A basic philosophy
Great wines are made in the vineyard. Growing great wines involves skill, experience, passion and a oneness with the environment.
Truly great wines reflect and express the environment in which they were grown. This is the essence of the term terroir.
A well selected site
Our vineyard is on a north-west facing slope with rows running downhill in a north-south orientation. This ensures good sunlight interception and means that the canopy on both the eastern and western sides gets good exposure to sunlight.
Soils that make the vines work
Our soils are ancient decomposed granite – good topsoil depth then grey loam over red clay with a high proportion of quartz particles interspersed. Granite-based soils are not very fertile which suits both us and the vines. The low fertility means that the vines direct their energy into ripening small quantities of highly flavoured fruit rather than wasting it on excessive foliage growth.
Our vines make do with the water that they receive from the sky. They have never been irrigated so while they struggled when they were young, they soon developed very deep root systems that ensured they would always find some soil moisture even in the hottest and driest years.
Use of naturally occurring micro-organisms to feed the soils
We choose to avoid artificial soil fertilisers and pesticides in the vineyard. Instead we rely on naturally-occurring soil micro-organisms to break down plant and animal matter. The vineyard has good natural clover cover through autumn, winter and spring. Clover converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the grapevines can use. Sheep and cattle graze in the vineyard over winter, cycling plant matter into natural fertiliser. Seaweed and ‘worm wee’ based products are used as foliar sprays in spring to give the vines a macro- and micro-nutrient pick-me-up after their period of dormancy.
Kicking off with chardonnay plantings in 1989
In 1989 we purchased our first planting material, Chardonnay cuttings, and ‘struck’ them in a dedicated bed in our Canberra garden before planting them out in the vineyard at Tumbarumba the next year. Very low rainfall that summer meant that these first vines didn’t do as well as expected.
And then plantings of Pinot Noir in 1991
Over the next two years, this first block plus another were planted to the MV6 clone of Pinot Noir. The following year we planted a block of Chardonnay (V5 and some of the V7 clone).
Introducing Pinot Gris in 1999
In 1999 we planted a block of Pinot Gris (the T’Gallant, or 146 clone) believing that this grape variety was well suited to Tumbarumba. Despite long periods of drought and no irrigation, these vines have flourished and produce intensely flavoured fruit.
And a little experimentation with Merlot and Tempranillo
In 2001 we added two rows of Merlot (V14) as an experiment and then in 2013, two rows of Pinot Noir were grafted across to the Spanish variety Tempranillo. The potential for growing Tempranillo in Tumbarumba excites us as lovers of this wine - time will tell.
Our vines are very low-yielding which suits us fine. In good years the Pinot Noir crops at about 4 tonnes/hectare which almost makes it an uneconomic proposition but it does mean that we get small quantities of highly flavoured fruit. The Pinot Gris and Chardonnay on the other hand both crop at around 8 tonnes/hectare producing beautifully flavoured fruit with good natural acidity.