In June of 2015 Sunshine Creek held a large stand at one of the world’s biggest global wine and spirit events, Vinexpo in Bordeaux. Being in the mix of the major players, decision makers and estate owners in person our goal was to build stronger relationships with the overseas market and promote Australian wine to the vast number of international visitors attending. Over 5 days Vinexpo allowed us to keep up with the latest international market trends, attend seminars, conferences, tastings and food and wine pairings held by world renowned experts. The nightly networking events held within Bordeaux city center were also a great place to mingle and make new friends and contacts, and discover the odd bistrot (pub). The interest at our stand at Vinexpo drew large crowds, this was one of the benefits of being one of only a few Australian vineyard and winery stands. The genuine excitement for Australian wine and the reputation for quality we have was very apparent from specialist retailers, importers, major hotel and restaurant chains and E-commerce businesses as well as the international media that took a special interest in our stand. It was great to see adventurous local wine students as well as students that flew in from all over the world. Introducing them to our wares and the Australian wine regions was very rewarding. Our programme included food and wine pairing classes conducted by our own resident Kate McIntyre MW and our Gala dinner held at James’ Chateau Renon in Tabanac.
With us at our stand were Domaine A, Punch, Jasper Hill, Wild Duck Creek, Hentley Farm, Prancing Horse, Preveli, John Duval, Cullen, Goodman, Yeringberg, Castagna, Mount Mary, Moorooduc Estate, Philip Shaw, Vinea Marson, Craiglee, K1, Bannockburn and Del Rios.
In November of 2014 Sunshine Creek attended the premier wine event in Asia, the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair. Known as the consummate spring board into the Asian market the 2014 HKIWSF had 1007 exhibitors with a total of 19,926 buyers alone attending. For this wine show we invited our Yarra Valley friends to join us, goal being to promote the regional profile of the Yarra Valley in Asia as well as hang out together in Hong Kong for the week and have a great time, which karaoke afforded us! All together Mount Mary, Yeringberg, Yarra Yarra, Mac Forbe, Toolangi, Yarra Yering, Warramate, Punch, Bird on a Wire, Goodman Wines, Jamsheed, Thousand Candles, Medhurst, Hoddles Creek, Timo Meyer, Luke Lambert and Dominique Portet producers joined us. Also was Hargreaves Hill Brewery, Coldstream Brewery, and Four pillars Gin, food producers included Floridia Cheese, Crumbs Biscuits, Yarra Valley Gourmet Foods, and Yarra Valley Caviar. Kate McIntyre MW came with us upon invitation from James to assist in the promotion of our stands range of products as well as attend our Gala Dinner held at the Renaissance Hotel. Also attending in support of us and our aim to create more awareness of the Yarra Valley in Asia was Jeremy Oliver, Philippe Mouchel and Taliessen Reaburn the Australian Trade Commissioner for Hong Kong and Macau. Other producers with us were close friends from Craiglee, Del Rios, Grant Burge, K1 (Geoff Hardy wines), Maison Galhaud, Philip Shaw, Roc De Boisseaux and Vinea Marson.
Our stand was the largest wine stand at HKTDC 2014 and received much attention from the local and international media. Kate McIntyre is also the 2014 Sunshine Creek Karaoke Champion!
In October 2014 in preparation of the HKTDC Wine Fair we invited all the Yarra Valley vineyards attending the show over for a BBQ, we also had some regional media, Wine Styles magazine Chief Editor Mr Eddy Chiu and HKTDC Director Australia and New Zealand Ms Bonnie Shek. This was an opportunity to get together pre show and over lunch with some beverages we discussed the importance of working together to promote the Yarra Valley in Asia. After months of organizing this was the first time we had all come together in the one place and the Yarra turned on the perfect weather for us.
In March 2014, Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province welcomed its 90th China (Chengdu) Food and Drinks Fair (CFDF). The sheer scale of the event across Chengdu’s central business district is one you have to see to believe. For one week the city is a plethora of wine events turning into a wine fare mecca, from hotels to restaurants, exhibition centers and halls almost in every main area of the city you could find some sort of wine themed event. For three days we shared a stand at the Kempinski Hotel with our portfolio counterparts Grant Burge, Craiglee, Philip Shaw, Bannockburn, Del Rios, Maison Galhaud, K1 (Geoff Hardy) and Vinea Marson where the first 6 floors of the hotel were turned into a wine exhibition center. Then from the 28th – 31st moved to the Century City New International Convention and Exhibition Center. This fair is the largest exhibition and trade show in mainland China’s alcohol and food industry, a very influential exhibition seeing over 220’000 people come through the expo in just over 4 days and even for China these are massive figures. This was a great platform to exhibit our wines and showcase what the Yarra Valley has to offer stylistically. Meeting with our existing buyers from the Sichuan province was a very good experience for us, in an ever changing market understanding their needs more as well as understanding more how they place the product for sale and who the consumers are. It was at this wine fair you really comprehend how important it is to attend these events that bridge together producers and purchasers.
