Charcoal Gully Estate is situated on land adjacent to Mount Pisa Station, which lies between Cromwell and Wanaka on State Highway 6. This area is known as Pisa. Our north-facing vineyard lies on gently sloping land on the lower of two river terraces, at an altitude of 230 metres.
Sitting on a mixture of sandy loam soils left behind by the Clutha River as it cut through the river terraces below the Pisa Range, one of the challenges in the vineyard has been in working with this blend of very high and very low water retention soils.
The Cromwell region has a semi- continental climate unique to the area with one of the most hot, dry and cold climates in New Zealand. Summers are generally hot and dry with recorded temperatures over 40 degrees on the vineyard dropping to minus 10 in the winter.
Rainfall on the vineyard is approximately 400 mm per year. Humidity during the growing season is generally low.
The prevailing wind on the vineyard is from the north with wind gusts at 50 km/h levels which are frequently intolerable to the sensitive Pinot Noir vines as they strive to produce fruit.
Prone to spring frosts, the vineyard uses a water frost fighting sprinkler system, which has proved to be highly effective.
Up to date information on vineyard weather can be viewed on our weather station at http://harvestalarms.com/w.cgi?hsn=3808
All vintages have been made and bottled by contract winery Vin Pro in Cromwell. Initially Carol Bunn led the winemaking team in creating wines for each vintage that express the Charcoal Gully terroir and climate. Peter Bartle has since taken over the team and has further developed wines enhanced by the flavor of the fruit.
Seven hectares of the grafted pinot noir clones 5, 115, 667 and 777 were planted in November 2003. This was followed in 2004 with the planting of two hectares of gewürztraminer grafted clones 1106 4565 A, 4565 B, 4565 C.
Our viticulture team headed by James Dicey quickly assessed how to manage soils with areas of high and low water retention.
He has worked effectively with the winemaking team to manage yields by bunch thinning to reduce number of grapes per hectare and get the very best out of the fruit. Recent focus has been on identifying and selecting the rows with the best grapes across the four clones to develop intensity and enhance fruit flavours in the wine.
Our mission is to place the vineyard on a fully sustainable organic footprint. As a first step on this path sustainable status was achieved in 2008 and the vineyard will continue to move towards becoming organic. We wish to continue to tread lightly with our venture, from the vineyard through to the market.
Steps we have taken to fulfil our commitment to sustainability and emulate a 'best practice' model of environmental practices in the vineyard include:
- Cover crops choke back unwanted weeds and at the end of their lifecycle dry off and enrich the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients which will help to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers
- We have started to make compost from grape skins, seeds and stems leftover from processing our grapes. Composting will not only add nutrients to the soil for the vines but will also increase the level of beneficial microorganisms and organic matter in the soil
- Using sheep in the vineyard after harvest to trim back the grass, weeds and provide a little natural fertiliser
- Replacing pine shelter belt with less invasive introduced species and some natives
- Vigilant vineyard monitoring ensures spray application is kept to a minimum
- Using recycled unbleached packaging material for wine cartons
- All grapes hand-picked