The Harvest (March 19, 2023)
Our journey began with the grape picking weekend at @ShirazRepublic. 🍇 We had an amazing grape picking and crushing weekend, where we were able to experience this age-old tradition firsthand. Not only did we have a blast, but we also learned so much about the process of winemaking and the importance of each step. The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, making the whole experience even more enjoyable.
The grapes we picked were so sweet and juicy, and it was fascinating to think that they would soon be transformed into a delicious Heathcote region Shiraz wine. 🍷 I couldn't wait to taste the fruits of our endeavors!
Separating the Stems
Separating the grapes, skins, and juice was an essential process in winemaking, since our picking didn't just get grapes, but stems, stalks, leaves, and who knows what else was lurking between the bunches! 🍇 Once that was done, it was time for the fun part - stomping and getting our feet to feel squishy! There was nothing quite like the sensation of grapes oozing between our toes as we crushed them to release their delicious nectar.
Now that the stomping was complete, the fermentation began with natural yeasts. Our next involvement in our winemaking adventure was pressing the grapes. This process extracted all the remaining juice from the crushed grapes, ensuring that every last drop was collected for fermentation. We couldn't wait to see how our hard work and laughter-filled weekend would contribute to the final product - a delicious wine that we could enjoy and share. 🥂 Of course, there were many more steps before that stage, and we also got to sample the progress of the wine!
In just a couple of weeks, we would head back to check on the progress of the crushed grapes and learn more about the next stages in the winemaking process. I was especially curious to see how the fermentation process worked and how the flavors developed over time.
Stay tuned, as we continued to immerse ourselves in the fascinating world of winemaking. If you haven't had the chance to participate in a grape picking event, I highly recommend giving it a try. It's a unique and educational experience that brings you closer to understanding the art of winemaking. Plus, it's a fantastic way to spend a weekend outdoors, surrounded by beautiful scenery.
We stayed the night in a cabin on the property. The next morning was stormy, and the lighting was very dramatic, so I took the opportunity to capture some photos of the scenery in this stunning light.
Pressing (April 2, 2023)
What an amazing day we had at @ShirazRepublic pressing our freshly harvested grapes! 🍇 We used an old hand press, like the ones that have been used by winemakers for generations. It was hard work, but the satisfaction of squeezing every last drop of juice out of those grapes was worth it.
The juice had already undergone 90% of the fermentation process, which gave it a semi-dry taste that was surprisingly smooth. However, it lacked the finish that we knew would come with time and the right treatment. We tasted every part of the press, and the complexity of the juice was evident, with hints of grape skins and seeds.
Next, we would be using oak chips to refine the wine's flavor, rather than barrels. It was a process that took time, and we were looking forward to seeing how it would complement the flavors of our grapes.
We were grateful to the team at @ShirazRepublic for sharing their knowledge and passion with us. It was an honor to be part of this ancient tradition of winemaking, and we were excited to see where our journey would take us. Stay tuned for updates on the next steps in our winemaking adventure!
The Oaking (July 1, 2023)
The next stage of our winemaking adventure at @shirazrepublic was selecting our oak. True to my scientific background, this involved extensive and comprehensive testing (i.e. a lot of tasting of blends of various oaked samples!) and fine-tuning. The staff were amazed at how precise we tuned our final blend. We ultimately settled on a combination of oaking the Shiraz wine with Hungarian Oak, French Oak, and American Oak. Now we had to wait and let the Oak do its work to influence the texture, flavor, and aroma of the wine - giving it a richer and more complex nature. Then in November, we would bottle the wine.
Oh, and I loved that the staff @shirazrepublic put us on the "photographer's table"! 📷 With the old enlarger and Brownie box camera, just like the one I started my photography journey with!
After our lunch at the Shiraz Republic, we checked into our AirBnB (Wisteria Cottage in Heathcote) and then walked to the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve to enjoy the "golden hour," and I took many photos. Once a hydraulic sluicing site, mining activity in the late 19th century washed away the top layer of earth and revealed the dramatic, colorful cliffs on display today.
Bottling and Labelling (November 25, 2023)
The final chapter of our incredible winemaking journey at @ShirazRepublic, though there was still the delightful part—drinking! 🍷
We started by using the bottle washer to ensure our bottles were perfectly sterilized. Next came the meticulous process of filtration and transferring our wine from the demijohn into bottles. Corking the bottles was an art in itself, with those heat shrink-wrapped cork sleeves requiring careful attention. We even designed our own labels, adding a personal touch to every bottle, before carefully packing them into boxes.
And, oh, how could I forget the tasting in between! Our wine was already a delightful drop, and I couldn't help but look forward to how it would age over time.
We were immensely grateful to the wonderful team at @ShirazRepublic for their unwavering support, knowledge, and passion throughout this journey.
But that's not all—we also had a pack of shiraz-infused oak chips in hand, ready for some exciting experimentation. Time to hit up YouTube for creative ideas on how to make the most of them!
We stayed the night in Heathcote at the Wisteria Cottage AirBnB again and on the next morning, I hiked from there to Viewing Rock Lookout in the Heathcote-Graytown National park and took my first images with my new Olympus 40-150 f2.8 PRO lens.
On our way home from Heathcote, we discovered this little gem in the Macedon wine region - Paramoor Winery. Wine tasting and function rooms in a rustic old timber former horse stable, which had been restored and looked sensational. Highly recommend you check out the winery when you are nearby - oh and the wines were fantastic too.
Stay tuned for more wine adventures and discoveries. Cheers to our winemaking journey and the exciting sips yet to come! 🥂🍇