The bushfires that swept through the Tingha area in February this year left a trail of destruction in their wake, and one of the many families and businesses affected were the Kirbys at Toppers Mountain Wines.
Mark Kirby tells us that 80 per cent of his vineyard was burnt, and there was no harvest this year … but that hasn’t prevented the annual harvest feat that Toppers is renowned for going ahead on May 19th. What’s special about the “NOHarvest” Feast this year is there will be an auction held to help raise funds for those most badly affected by the fires …
Hi Mark. It’s certainly been a tough year for those on the land – and tougher for some than others! How did you fare in the bushfires that swept through the Tingha area in February?
Not well, Jo. The Mount Topper State Forest is our southern and western boundary. The fire swept through the forest from the south, arriving at our boundary roaring and with
30 m high flames. The paddock between the forest and the vineyard is Lucerne, which was eaten off due to the drought. Even so, the fire managed to spot into the vineyard, and the ensuing grass fire burnt about 80% of the vineyard.
We were due to begin the 2019 harvest on the night the fire hit. As a result, we lost all the 2019 vintage, all the dripline was destroyed, and about 300 trellis posts were burnt off.
However, the worst damage was that some of the vines were ringbarked by the heat at ground level. These vines have a long journey back to full production that will probably take four – five years, so we’re hoping the numbers of these vines are only a few percent of the total vineyard.
Since the fire on 13th February, the vines have all started putting out fresh shoots. We’re now waiting for Mother Nature to show us how many were only singed versus those that were ringbarked at ground level.
Given the struggles you’ve been through recently, are you still holding your usual Harvest Feast?
Our Harvest Feast has become a popular annual fixture at the vineyard – our annual offering to Dionysus (the ancient Greek god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, fertility and theatre). The fire makes it even more important that we enjoy ourselves in such a way that Dionysus will be pleased and look after our vineyard for future vintages.
This year, renamed the NOHarvest Feast, we’ll enjoy the usual abundance of great wine and delicious food in the company of friends new and old, surrounded by the autumnal colour of the vineyard and garden.
When and where will the NOHarvest Feast be held this year?
As usual, the NOHarvest Feast will be held at Topper’s Mountain Vineyard, on Sunday 19th May from noon.
What’s on the menu for the event?
We’re still working on the list of tender morsels for the day, but something on a spit will be part of festivities as usual.
What will people need to bring with them?
Lunch will be at the Long Table, so people can bring a picnic rug or chairs for before or after lunch to lounge around the garden, and possibly nibbles if they’d like to have these prior to lunch. No wine or beer to be brought along by attendees please.
There’s a special auction planned for the day too. Where will funds raised from this auction be distributed?
Yes Jo; the main event of the day will be an auction of our wines and hopefully some other lots of dinner or accommodation at local establishments. The auction will be conducted by one of our favourite local characters, Michael Jackson from Guyra.
We’ll be prying open the door into our museum wines storage to put together some museum six pack combinations that have never been offered before, from wines that are not available for general sale.
Funds raised by the auction will go the Best Fire Appeal for distribution to people and businesses adversely affected by the Tingha Plateau Bushfire: https://best.com.au/best-fire-appeal?fbclid=IwAR0H7-LafSGeDLMn_zavwq1BnZdSoD7xnVIjw8rTwMQ4JjJboK-lBNKJeHo
Tickets to the NOHarvest Feast are $7 (children free) and can be purchased from https://toppers.com.au/toppers-wines/noharvestfeast/ – what does the ticket price include?
The ticket is to help us pin down how many people will be coming and can be redeemed for a glass of wine or beer. Wine will be available for purchase by the glass or bottle, as will the meal, beer and soft drinks. No wine or beer to be brought along by attendees please.
What plans are on the agenda for Toppers Mountain moving forward throughout the rest of 2019?
We’re hoping for a late, warm autumn to allow the vines to grow their new shoots as long as possible before they lose their leaves.
Pruning this winter is going to be problematic. Some vines have been ringbarked by the flames, so that the tops are dead and will have to be removed – no point pruning these! Hopefully most of these will re-shoot from their roots, then we’ll nurture and train them individually according to their needs until they are fully established again – this will take four – five years.
All in all, a very busy winter is coming up!
Where can we find out further info?