Wood Block Wines has 16 hectares planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.7 hectares of Shiraz and 1 hectare of Viognier, grown at two locations in Coonawarra. Our original Clytha vineyard on the Riddoch Highway, six kilometres north of the Coonawarra township and the more recently established Red Shed vineyard on Nambour Road in the north-east corner of the Coonawarra region.
Coonawarra has a maritime climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The Southern Ocean, only 80 kilometres away, acts as a gigantic heat sink, moderating the local climate with afternoon sea breezes that blow in and cool the heat of summer days. In winter, this also keeps the cold at bay with only a few frosty mornings for the pruners to contend with.
The region has an average rainfall of 640 mm. In the growing season (October to April), we receive around 200 mm. Occasionally, in the drier seasons, a minimal amount of dripper irrigation is utilized, with pure water sourced from a shallow limestone aquifer. To reduce the potential of damage from spring frosts, we use overhead sprinklers and wind machines.
Autumn rainfall can make ripening a challenge in some vintages. Low yields help the grapes ripen early to full maturity every year.
Great wine is made in the vineyard. We strive for outstanding grape quality each and every vintage.
To utilize the natural vine vigour coming from our soils, we shine as much sunlight into the vines’ bunch zone as possible by training the canopy vertically, both up and down, to maximise their natural ripening potential (the very ‘smart’ Smart-Dyson technique).
The thin, open canopy this creates allows leaves and bunches wet from rain or dew to dry rapidly. Ultraviolet light from the sun is a natural (and free) way to reduce the risk of powdery mildew.
The Old Shiraz on the Riddoch Highway often has the distinction of being the first of this variety harvested in Coonawarra. Not only does early harvest reduce the risk of dilution and spoilage from autumn rain, it’s also acknowledged as one of the best indicators of potential wine quality.
The Single Vineyard Shiraz, established in 1970, is now carefully handpicked to preserve the ageing vines and maximise grape quality. The remainder of our vineyards are mechanically harvested at maximum flavour. This ensures minimal time between harvest and crushing. We do occasionally hand-harvest delicate young vines and first-year grafts, our Viognier grapes - to preserve freshness of the delicate white juice.
A most interesting new development are machine harvesters with on-board de-stemmers and berry sorters. We have been trialing these machines for the last two vintages at some of our vineyard blocks and are really looking forward to assessing the wines made utilizing this new technology.
The terra rossa soils of Coonawarra have two very special characteristics that create outstanding wine quality: they are very fertile, yet also free-draining, retaining just the right amount of moisture for each vine’s needs. In spring, a burst of early growth produces a healthy and well-balanced canopy. This growth ceases by veraison (when the garpes change colour from green to red) in late summer with the leaves now providing for the ripening grapes. A well balanced canopy is vital to develop the intense colour and flavours for which Coonawarra is renowned.
Showing our pastoral roots, we maintain a permanent pasture under the vines. In the winter, this sward is kept trim by grazing sheep (proof indeed that a good red improves the taste of lamb).