Doctors Flat Vineyard
Steve Davies Doctors Flat Vineyard in Bannockburn, Central Otago offers something very simple yet tremendously hard to achievea new world Pinot Noir true to the place where its grown.
Doctors Flat Pinot Noir is a genuine artisanal wine, produced from a small organic vineyard, with real understanding of soil, vines and winemaking.
On offer: a memorable blend of the terroir tradition and pioneering spirit from Pinots new world home, Central Otago, New Zealand.
Steve Davies is the hands on grower and winemaker of Doctors Flat Pinot Noir. He brings to his carefully chosen site over 20 years of training and international experience with some great wine producers.
With that come his persistence, integrity, curiosity and a canny mix of the pragmatic and the philosophical. His commitment to making what he calls worthy wine is considerable. There will be no compromises.
Most recently winemaker at Carrick and consultant to Wild Earth, Steve has also made wine for Akarua and Alan Scott, as well as a number of other New Zealand wineries. The foundation of his winemaking craft was laid in the Napa Valley, California, where he was based for eight years in the 1990sincluding at Newton, Saintsbury, Forman and Peter Michael Winery.
Including off-season harvests in New Zealand, Domain Dujac in Burgundy and several in Oregon, Steve has 31 vintages under his belt, as well as Lincoln Universitys viticulture and oenology post- graduate diploma.
My knowledge of wine-making, and beliefs about how the best Pinot is made, has grown out of this experience and the conversations Ive had with great winemakers.
My challenge now is to choose whats relevant from what I know, and most of all to learn from the soil and vines of my vineyard, at their pace.
Doctors Flat Vineyard is an organically farmed 3-hectare vineyard in Bannockburn, Central Otago.
The soil is deep gold-bearing gravels deposited by receding glaciers about 480,000 years ago. The area was intensively mined for gold throughout the 1800s, the claim here was held by the Deep Lead & Doctors Flat Mining Co. However, the gold and gravel of the vineyard block were left largely undisturbed.
To the benefit of Pinot Noir: at around 8 metres deep the gravels offer a large volume of soil for roots to explore and abundant minerals resources. The meagre water holding capacity and energy needed to draw sustenance from such depth checks vigour and produces balanced vines.
At about 100m above Lake Dunstan it is cooler than most Bannockburn vineyards, with an increased risk of poor crop levels, but in return the fruit gains in flavour, identity and balance.
The three hectares of Pinot Noir were planted in 2002: five blocks combining two rootstocks and three Dijon clones (114, 115 and 777) on VSP trellis. The clones, selections from Burgundy, have adapted perfectly and are more at home than the original Central Otago selections.
After a century of quiet living, the old mining claim is providing new riches from the earth this time a truly sustainable mineral wealth.
Organic farming - the conduit from soil to wine
Steve has developed Doctors Flat Vineyard from the outset, with labour-intensive farming in order to maximising fruit quality.
The focus now is to build soil health, especially the beneficial microbes and mycorrhizal fungi. When the natural soil micro life is healthy and not suppressed by synthetic fertiliser, there is a more intimate connection between soil and vine, more intense flavour and most importantly, an authentic wine of the site.
Soil is important, consider the difference between farmers market and super market tomatoes and cast your mind back to the tastes of your grandfathers' garden.
The story of Doctors Flat Vineyard begins in the late 1980s, in France and California, where Steve Davies first encountered great practitioners of old world winemaking, and the best of new world innovators.
Determined to make quality wine, he returned to New Zealand for postgraduate study and after a brief detour into Sauvignon Blanc production moved back to the Napa Valley, California.
Having served an apprenticeship making great Bordeaux reds at Newton the first clear steps toward New Zealand was the move, in 1996, to Saintsbury and making Pinot Noir.
By 1999 Steve had settled in Central Otago, making Pinot for Akarua and on the hunt for his own land. He was looking for something in particulara site that would offer all the conditions he had come to believe were essential for great Pinot. It was a long and thorough search, and in 2002 he found it, an elevated site on deep glacial gravels in Bannockburn. Doctors Flat Vineyard was a reality
There is tale unfolding. His pursuit of quality has evolved and shifted focus: from the art of winemaking, to grapes and vineyards, and now into the site and soil, the true source of wine of quality.