People, Place, and Practice
This is the basis of our wine and to a greater extent, our fruit sold to other wineries.
Covers my knowledge base of horticultural training at Massey, then the 10 years as an owner grower, and now 16 years grower here at Kokako Farms. I have been on the board of Biological Farmer’s HB and Hawkes Bay Winegrowers did some time teaching Winemaking at EIT, been part of a great team running the Young Viticulturalist competition in Hawkes Bay. I am one of the few qualified Winemakers (with 14 vintages under my belt) turned Viticulturalist. Did I ‘see the light’ or ‘turn to the dark side!’ Who knows.
Kokako is not a team of One, I have an amazing group of guys and girls supporting our mission, to “Grow Great things here”. From operators to field staff the tasks and roles are all equally important to the end goal.
Ohiti Valley! If you don’t make a wrong turn heading west you may never know our little bit of Hawkes Bay even exists. Tucked in next to the Ngaruroro River and sheltered on several sides by impressive Hawkes Bay hill farms. The soils I have discussed before, as the left bank of the river we have all the famed soils laid down by the river generations ago. Like all wine-growing regions in the world, there is variation around every corner, Sub Regions is the term. An area within a growing region that has significant differences to warrant mention.
Ours is soil and microclimate, the stony soils mean we can naturally de vigour the vines. This means less growth of shoots and more plant focus on fruit ripening. Also, the free-draining soil means rain events affect us to a lesser extent. Unwanted autumn rains drain away quickly.
The soil is our only true asset. The interaction of soil to vines is connected by a fungal bridge and that is where we focus our inputs and do our best to minimise disturbance.
Daytime heat gets the job done!, there is no viticultural replacement for Growing Degree Days. The accumulation of heat over the period up to harvest is our GDD.
Shelter from the elements is our other place component. Wind events can be very damaging to vines so sitting in a naturally sheltered valley helps. Wind tear leaves, leaves are the energy room to the vines. Broken canes lead to lateral growth which distracts from fruit growth and ripening, you get it Wind Bad, Shelter good.
This is our intellectual property I guess. The “how we do things differently from others.”
This starts at planting time, what grape variety on what rootstock, planted in what soil type, plant, and row spacing, in what direction on what type of trellis, with what watering system.
Then it’s how we choose to prune the vines, is it Two Cane, Four Cane, Spur prune, Arch cane.
I will not give away all my secrets but here is a snapshot.
I love seaweed! We use seaweed as a foliar application every 10 days in the growing season, it is NOT a fertiliser but it does produce dark green healthy leaves with a firm texture, an elevated immunity, that goes back to my comment about leaves being the engine room.
Plant Product use and choice have to pass the test; is there a softer option? does this product have an adverse effect on my soil biology? DO we really need to use this?
With Chardonnay and Syrah fruit exposure to the sun UV changes the makeup of fruit we harvest, so removing leaves that I have worked so hard to grow doesn’t come easy. We are very selective on how this process works and each block within our sub-region gets a different treatment. Depending on the soil, plant vigour, row direction, and variety.
The very last decision that has the single biggest impact on wine quality is often the picking decision.
When is that grape in that block ready!