , mounted on ‘self-powered’ single-axis tracking technology that maximises the sunlight intercepted. The tracking devices can improve a PV system’s output by up to 40% over a fixed-tilt system. The 'NEXTracker SPT' units have up to 120 degrees of rotation – allowing them to follow the sun as it moves east to west through the sky.

The solar farm will contribute to the ACT’s 100% renewable energy target, providing 4,500 MWh/year, or the equivalent amount of energy to power 615 Canberra homes. Two important steps remain in completion of the project. Installation of solar panels in a separate system on the winery roof will allow much of the winery's energy needs to be met sustainably. And landscaping around the solar farm will help screen it and maintain the rural character of our beautiful Majura Valley.

A second stage to the solar farm project could see an additional 1MW of capacity added as Australia's largest community-owned solar project. See Solar Share's website for more information.

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Adventures in Wine Land

There is always a lot going on at Mount Majura Vineyard. Leo has finished pruning and is busy preparing for this year's bout of grafting (we need more Riesling!). The 2016 reds are sitting quietly in barrel, but were recently blended.

However, there is also a lot happening with MMV staff off-site. Monica Gray (Assistant Winemaker) is busy doing vintage for the second time this year, in Germany. Monica won the Esther Knewitz Memorial Scholarship, which includes a couple of months work at a large winery in the Rheinhessen, where they grow and make Riesling, and quite a few other varieties besides.

Kate Hibberson (Cellar Door Manager) has been packing quite a lot of wine show judging into her busy schedule lately, as an Associate Judge at both the Winewise Small Vignerons Awards, and currently at the Canberra and Region Wine Show. When you come to taste wines at Cellar Door, you're guided by an expert palate!

Gau-Bickleheim in the Rheinhessen, ready for vintage 2016

Gau-Bickleheim in the Rheinhessen, ready for vintage 2016

Kate judging at the recent Winewise Small Vigneron Awards

Kate judging at the recent Winewise Small Vigneron Awards

NINO is out there!

We're pretty proud of all our wines, but the feeling around here is that NINO is the best thing we've done all year. It was launched last week at YouthCARE Canberra's Rugby Dinner, with a good chunk of the stock selling on the night. Now it is available in Cellar Door and here, but even better, it is on the shelves at some of the best independent shops in Canberra: Ainslie Cellars, Jim Murphy Market Cellars and Jim Murphy Airport Cellars. And even better, these guys are all kindly buying it from us at full retail price, the same they sell it for, so 100% of the proceeds still go to YouthCARE Canberra!

According to Max Allen in The Australian (6/9/16):

Nino is the name of a new wine from Mount Majura Vineyard in the Canberra district. It’s a 2016 pet nat — petillant naturel, naturally sparkling wine — made from the juice of pinot gris grapes, and it’s delicious: full of the flavour of white peaches and lemon pith, crisp, refreshing, clean-tasting and more-ish. It was made with no additions at all — wild yeast, no preservatives — and it finished fermentation in the bottle, which means the wine is cloudy, thanks to the presence of the yeast lees (Nino stands for “nothing in, nothing out”). This makes it more delicious, giving the wine a round, caressing texture on the tongue.

It’s one of the best locally produced pet nats I’ve tried, but that’s not the only reason it’s worth tracking down. Mount Majura is donating all the proceeds from the sale of the wine to YouthCARE Canberra, an outreach service for young people at risk — and at $25 a bottle with 180 sixpacks made, that’s a fair chunk of useful cash to be raised.

Show season has started

Wine shows are kicking off in earnest around the country, and we always enter a few of our favourite and local ones. It gives us great feedback on our wines, as well as giving you an independent rating of them.

Results are in from the NSW Small Winemakers Show, and we were delighted with a Gold medal for the 2015 Shiraz (due for release later this year).

Even better, the trophies have been announced for the Winewise Small Vigneron Awards. The trophy for Best Other Red Blend went to our 2015 TSG! And there was another gold medal for our 2015 Shiraz (not yet released).

Chris Shanahan reviews the 2015 TSG

Appearing in today's Canberra Times is this rather lovely review by Chris Shanahan of our 2015 TSG:

A blend of 49% tempranillo, 36% shiraz and 15% graciano, TSG thrills with its vivid purple colour, sweet, seductive aroma and vibrant, harmonious palate. The absolutely delicious palate features the liveliest, freshest fruit flavour imaginable, all held together by savoury tannins that give the wine smooth texture.

Welcome to our new site

Are you used to seeing this? That old site served us, more or less, for many years...

We hope that your experience here is better. It should look a little more modern, behave much better on your phone, and make it easier for us to keep providing fresh, interesting content.

Buying wine from the site should also be much less clunky. Of course we would love you to try that out!

Remember, we're just a small team of real people (you can learn a bit more about us on that page) and we would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think and tell us what we can do better!