Spencer Hill owned vineyards located in the Upper Moutere Hills and along the Coastal Ridge area of Tasman Bay near Nelson.
The Upper Moutere vineyards consisted of 28 acres located on four blocks. They were planted with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
The clay loam composition of the Upper Moutere soils provided the grapes with depth and concentration of flavours not found on lighter soils. These soils also retain moisture and it allowed us to grow the grapes without supplemental irrigation. Although the soils are deep they are not extremely fertile. The oldest grapes at our Upper Moutere vineyards were planted in 1990.
The vineyards were located behind the coastal hills about three kilometers from Tasman Bay. This unique situation of hills close to the sea provided warm days and cool nights with a long growing season.
The hillsides can be difficult to farm but they are unique. One side of a hill may work better for on variety or clone than another. Much of this is due to sunlight, wind and the amount of topsoil. Many of these differences are not the same year to year…which can make it quite interesting.
The Coastal Ridge vineyards were established in 1994. They were located a few kilometers north of the city of Nelson. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines provided us with small amounts of excellent grapes. The soils differ from the Upper Moutere in that the subsoil consists of broken rock resulting in incredible depth and concentration. Most of this area is quite steep and potential vineyard land is very limited. The close proximity to the ocean, about 1/2 kilometer, provides a unique maritime climate and very different flavours we see from the Upper Moutere grapes.
Many persons are confused how grapes can be grown in the relatively cool climate of New Zealand. The secret lies in it’s long growing season and high solar intensity. The cooler temperatures help retain the delicious fruit flavours and the long growing season and high sunlight ripen the fruit perfectly.
Lex and Jane Palmer grow superb Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc in the Upper Moutere. We have been working with them over ten years. Lex and Jane are quietly dedicated individual’s who enjoy farming grapes and Limes and their life in the Moutere. – Steve and Leallen Anderson grow great Sauvignon Blanc from the Brighwater gravels. The grapes are slightly different in flavours with a bit of flintiness to them. They enjoy growing grapes in their part time while Leallen works in Education and Steve in Aviation.
We believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to farm with the understanding that you are only taking care of of the land for a short period of time. One must pass on the land to others, in the future, in as good or better condition than when one started farming.
Philip Jones was trained by some of the most recognized people in their field of Bio Control, Integrated Pest Management and Ecology at the University of California and has passed on much of this knowledge to the staff at Spencer Hill. The concept is simple ….farm with the least input from chemicals, equipment and human interaction as possible. But this requires a thorough understanding of the relationships of insects, plant disease (Viruses, Nematodes, Bacteria, Fungus), soil chemistry, agricultural chemicals and their chemistry, and ecology.
The biggest problem to overcome is understanding that farming is a mono-culture…a very unnatural situation ecologically. To not understand the implications of a mono-culture, and the lack of understanding the complex relationships caused by this, puts the crop and ultimately, the land at risk. This is why misuse of farm chemicals is so common and as such has led to a growing movement of organics and bio-dynamics around the world. We believe there can be a middle ground, taking advantage of the advances in science and by watching what nature is telling us. We accomplish this by having having well trained managers watching over our farming and training all our farm workers the best we can.
Every piece of land, every different crop and every year requires different input. By the book programs are very helpful to those persons that are not well trained. But to truly farm in a sustainable manner one needs to be highly trained in all aspects of agriculture and ecology, walk the land, look closely at the crop and evaluate its needs…. constantly. Most sustainability, organic and bio-dynamic programs are far to rigid for us. We prefer to borrow the best ideas from all of these programs.