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Up early and off in the car for the grape picking at The Duke Vineyard down at Red Hill on the Mornington peninsula. When I arrived I found that my description of our had been discovered by some friends of the family and passed on to Geoff and Sue!

After , the weather still looked ominous, but apart from about ten minutes of drizzle, it was just grey and overcast for the day, almost ideal weather for picking the grapes. Even the grass underfoot was dry!

The pinot picking was well underway when we arrived, others having turned up much closer to the eight a.m. start than us! The pinot is a deep, dark red, almost all of the leaves are gone from the vines and the bunches stand right out, picking them is easy.

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Then comes the chardonnay. The grapes are almost exactly the same colour as the vines, the leaves were still on, and the bane of my visit — the nets were still on the vines! It must have made an impression last time, because Geoff almost burst out laughing as he asked me to help removing the nets. Once again we walked the lengths of the rows, arms up above our heads like demented orang-utans, untangling and removing the nets — I must remember to wear a long-sleeved shirt next time, to try and avoid the worst of the scratches! The early rows had very few bunches of grapes, the pickers followed close behind at first, almost chasing us along in the eagerness to get at the fruit, then slowed down as we finally got ahead of them.

After a couple of rows of the chardonnay it was time for a morning tea of Sue’s magnificent cakes and biscuits. Time to sit down, stretch sore backs and flex hands and fingers cramped from cutting bunches of grapes. Too soon it was time to get back out there for the rest of the grapes.

Up and down the hillside we went, there weren’t many people but the picking all seemed to proceed quite quickly. Maybe everyone is getting more efficient with the years! Geoff was about to declare it lunch time when everyone decided that they needed to do one more row to feel sated, so we had to get back in there and remove another row of netting. Then it was back with the snippers and the tubs to collect the grapes.

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Finally the last row was done, or almost the last… two rows were left for some overseas visitors next weekend, so that they can share in the fun. Now for the most important part of the day — Sue’s lunch! Steaming hot mugs of homemade tomato soup, plates of food, and glasses of previous years’ produce. The 2001 and 2002 Pinot Noir were tasted, and compared, and tasted some more. The chocolate cake and apple slice were also tasted, and compared, and tasted somemore…

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After lunch we were free to go, or to stay and help with the rest of the jobs. I think nearly everyone stayed on to help bring in the tubs of grapes from the vines, or to watch the crushing and pressing of our labours. Late in the afternoon it was time to go home, those of us that had helped in previous years received our bottle as payment, everyone said their good byes and we left — the work over for us, but only just starting for Geoff in the winery!