Organics, Biodynamics, making wine with no additives...
Like many people, our journey to wine was through hospitality.
Naomi surfed & snow-boarded around the world and I worked in bars & on farms. I remember how fit I was back then...
One day my parents bought a vineyard, a proper one, and asked me to help. Together the family built a winery and a tasting room on it Then 10 years later it sold. Immediately Naomi & I started thinking about our very own vineyard.
If WE started something, it was important that our kids to be able to play around in the dirt without us worrying. To be able to pick fruit off of the trees and put them straight into their mouths without a care in the world.
A van trip to Europe, touring around every vineyard and surf break we could pack in, opened our eyes to what winemaking could be. We saw that you can use old-world techniques and blend them with new-world knowledge to create more natural wines. I think about that trip every week.
It’s taken a long time to get things right - nurturing the soil and vines & testing techniques. As we’ve grown, so has our vineyard, now we also have a bigger winery with our own bottling line, allowing us to control more of the process. Although this crazy machine controls us all sometimes.
The extra space has meant we’ve been able to add a vegie garden onto the property to help feed us and others, bee-hives to keep us in honey, and free-range chooks to scratch out the bugs in the vineyard.
We don’t always get things spot on (who does?) but we are are proud to pour our wines to good people, letting them know our steps and mis-steps along the way.
And leave the world a better place than when you arrived.
I've stuffed up a lot of really good grapes.
I've also made some good wine, occasional great wine, & some really really bad wine. Don't ask...
But always honest wine
That might sound a little bit weird. But, there are a bunch of things you can do to wine that can muddle where the grapes are from. You can add tannins extracted from trees and nuts, adjust the acidity to make it 'safer' or seem crisper, or apply additives and packet fixes to make things ‘better’. All of these additives get you wine cheaper and more consistent. Safe and better.
We prefer our wines to reflect the land that grew it, the weather that was that year, and the hard (or lazy) work that has been put in. The mistakes and triumphs. So our wines are all-wild ferments and minimal additives.
In the shed we mess about with the stuff that we have grown. Trying different techniques such as: air-drying, lees stirring, burying wine underground, loooong skin ferments & carbonic maceration where they have no right being implemented.
The question is usually: what would happen if we did this?
I’ve busted up a lot of good grapes in our quest to craft wines with nothing added and nothing taken away. And, we’ll continue to keep testing and tasting to push things further and get closer to where we want to be.
Every season of growing throws up a new series of challenges. But, with a blend of new-school training, old-world techniques and endless experimentation we’ve managed to produce some wines that are true to where they’ve come from. And they are pretty nice to drink and share too.
We've grown vineyards from two sites in Margaret River, both Certified Organic and Biodynamic converted over from conventional methods immediately upon take over.
We purchased the original Wilyabrup vineyard in 2005. Over the next three years we sold the grapes to other winemakers, while we mooched around Europe and phased out the synthetic chemicals and irrigation. In 2009 we moved onto the property to raise a family and focus on a more natural way of farming and making wine.
After a couple years of selling out of our wines within a few months of harvest we decided to sell the Wilyabrup vineyard and buy a second, bigger property (yikes) in late 2014. This one is a bit further North at Quindalup (closer to the beach). Plenty of hard work and we’ve been able to also convert it over to Organic and Biodynamic land, graft in some cool varieties, and now have extra space for our recently renovated cellar door and some other projects too.
The mid-rows crops are sown with edible and flowering species so the birds and insects have food and shelter, the roots and grasses we have let grow protects the soil from the sun and rain. The bees buzz around gathering pollen to take back to our Natural Warre hives. And, after 7 years the property and its biodiversity looks spectacular.
Murray, our electrician made us a bio diesel system and then taught us how to make it from the old fish and chip oil from our local shops. This runs our cars and tractors. Also our generators for power, that are supplemented by our rooftop solar array
We planted a large orchard and garden to feed us and the Blind Corner Team, plus chickens for manure and eggs, a happy worm farm, and space for a giant compost pile from the grape skins each year. This gets spread back onto the garden..
We have discovered being Organic isn’t enough. More is needed than just taking off the synthetic chemicals to create a long-lasting, sustainable crop, or establish healthy vines, soils and ecosystems.
Biodynamic helps with this, and has proven to be the gold standard of the Organic certification system, but we’ve since looked at extra methods to make the vineyard even healthier again.
It makes sense to encompass everything—the entire property, but also what exists already in the way of native species, replanting spaces and keeping the ecosystem all in-tune together. Native bush, waterways, crops, animals. Pulling it all together in a logical and easy to understand and see manner. The healthier the soils, the stronger the vine and the more resistant to disease they become.
So following these principles, we have planted out many gaps within our vines with natives or transplanted self-sown evergreen shrubs to assist in breaking up the monoculture. We are trialling 3 types of saltbush, transplanting the wild lavender that grows crazy over our dam walls, plus any other flowering or edible varieties possible that may grow well on our site. We are establishing no tilling in our soils and crimping the mid-row crops (leave them to grow tall and go to seed then gently go down each row gently rolling the plants down flat to create a matting), which has been shown to trap and keep much higher levels of carbon within the soils—something we all know is needed as much as possible and as soon as possible, Everywhere. The matting protects not only the soil from the hot summer sun and helps retain moisture in the top soil it also protects the seeds which lay there ready for the first rains in Autumn and which then regenerate themselves again.
We also encourage the Kangaroos to move through the vineyard instead of introduced animals to benefit our land.
We are sowing native grass strips around the edges of our vineyards so they can seed through the vineyard when the wind carries them. We have just planted another 60 trees around the property too!
Every year we grow more confident and experiment more. We ordered two Georgian Qvevris a couple of years ago and buried them in the bush for fermenting different wines. Now in our fourth year of making wines in these, we fill them with grapes and juice, seal them up and let them sit there for a few months. The opening up makes for a fun party. A very old technique rather than a new and innovative one..
Our vineyard, as well as our Winery & Bottling line are all Certified Organic & Biodynamic.
Our Quindalup vineyard sits on a slight North facing site. We have the Indian Ocean 4km to the North (Geographe Bay) and 11km to the West. We sit on coastal sand and pea gravel from the surrounding ridge, with small pockets of clay. This extends 7-12m onto a porous ‘coffee rock’ base that itself sits over solid granite.
The prevailing South West breezes bring a strong maritime influence to the vineyard and subsequent wine. The salt air also helps minimise disease risk, making it easier to farm organically. The Indian ocean sits on 3 sides of the Estate, which also helps to calm extreme temperature fluctuations, allowing for a more consistent ripening.