Besides all the work done on what is an extensive wine show everyone thoroughly enjoyed Chengdu, the people were extremely nice and courteous and their hospitality made us feel more than welcome. We definitely felt more relaxed in this city and Chengdu’s reputation for having a slower speed of life suited us well as this was a 6 day wine fair that did require some half time R and R, a day off to stroll the inner network of side streets with traditional tea houses and restaurants was the perfect way to re-energize. Though maybe next time when closing down the stand we won’t post we are giving away free Sunshine Creek kangaroo fluffy toys on our WeChat as it created a near chaos in our section of the exhibition, but it drew the crowd! Being the spicy hot pot capital of China our pepper and chilli tasting experience was taken to a whole new level we look forward to attending again next year!
In November 2013 Sunshine Creek attended the first Shanghai ProWine event held at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. The Shanghai ProWine show featured exhibitors from Argentina, Chile, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Austria and other countries, waving the Aussie flag and representing the Yarra Valley was ourselves. Together with our Australian export partners being Philip Shaw Wines, Bannockburn, Del Rios, K1 by Geoff Hardy, Grant Burge and Craiglee ProWine provided the perfect platform to negotiate face to face with retailers and distributors. ProWine targets mostly the specialist wine stores and the independent food retailers, interestingly 32% of visitors where from outside shanghai and 12% visiting from outside of China. The majority sector visiting where from retail backgrounds (42%) followed by distributors and wholesalers, then hospitality. 570 exhibitors from 30 countries attended and over 7600 trade visitors came through to sample wine. A standout for ProWine is the immense variety of wine from so many different regions on show making it a more unique exhibition, a Chardonnay from India, Hampi Hills won best chardonnay at the expo from a panel of judges whom flew in from all parts of the world and trying it ourselves thought it was well deserved!
In June of 2010 Sunshine Creek began its Asia wine show campaign alongside friend and fellow winemaker Philip Shaw at the Guangzhou China Import and Export Fair Complex. Guangzhou is one of China’s largest economic cities and has an almost incomparable advantage in the wine market. No surprise we discovered many famous Chateau’ and brands on display here with their latest product. The visitor breakdown for this event was 40% importers, distributors and agencies, 30% are wholesalers, 20% are wine lovers and public customers and 10% are from restaurants, hotels, bars, service and other media. After attending this exhibition many dealers showed interest in our product and a genuine interest in Australian product alone was very high. The great thing about the Guangzhou Import Export Fair is that it attracts buyers not only from the key cities of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai but also from 2nd and 3rd tier cities as well as fast growing consumer local markets. Notably we appreciated the awareness of visitors that Australian wine has a reputation as a quality product, albeit most visitors were only familiar with the major wine regions of Australia we realize that to be successful in China our campaign into the market there will need be a long term plan to not only raise awareness of our brand but also raise the awareness of the Yarra Valley.
After aquiring the Marthas Vineyard which was established in the 1980's, in 2008 and 2009 we began to focus all our efforts to improve it, although challenges and difficulties went far beyond our original expectations. First of all we conducted a comprehensive inspection of around 50,000 grape vines over an area of 55 acres to ensure their basic health. Furthermore in order to achieve higher quality grapes, we adopted the trunk pruning method and VSP branches management method in a step by step project to support future development. In addition to other infrastructure projects we also reconstructed the pond to enlargen storage capacity and extended an irrigation system which laid the groundwork for future coordination.
After the devastating events of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, 2010 saw a return to a season of exceptionally high quality. Slightly warmer than ‘average’, with the timing of rainfall mitigating the need for additional irrigation. Excellent flowering conditions meant some additional fruit thinning was required to bring yields back down. We regard this as a critical activity which aids in flavour concentration. Excellent quality was achieved across all varieties.
A season of seemingly never ending rain events, adding significant disease pressure to all our blocks. Early flavour development, due to the cool season, enabled picking at slightly lower baumes than 2010, which can be seen in a lighter colour in our Pinot Noirs while still displaying wonderful aromatic qualities. Careful, selective handling of the Cabernet Sauvignon has created a wine of finer structure than the 2010.
Another wet start to the season, which certainly kept everyone on their toes with the possibility of a repeat season to 2011 looming. Once flowering was completed, the rain backed away leaving a mild, dry lead in to harvest. Its often the period from the start of January that can make or break a season, from a quality perspective, with the potential for heatwaves (2009) and floods (2011) ever present. 2012 was ideal, giving sublime Chardonnay, richly coloured Pinot Noir and complex, beautifully structured Cabernet Sauvignon.
Reasonable winter rainfall set the vineyard up for a good start with even budburst in all varieties. As the season progressed it became apparent that rainfall was likely to be scarce, and by flowering in December we had in place our “dry season” strategy. This is designed to keep the soil cool under the vines, there by reducing vine stress, and encouraging longer than normal grasses to grow midrow, reducing moisture loss.
As vintage approached I heard many comments about the “early season”, up to two weeks ahead in some vineyards, and was interested in the potential timing of our harvest. As it turned out, our Pinot (the first one to be picked) came in on exactly the same day as last year. It was close to the same for all other varieties, the exception being Cabernet Sauvignon, which just needed a bit of “hang time” to broaden its flavours.
