The 2012 Vintage

Well what can I say? …it was a cow of a season (with all due respect to cows). Spring stumbled out of bed a bit late (about three weeks behind schedule) and she just couldn’t get her act into gear. Frosts in the district were still being recorded up until the 15th of October. It was cool and cloudy for a much of the season. And then there was the rain –bloody bucket loads of it…

The property was cut in half

Nearby Blue Hole was running a banker

Our Driveway finished up somewhere near Kempsey

Everyone was sick of it

….cabin fever was setting in!

A few grapes started looking a bit ill???....suddenly we had an epidemic on our hands. It looked a lot like gangrene. There was nothing we could do to save them. We had to amputate the grapes, then “trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored”.


Gee, talk about a tough season!...First up a little touch of frost to smack us clean over the eyebrow at budburst, closely followed by a volley of uppercuts from cool, cloudy weather for most of spring. Just as we were dragging ourselves back up off the canvas after that, we were given a couple of damn good beltings with rain throughout summer.

This was hardly a season for slacking off. Disease pressure was really high. Downy Mildew almost had us pinned-down but some fancy foot-work with canopy management allowed better air circulation and spray penetration giving us the points for that round.

The next opponent was Light Brown Apple Moth which delivered a couple of nasty blows below the belt resulting in some botrytis late in the season, and as a consequence we had to drop a bit of Chardonnay on the ground.

We finally took victory over the elements in April and delivered our grapes to the winery. The yield was down a good bit in the Chardy (a grape with a glass jaw that likes to lead with the chin) however we delivered our biggest ever crop of Merlot and boy didn't it look fabulous!


The Chardy and the Merlot are both coming along nicely. We worked fairly hard in the vineyard to ensure the fruit had had long enough to develop flavour by reaching full physiological ripeness. In order to ensure that we end up with a balanced wine the 2010 Chardonnay has just been through the process of acidification. This step adjusts the pH of the wine increasing its freshness and fruitiness and improving the colour of the wine as well as it protecting the wine against attack from bacteria.

Shaun has begun fining the Chardonnay with skim milk. Skim milk contains the protein casein which is a large molecule. As the milk moves through the wine it binds with any impurities that may be present so they can be easily removed. Historically, a wide variety of agents have been used for fining: ox blood, egg whites, milk casein, fish bladders, horse gelatins, seaweed, clay, and others. In fact, almost any protein will work to some degree, by binding to other proteins and forming solid deposits.

I just want you to know that our sea beds are safe and that no ox or horses were harmed and no fish required cystectomies or urinary diversions in the process of fining the Merlot either. However a few chooks kindly donated 3 or 4 eggs for every barrel.

Shaun's thoughts on Thunder Ridge

The research that Peter & Susan at Thunder Ridge put into site selection has paid off. Any winemaker will tell you that good wine begins in the vineyard and site selection is everything in this regard. The vineyard's north-easterly aspect allows good air flow and air drainage through the vines. This is important as it helps reduce the pressures of frost and fungal disease in the vineyard.

The attention to detail shown in the Thunder Ridge vineyard is next to being anal! resulting in wines that I believe over-delivers on quality compared to the price. Peter and Susan are really focused on developing distinctly Thunder Ridge wines, that is, wines that differ from the somewhat homogenized and often mass produced product you might find in your local Supermarket.

This was evident in how they educated me to develop a style of wine with all of the attributes they wanted in their 2010 Chardonnay. This unique process involved selecting seven very different Chardonnays, 6 good friends and a big feed of seafood. The wines ranged in price from $40 to $500 per bottle. We all discussed which characteristics we felt were best in each of the wines and which styles we preferred, as well as identifying the characteristics and styles we did not like.

From this beginning I am working closely with Peter & Susan on every aspect of wine making from oak selection for the Merlot to how much Malo-lactic fermentation the Chardonnay can handle.

The 2010 Thunder Ridge vintage is shaping up to be a cracker, with the Chardonnay displaying real cool climate characters such as white peaches and other stone fruit such as nectarines. Whilst the Merlot shows lovely ripe red berries without a hint of the dreaded stalkiness that can sometimes be attributed to cool climate Merlot.

My contract winemaking brief from Thunder Ridge is to make certain that the heart of the vigneron, the soul of the winemaker and the gifts of each season are present in every vintage along with the characteristics that the panel of 6 friends selected, in order to ensure the uniqueness of Thunder Ridge Wines.

Shaun Cassidy