People digging vineyard People digging vineyard

Planting Misha's Vineyard

22 Aug 2019

You can't stop yourself from saying “wow” when you arrive at the land that’s now Misha’s Vineyard: land that was overrun by rabbits and rocks; land once inhabited by Chinese gold miners seeking their fortune; land with impossibly steep slopes overlooking a lake and snow-capped mountains; land that now grows some of the world’s best Pinot Noir.

The 2004 groundbreaking ceremony

Spectacularly located on the edge of Lake Dunstan in the Bendigo sub-region of Central Otago, Misha & Andy Wilkinson’s 57-hectare estate has a ’no compromise’ philosophy across all aspects of viticulture and winemaking. The sun-drenched north-west facing terraces provide optimal conditions for producing Pinot Noir and aromatic white varieties.

Planting of the 26-hectare vineyard was in three stages - 2004, 2005 and in 2007. Not only was the vineyard on an old gold-mining site from the 1880s but the vineyard is located on State Highway 8, 8km from the nearest town of Cromwell and the land was known as 'Sheep Run 238'.

Given the number 8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture, it was decided to plant the first 8 vines in a special groundbreaking ceremony on November 2004.

A Chinese gold coin was placed beneath the first 8 planted vines as a mark of respect for the many Chinese who worked the land many years earlier and to return the old gold to the land to bring the new gold... Pinot Noir!

At the ground-breaking ceremony, everyone who was involved in the vineyard development up to that stage attended, including John Perriam, owner of Bendigo Station, of which the land had been a part.

Shrek the sheep and John Perriam

John came with his famous sheep Shrek, and they both planted one of the 8 first vines. John was hoping his vine would grow faster than the others with the addition of sheep poo at the base of the vine!

Once the planting was underway, the extreme nature of the site on the side of Lake Dunstan required a lot of additional work. Monsoon buckets flown by a team of helicopters had to damp down the fragile soils of windblown loess which were like talcum powder, in order to mark grid lines for the planting tractor.

And then every vineyard post needed to have a hole spiked as the ground was so rugged and rocky and it wasn't possible just to push a vineyard post into the schist rock. The land was also windswept so many of the areas very prone to the spring winds had shelter cloth erected every fourth row to try and minimise the wind impact and protect the young vines.

Misha's Vineyard was one of the most difficult sites to plant because of the fragile topsoils with unforgiving schist rock underneath, because of the steep slopes and because the land was overrun by rabbits. But they say the best wines are from vines that struggle!

The first year of vineyard growth

Read more stories

Central Otago
Back to top