Climate tempered by the ocean, tough soils, dappled sunshine and limited irrigation provide ideal growing conditions for reds of intense colour and flavour
The sea has a strong moderating effect on the climate. Temperatures rarely exceed 30°C. It is the hot north winds which usually cause very high temperatures in South Australia and, at our vineyard, only 3 km from the north coast, these come straight off the sea. Avoiding extremely high temperatures plays its part in preserving flavour compounds in the fruit, and because maximum colour development in the skins occurs at temperatures around 25°C, it also helps us to produce fruit with intense colour.
Rainfall is low, with approximately 420mm being the annual average. We use minimal irrigation, from rain caught in a number of dams on the property, in order to maintain the adequate leaf cover necessary to generate sugars, flavour and colour in the berries.
These are tough and hard – very much suited to cabernet sauvignon. There is a clayey grey-brown layer to approximately one metre, under which there is a deep, well-drained limestone marl. Soils are not generous, but are fertile enough to provide good but not too vigorous growth.
VINE TRAINING AND PRUNING
There is a single-wire cordon at about one metre, with foliage wires on the shiraz to keep the canopy upright. The cabernet canes are naturally more erect, but are now long enough for us to consider foliage wires for them as well. The result is a reasonably tall, open canopy with well-distributed fruit. Sunlight reaching bunches is nicely dappled, with few bunches suffering prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
The vines are spur-pruned to around 50 buds per vine by a team of locals, on winter days when the surf is less than perfect, under the watchful eye of our vineyard hand, Brett Christophers.
Veraison occurs in late January, at which time the grapes are netted to deter the local Ravens and Currawong. We also maintain a skirted, electric wire fence to dissuade the possums and roos as all the locals enjoy a red wine grape or two. In fact, our first wine is known to the SnowDragon family as “The Bastard Possum Blend.”
Usually too dry and windy, disease is rare in our vineyard. The maritime climate provides ideal growing conditions for the production of premium red wines. Mild conditions promote slow, uniform ripening, producing fruit that yields wines with intense colour and flavour. Low rainfall and limited irrigation help to ensure high quality, low yields of fruit, from 2 to 6 tonnes per hectare.
Vintage usually occurs in March, where teams of pickers enjoy the best day in the vineyard!