ridgemill estate vineyard
Ridgemill Estate began its days as Emerald Hill in 1998 by Spaniards Tom and Cath Jimenez with first plantings of Cabernet, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Merlot varieties. The year 2000 saw 1 acre of Spanish variety Tempranillo planted- some of the first Tempranillo for the Granite Belt region. In 2004 Emerald Hill was purchased by current owner Martin Cooper. At this time ridgemill estate was conceptualised.
Further plantings of Saperavi, Verdelho and Viognier in 2006 expanded the production potential of ridgemill estate and reinforced the vineyards commitment to “wine by design”. Cabin accommodation was ready for guests for the Easter of 2006.
The orientation of the 21 acre property faces south on a gentle slope at an elevation of approximately 840m above sea level. The vineyard is orientated north to south to make the most of the sun’s rays to ripen the bunches slowly and evenly to produce distinctive, rich and flavoursome wines from the cool climate region of the Granite Belt.
The climate at Severnlea plays an important role in producing grapes of a very high quality. Situated on the western side of the New England Highway, ridgemill is in a rain shadow area. This means that to the north, south and east tend to receive high rainfall, through the ripening period thus reducing disease risks and increasing the chance of a slower more even ripening period from January to April.
Through winter Severnlea receives very cold conditions. In the dry years the temperature drops to -11 to -15 degress Celsius. We have recorded an overnight low of -19 degrees Celsius- frozen pipes and all! In the wet years the winter temperatures range between 1 and 8 degrees. These conditions are part of the reason that the Granite Belt is a premium wine region.
September to November is an important and risky time in the vineyard. The vines new shoots are starting to burst through the protective cocoon and are still tender. The Granite Belt is well known for having the occasional frost into late November, putting at risk the first growth of the vintage. It is also when we get our first spring rain encouraging the vines to grow. With pools of warm air, cold fronts and storms coming in from the west-south-west it is also a dangerous combination, sometimes producing damaging hail that can destroy a vintage in a matter of minutes.
The temperature ranges between December and April are important in the ripening of fruit. In general, Severnlea has a warm to hot ripening period with cool nights and relativity low humidity. Daytime temperatures are around 35 degrees with an overnight low of around 17 degrees. This ratio between day and night temperatures is important for the ripening period. The warm days help to increase the sugar levels and the cooling effect of the night time temperatures help to develop the flavours and even ripening. The cool nights are also ideal at harvest time as the grapes are picked and processed while cool. This low temperature reduces the phenolic characters in white wines.
The terroir is made up by geology, climate, topography, water holding ability and amount of sunshine received. We believe that these factors at our vineyard combine to produce premium end fruit that is made into our award winning wines.
The Granite Belt is a range, hilly and sometimes mountainous. This creates varied soil depths on the edge of the hills to soils that are rocky and shallow with coarse granite sandy/clay. In the valleys the soils are deeper with fine granitic sandy soils with the clay layer deeper while on the creek flats, which are few and far between, the soil is much deeper and finer.
As the name Granite Belt suggests our region is predominately made of granitic sandy soil with a clay layer at depth. The soil at Severnlea is fairly typical of the soil profile of the Granite belt. The soil type is important at this altitude because of lower sunlight levels. With the reflective nature of granitic sandy soils light is reflected back of the ground increasing sunlight exposure to the ripening grapes.
This soil type is generally poor in nutrients and on the acidic side on the pH scale. While this can be seen as a disadvantage for most crops, at ridgemill estate we believe that it is a positive. Grape vines and their associated rootstocks are by nature efficient users of nutrients able to thrive in otherwise poor conditions. High vigour and in some cases uncontrollable vines, affect the quality of the fruit. The poor soils of the Granite Belt allow the viticulturist to add nutrients as required, keeping the vines in balance and producing quality fruit.