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End of Harvest.
As we near the end of Harvest season, #EatNZKaitaki & winemaker Jannine Rickards reflects on an undeniably challenging & busy vintage (her 20th season making wine!) & her need & desire for deep rest.
He manga āwhā
Calm after the storm
The sun is shining and the breeze is gentle, the waves consistently roll in and crash on the shoreline. Miro the cat is super friendly and giving me lots of cuddles and is trying to step on the keypad as I type because she is clearly more important than me trying to catch up on emails – she is probably right.
I’m at Tora on the Wairarapa’s east coast, house sitting for my good friends and it’s my first day off in over seven weeks. I’m completely shattered and trying to just breathe and reset, I cry at nothing. I think I’m just so exhausted from continuously being ‘on the go’ that the idea of slowing down is a challenge. This is going to be just what I needed after the intensity of the 2023 grape harvest for my full-time mahi at Urlar and for my side hustle Huntress.
I’ve got a pile of books to read on the table and all I have achieved is breakfast and a walk to the point to explore the rockpools, watch the kelp dance in the tide and try to drop down a notch from the go-go energy levels required to get the grapes in and fermented. It is midday on day one of two off. I’m super grateful for my amazing assistant winemaker and her calm and supporting presence in the winery, I can fully rely on her to look after the babies while I am gone.
This year is my 20th season making wine. Each year has been different and many have had challenges to contend with. Somehow this year seemed more difficult but maybe I am just getting old. Weathered like the rocks that get battered by Tangaroa’s waves I feel weathered by this season. I know this is just a state of being and I will recover with time.
This year the constant rain put pressure on the team, always scrambling to keep up and then having to wait and pick around more rain. Grapes are more resilient than I had given them credit. They endured the season like we did and some pockets of absolute gems sparkled. But at what cost? The work to keep on top of canopy growth and under vine management has been continuous, never have I seen a summer and autumn so green and so sodden. We are entering a winter saturated. I think this really cannot be good for our soils and therefore the plants we try to grow in them.
I literally drove thru flood waters to get here yesterday. Slightly nerve racking in my car not having the ute to be above them. We had another heavy rain warning and it bucketed down for about 24 hours. I’m tired of asking how many millimetres did we get. Doesn’t seem to matter now anyway. We are almost at the completion of harvest 2023. Some late harvest grapes to look at next week and a few red ferments to press and barrel down, then the massive clean up which can tend to drag out. Harvest staff keen to move onto the next adventure, I still need to entice to help finish tidy up the winery post the chaos. We set the date for the harvest party this week and I’ll do some interesting tastings with them all. Try to keep the spirits up, I know from experience after such an intense amount of mahi it is easy to feel a bit flat when things return to ‘normal’.
But does it ever really slow down? How do I make lifestyle changes and flick the switch in my head so I can be more rested and content. I watch the seals soak in the sun and the bees forage on the dandelion flowers standing erect and open to returned sunshine.
How can I switch off when I need to think about bottling, sales, dinners and speaking at the organic conference in June which is currently filling me with dread and anxiety.
The only answer really is to introduce new habits and prioritise them over all else. Prioritise myself you say. Something I have not been very good at…all I want this year is health and wellbeing. Where to start? I’m off to get the yoga mat out of the car, some yin and breath work and then another wander to the coast might be the answer for today. Let’s see if Miro the cat approves.
Kua hu ate marama
Something has completed a full cycle…. (Almost..!)
Words and images from Jannine Rickards of Huntress Wines - follow her mahi over on @huntress_wines.