The grapes in Chalk Hill wines are primarily sourced from six family-owned vineyards in the McLaren Vale district, 40 kilometres south of Adelaide in South Australia. McLaren Vale's Mediterranean type climate of cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers provides perfect growing conditions for premium grapes. Each Vineyard has a different soil type and topography,providing unique growing environments for the grapes. We take these unique factors and combine them with expert viticultural management to produce grapes of distinct character and appeal that make our wines so sought after.
Chalk Hill vineyard was first planted in 1969 with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and more recently plantings of Sangiovese and Barbera have been added. Each variety was matched with the block's particular soil type. Thus, southerly sloping hill of deep red-brown loam on a thick 'chalk' base. Below is 'Creek Block', where old Shiraz vines grow in deep alluvial loam next to the great River Red Gums on the banks of Peddler's Creek. This block produces spicy fruit with thick, leathery skins that are great for flavour and colour extraction. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Barbera are planted at the top of the hill in the shallow ironstone sand. In these soils the grapevines have to work hard and produce small berries with a very intense colour and flavour profile - a desirable result of the tough but sought-after growing conditions.
The home vineyard, Slate Creek lies on the northern edge of the Willunga township and is the most southern of the six vineyards. The vineyard dates back to 1897, when the first Grenache grapes were planted and still produce fruit today. Willunga sits at the base of the Sellicks Hill Range and during summer, early evening breezes blow cool air through the vineyard, helping stop mildews taking hold. The small but permanently flowing creek running through the property is not used as a water source, but it does provide another site for our native tree revegetation project.
Planted on the hills at the northern end of McLaren Vale, this vineyard is planted with Shiraz and Viognier and produces some outstanding wines of great intensity and elegance. When the old apricot orchard was offered for sale by a member of the Oliver Family, Jock and Tom went cap in hand to the bank as this rare little strip ran from Seaview Road at the northern end, southwards to some pedigree Grange Vineyards to the south. The soils are classic weathered sandstone on the northern face and deep sandy loams over weathered sandstone on the southern slope. These two rare soils and unique aspects make the vineyard one of the most prized patches of grapes in the country. As part of our ongoing search for better wine, the vineyard contains the largest high density rootstock trial in the country, trialling low and medium vigour rootstocks, high density plantings and clones.
Wits' End vineyard straddles the plain between the McLaren Vale and Willunga townships, it is planted with Shiraz and Chardonnay grapes and has two distinct soil types. On the southern side, the soil is a red Urrbrae loam scattered with flat-washed pebbles. This soil helps produce bright red fruit with dominant blackberry and raspberry flavours. In winter, the wet clay on the Northern side sticks to everyone and everything it touches, making the vineyard largely inaccessible and vineyard management challenging. It can drive you to your wits' end! In summer, the clay dries and shrinks, forming large and deep cracks that allow organic matter and top soil to fall in, which gives rise to another name: 'self-mulching clay'. Fruit grown in this soil is dark purple with thick skins, leading to wines with liquorice characteristics and an aroma of violets.