Many Hats in Guildford
STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH
If you had to write a job description for Zack Grumont, it would take you some time. He does a lot of different jobs at Guildford Winery. He spends his week in the kitchen preparing for the weekend. This involves a lot of preserving, fermenting, making charcuterie and general prep. Zack also wears another cap as one of the winemakers on this small vineyard on the main road between Daylesford and Castlemaine. When we catch up, Zack seems relaxed. The busy weekend is days away and the 2019 vintage is quietly settling into the various barrels in the cellar.
The vineyard was planted in 2004 by the owners of Guildford Vineyard, Mandy Jean and her late husband, Brian Jean. The vineyard is most unusual for it sits in a bowl-like fold between a stony ridge of slate, quartz and sandstone. You can see the rock in the above-ground cellar, a remarkable and beautiful piece of engineering – a shed that fits perfectly into a giant slice taken out of the local rock revealing multicoloured layers of sandstone. On the ridges grow stringy bark, grey and yellow box and river red gums. Under them has been planted a native understory to encourage beneficial pests. And pests are a big problem. One of the biggest are the kangaroos. “Just as the grapes begin to ripen,” says Zack, “They hop in and help themselves to the crop.” Drought is also causing problems with the vineyard. A lack of moisture in the soil means it has doesn’t have as much thermal mass as soil that contains lots of water. When the icy air of a frost creeps down the hills, soil with lots of water warms the frosty air and stops the leaves of plants from freezing and then dying off. A drought affected soil has less water, less thermal mass and is more prone to frost. “In recent years the frost has been so severe that we lost our entire white grape crop,” says Zack.
This has lead to two interesting developments, both involving local wine identity Gilles Lapalus. The French-born former winemaker at Sutton Grange and part of the Maidenii Vermouth business, Gilles is an advocate of biological responses to problems in the vineyard. He is working with the team at Guildford Vineyard to grow the amount of organic matter in the soil by feeding the bugs that sequester carbon from mulched organic matter such as grasses and leaves. Gilles also helped make an incredibly light rosé by pressing the juice from shiraz and cabernet grapes and fermenting it into what the French call vin gris.
Zack makes wine with fellow local winemaker Colin Mitchell of Yandoit Hills Vineyard. Together they made the 2017 Shiraz. "We picked the grapes when they were around 12 Baume (a measure of fermentable sugar). We wanted to make a lighter style of wine without all that alcohol. There weren’t a lot of grapes, so we fermented the wine in an open bin. We used some Rhone yeast varieties to bring a more European style to the wine. And it is now sitting in old French barrels.”
Food friendly wines are what Zack loves. His set menu, served Saturday and Sunday lunchtime, may start with an Asian inspired dish of fava bean paste with fried curry leaves and little fried, dried fish. Main course could be a cotechino, cooked over grape marc, fried and served with lentils in chicken stock. “People come here, eat the food, drink the wine and have fun,” says Zack. And he does all this by himself. “You have to have a lot of skills,” he says. “I think some people call it artisan. It’s just small business.”
Guildford Vineyard, 6720 Midland Hwy, Guildford; Open 11.30-3pm for lunch (bookings essential) and cellar door sales and tasting. (03) 5476 4457, guildfordvineyard.com.au