A good winemaker has a thousand ways to make a wine "better" but, better by whose assessment? It has taken us over a decade to gradually acquire the confidence to understand that the wine should be what the wine should be.
Like any good parent, one should encourage but not mould. If one sees a trait that is perhaps not what one would like to see, the solution lies not in how to cure the problem. but in learning to understand where it came from. Each year we have a new family to raise and our increased understanding can pass back to the new generation's schooling in the vineyard.
Gravity flow is the start of a gentle process, avoiding the need to pump fruit uphill. Ferments are spontaneous from the wild or indigenous yeasts that are in our vineyards and winery. Inert gas is shunned. Oak is a subtle companion not a loud guest. The Malo is simply a function of letting the warm spring air into the cellars. Pinots are unfined and unfiltered, Chardonnays are increasingly treated in the same way. The bottlings of single vineyard and single block wines are based on their speaking of a place, not on their size or hierachy of flavour.
Our Land & Vines
Considerable research by Stewart Elms (hence the Elm tree logo) in 1991 identified the north facing slopes at the end of Felton Road, Bannockburn as being one of the warmest and most ideal sites in Central Otago for the growing and production of premium wine. Heat summation data and soil maps of the area, developed as a result of the construction of the Clyde dam, were helpful in this decision. The three different soils identified are free draining with low fertility characteristics, and combined with the unique climate, are ideal for the production of premium quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Our vineyards are managed by our own viticulturist, Gareth King, and his team of dedicated staff. Meticulous summer management of a single vertical shoot positioned (VSP) canopy ensures even and early fruit maturity. Shoot thinning, shoot positioning, leaf plucking and bunch thinning are all carried out by hand as required to ensure optimum quality fruit. Inter-row planting of various different cover crops in order to assist in controlling vine vigour, and to improve soil health and general biodiversity.
Mulch is also used in drier parts of the vineyard to help retain moisture, minimise the requirement for irrigation, and to balance areas of lighter more free draining soils. Organic compost is made utilising the winery waste, and organic cow manure and straw.
Since 2002 the vineyards have been managed organically and biodynamically, and in 2010 all three vineyards were awarded full Demeter certification. Pruning is carried out to leave desired bud numbers thus ensuring moderate controllable yields and to create an even, light penetrable canopy. Irrigation is usually necessary during the later dry summer months. Soil moisture levels are carefully monitored and water is applied only when necessary to maintain appropriate soil moisture levels. All grapes are carefully hand picked, keeping separate any quality differences within blocks due to clones, rootstocks and viticultural trials.
The Elms Vineyard - 14.4 Hectares
History & Location
The Elms Vineyard at the end of Felton Road lies in a gently sloping, north facing valley cut into the Bannockburn hills at the southern extremity of the Cromwell basin. Immediately above the vineyard lies Stewart Town and a large dam, where water was stored for sluicing the slopes of Bannockburn during the gold-rush which started in the 1860's. The fact that this valley was untouched by the gold miners is possibly a reflection of the deep benches of heavy soil that form much of its structure: soils unlikely to hold significant amounts of gold. After the gold miners departed, the slopes were left for sheep to graze until Stewart Elms discovered the site's potential for great Pinot Noir. He started to plant in 1992 and Felton Road began.
Cornish Point - 7.6 Hectares
History & Location
Cornish Point is an old gold miners settlement located adjacent to the Hartley and Reilly diggings where the first large find of gold was made in the Central Otago gold rush. It was named after the Cornish gold miners who lived there and was abandoned in the late 19th century then planted as an apricot orchard in the mid 20th century. We planted it to vines in 2000. Bordered on one side by the Clutha River and on the other by the Kawarau (now both flooded at this point to form Lake Dunstan), it is unique in being almost totally surrounded by water.
The vineyard is adjacent to the entrance to the Cromwell Gorge which results in steady airstreams. This as well as the proximity to the lake, both help minimise frost. Additional spring frost protection is provided by a flipper vine row sprinkler system for when temperatures really plummet. Although the edges of Cornish Point were eroded by sluicing or other digging, the vineyard itself is undisturbed soils.
Calvert Vineyard - 10.1 Hectares
History & Location
Calvert Vineyard is located just 1km east of the Elms Vineyard on Felton Road. The gentle north facing slopes lie immediately below the hills of the Bannockburn gold sluicings, now a historic park. Bailley's Gulley tailrace that carried away massive amounts of sluiced gold workings divides the property and provides excellent cold air drainage to minimise frost risk. The vineyard land had been home to a few sheep, rabbits and briar bushes until planting of vines began in 1999.