High Garden Vineyard
Situated at between 420 and 490 metres of altitude High Garden is the highest vineyard in Gibbston, Central Otago’s coolest sub region. It has great exposure to long sunshine hours. During the critical ripening month of April, sunshine hours are roughly 90 minutes longer than at the bottom of the valley. The vineyard slopes down towards the north allowing for the free draining of both air, which minimizes frost risk, and water; although the vines are now dry land farmed.
The vineyard soils at High Garden comprise a layer of schist rocks over gravelly glacial loess which has been washed down from the mountain range, behind the vineyard, over millennia. These soils provide ideal structure and drainage allowing deep rooting systems to form. There is enough organic matter and sub surface moisture to provide the vines with just enough sustenance to maintain a healthy canopy until winter starts to bite come late May. The mountain tops are covered in snow much of the year and there is a burn running down alongside the vineyard.
Planted twenty years ago with a combination of clones on low vigour rootstock, the vineyard is hand tended with great attention paid to canopy management and individual vine health in order to focus purely on grape quality. After multiple passes by the vineyard team during the growing season, with extensive thinning out of bunches at veraison, yields are kept very low. This is in order to allow for full phenolic ripeness to be achieved over the longest possible hang time. In 2020 the yield averaged just 25 hectolitres per hectare which is similar to the average yield at the Romanee Conti vineyard in Vosne Romanee, Burgundy.
The combination of a very long growing and ripening season with low yields per vine, allows for the development of intense fruit flavours and long silky tannin structures. The objective at High Garden has simply been to maximize quality no matter what. We only produce the one wine from the heart of the vineyard and just 2,364 bottles were made in the 2020 vintage.
The wine is made with absolutely minimal intervention. After three weeks or more on skins with primary fermentation occurring naturally with yeasts from the vineyard. The wine then goes through a slow malolactic fermentation in French barriques over winter and into spring. The wine is not racked, fined or filtered and usually goes to bottle in early March of the following year.