Winemaker's Comment - Spring 2019


 With all five 2018 Pinot Noirs having had a little time in bottle to settle into their rhythm, I’ve been pleased and reassured to see that the extreme warm weather we faced over the spring and early summer, has not affected the wines in ways which you might think. We were extremely thankful to be handed the ultimate “get out of jail” card with a sudden cold snap and wet month prior to harvest. Again, you might not think that a wet month in the 4-6 weeks immediately prior to harvest would be considered helpful. But, that’s Central Otago; we often play to a different beat, and we’re fortunate it’s been working thus far. Plus, it’s relative: when you’re a very dry climate and considered by experts to be too dry for viticulture without irrigation, extra natural rainfall is almost always beneficial for us. In fact, all our favourite vintages are from the wetter seasons. Even though we have been growing vines here for almost 30 years, there is still so much that puzzles us as we try to understand our unique growing conditions and how best to farm for them. The experts and textbooks don’t help much as they have even less experience of such a unique place. We have learned that much of the celebrated flavour and character of the region comes from these unique extremes and, when given what others might regard as an ideal season, we make less profound wines. If it wasn’t challenging us, we’d probably be bored! In our hunt for viticultural perfection, we’re now investing more and more time and energy into our own research on how we can be farming better and leaving the textbook on the shelf. 

Over the last several months we have been preparing a piece of land at Calvert that had been the site of a vineyard equipment shed, the Calvert compost area, a car park and some grazing land for our goats. It’s become far too valuable to leave fallow so with the relocation of the shed and compost area; removal of the exotic tree species and briar; and some careful contouring; we now have just over a hectare of land in schist gravel soils of Pipeclay Gully that will be perfect for Chardonnay. It’s been planted out in cover crop for this season to stabilise and grow some organic matter, and cuttings have been taken from our own selected vines for planting out next year. This is part of an ongoing project to reclaim odd corners of the estate for vines. This is not so much for a production boost but in recognition that, in the future, any replanting we do (and we have a 30 year plan for replanting), will lead to our losing production for a few years in existing vineyard sites. 

The land immediately adjacent to the creek bed of Pipeclay Gully has been planted out in natives and we plan to continue planting right down to the river, removing all the exotics that are invading the growing silt banks of the Kawarau River arm of Lake Dunstan. It’s pleasing to think that while we are modifying some aspects of our land with vines, we can restore other areas back to the native vegetation that would have existed here prior to the arrival of the gold miners about 150 years ago. We will be removing the poplars and willows which have become the iconic trees of Central Otago. But in their place, we’ll recreate an earlier age: just a shame that we can’t have the Moa’s come back as well! 

The end of January (Jan 30-Feb 1) again features the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Visit for further information on this relaxed, informative and fun three days of great Pinot Noir, Central Otago wineries and winemakers and fine food. Please come and celebrate with us! 


Blair Walter