A nice, even budburst saw the season off to a good start around late August for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and mid September for the Cabernets. We experienced a particularly cool, windy and overcast Spring which coincided with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay flowering, leading to a poor fruit set and low bunch weights. This effect was partially avoided by the later flowering Cabernets. Good early rains set the vines up for a good growing season through what can be a difficult time over the Xmas break in some years, thanks to the occasional passing thunderstorm. This season, however, was typically dry with warm days and cool nights. These climate characteristics help maintain good acid levels that aid flavour development in the wines.
As harvest approached our thoughts earlier in the season around the cool flowering conditions and the potential effect on yield came to fruition (Freudian slip?) with very low bunch weights recovered across all Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blocks. Flavours were, however, extremely good with lovely concentration, particularly in the Chardonnay. As expected, the later flowering Cabernets were effected with a slightly reduced yield but equally lovely flavours. So, in summary, there may not be a great deal of wine from 2014, but what there is should stand out.
Things started moving in late August, as usual, with the Chardonnay budswell, closely followed by the Pinot Noir, with the Cabernets bringing up the rear a few weeks later.
We were blessed with mild weather right through the season. A nice change from last years cool wet spring! Temperatures didn’t go beyond 35C, and over 30C only a handful of times. Daily maximums were between 25 – 30C for most of January and February. Although typically dry over summer, the moderate temperatures allowed the vines to ripen the crop at a steady rate, free of sunburn and other potentially stressful events.
Flavours developed nicely, with a typical “lag phase” between sugar ripeness and flavour ripeness, particularly with the Cabernets. (This is when the sugar reading is appropriate for harvest, but the flavours disappear for a few days, before re appearing with gusto. It is then that we pick)
This should be a great vintage for a few “keepers”.
Favourable conditions during Spring leading into flowering set the scene for the entire year, with all varieties flowering over an unusually short period.
Rainfall events were usually a few weeks apart, and often a reasonably significant amount around 15 – 20mm, before drying out in mid January. Our Summer period was nicely warm, proving once again the value of undervine mulch to help keep the soil temperature down.
Of particular interest this year was the compressed vintage, indicated earlier in the year by the short flowering period. Our harvest is usually spread over 6 – 7 weeks starting with the Pinot Noir and finishing with the Petit Verdot. This year, however, harvest was compressed to just 4 weeks, from late February to late March.
Quality was still outstanding with cool nights aiding in acid retention for a series of high grade wines expected for release over the next two years.
Reasonably good rains over winter and spring set the vines off to a good start with budburst just a fraction later than “usual”.
A cool, wet and windy flowering period resulted in a lower than average fruit set, which meant bunch thinning was reduced later in the season.
The cool flowering, coupled with a slightly later budburst, pushed the harvest back about 10 days or so. This meant we started in early March rather than late February, as has been the case for the last 10 years or so.
Vintage this year occurred over a fairly short time frame, around 4 weeks, with the last variety, Petit Verdot, being harvested on the 8th of April.
A fairly dry winter saw our dam reaching capacity quite late. This was followed by an unusually wet spring, with several high rainfall storms increasing disease pressure and encouraging me to adopt a slightly different management strategy in the vineyard.
Rather than allow mid row grasses to grow to flowering, thereby encouraging beneficial insects and overall vineyard biodiversity, I repeatedly slashed the mid row. This encouraged grass growth, thereby using more water than otherwise and had the effect of reducing disease pressure in a more natural way.
Of course, by December/January all the rain stopped and we reverted to a very dry season, which reduced disease pressure but increased water requirements. Many vineyards lost significant amounts of crop due to these conditions, however we managed to get through with only slight reductions across the board.
Generally cool nights retained good natural acid with flavours in all varieties coming in early, giving the wines a more delicate structure with nice palate length.
As usual, our Cabernet Sauvignon needed just that little bit longer to hang before picking to get the flavour “just right”.
A dry cold winter gave way to a dry mild spring with much needed rainfall in December nurturing the vines through January and over the early heat. The season was characterised by intermittent heat spikes that kept everyone on their toes followed by cool changes. The remainder of the vintage was perfect ripening weather with no rain or disease pressure, it may not go down as the best vintage from the Yarra Valley, but the wine quality looks well above average.
The Yarra Valley rejoiced with good August/September rainfall before wild variations in maximum temperatures. A very mild season following a very hot November, meaning slow ripening after a late bud burst. That said, nails were chewed to the quick by weeks of smoke from the Hunter Valley, replaced by smoke from Gippsland. Incredibly, smoke taint tests came back zero, leading to retest after retest: zero. Old smoke, you see. Yields were pathetically low, with tiny bunches, fruit quality high to very high.
With healthy yields in the Yarra Valley, ideally timed rainfall and ripening season temperatures tracking long-term averages, 2021 was an idyllic season for cool-climate varieties. Chardonnay was a highlight, gris the best in several years, and pinot noir perfumed, ethereal and outstanding. Higher yields and cooler conditions favoured growers who moderated yields in shiraz and cabernet, producing generous wines of immediate appeal.