In the vines


A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Omar Khayyam

With all the walks, roads and parks around here still off limits due to the recent deluge and subsequent flooding, a bushwalk was just not an option this weekend and I had to find a different type of activity to enjoy the outdoors. The recent rains have not exactly been a blessing either for the fabulous grapes growing around Canberra. So when a colleague asked if I would join in for some ‘social picking’ at Lerida Estate I jumped at the opportunity. I had a good time when I did it last year and with beautiful autumn weather forecast, why not make this my outdoor activity for the long weekend?

I grumbled initially about the early start of the day, but once in the car I wished I had headed out towards Lake George just a little bit earlier; the light and gentle fog would have been just perfect for photographs. As it was, I kept going and in the end I only took photos of Lake George (with water!) at the end of the day on my way back. Still, I managed to get quite a nice soft colour quality to the landscape, something I have started referring to as ‘Fred Williams colours’. A few months ago I went to see the Infinite Horizons exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Australia and was blown away. I had never heard of Fred Williams before then, but I loved it all and was inspired by how he captured the Australian landscape and colours on canvas. I would love to ‘paint’ that way with my camera, but I fear just trying to slightly get the feel of it will be a lifelong process.

Anyway, back to those grapes, which were hanging out at Lerida in all their glory. For those not initiated in the art of picking grapes: it’s a sticky business, which leaves you at the end of the day pretty exhausted, adhesive to the touch and covered in little balls of rolled up spider web thread. It makes you appreciate how much hard labour goes into making good wine and that really we should fork out more money for the good stuff and perhaps drink less of it? Perish that thought. There were about 14 of us, chatting and moving along the rows of vines, clippers in hand, snipping away the bunches of grapes, cleaning them up by flicking away grapes affected by botrytis or pecked at by birds. I got myself into a bit of a zen state doing this, which was appropriate as I had much to meditate on.

It wasn’t all hard work of course and we got fed extremely well during the day (was that really 1kg more on the scales this morning? Yikes! And that after a day of hard labour?!). Luscious morning tea was followed by a very tasty lunch (heavenly toasted sourdough with terrine and cornichons) liberally lubricated by Lerida wines.

There was a distinct sense of reckless abandon returning to the vines after lunch, clippers wielded with a little too much assuredness, threatening digits, and a slight sleepiness taking hold. Thankfully the soil was far too soggy to contemplate curling up under a vine (which reminds me: if this La Niña weather continues gumboots may be in order). Lots of water and another hour picking grapes took the edge off perhaps a little too much of that morish rosato frizzante at lunch, before collecting my chosen bottle of wine for my labour, driving back and sinking into a deserved bath. Job done.

3 thoughts on “In the vines

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