In Australia it is considered fact that North facing slopes catch more sun and the grapes ripen earlier. The Sinclair vineyard defies this law. The grapes on the more elevated and steeper south-facing slope always ripen a couple of weeks earlier than the North. There are a number of reasons for this. The point is that you just can't take any so-called fact for granted.
John Healy and Darelle Sinclair spent the best part of two years looking at and rejecting land around Margaret River before coming across the Manjimup property by chance.
The 34 hectare Sinclair property is made up of two slopes converging into a steep valley at the western end. Five hectares of vineyard has been established with the first vines planted in 1994.
The main grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Three small blocks have been planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Shiraz. We can blend these grapes with the Cabernet Sauvignon to add complexity. For example in 2005 and 2006 we made what has become the Aussie blend, Cabernet Shiraz. Both of these wines have enjoyed considerable success.
Soil and Water
Red loam and gravel over white clay provides good drainage while allowing sufficient field water capacity for most of the summer. The machinery shed stands on an old gravel pit and boulders of gravel conglomerate have been removed from the vineyard.
The dam is used to sparingly irrigate the vines during drought years and is also home to trout and marron, a sort of fresh water lobster. There are many small springs that pop up out of the ground and run into a tiny fast flowing creek that flows constantly even in drought years. This water is so sweet and clean that we've thought about bottling it.
Viticulture and Canopy Management
In cool climates it is important to have open canopies in the vines. Excess moisture, lack of sunlight and airflow is a surefire way to get mouldy, unripe grapes. Most of the vineyard has the Scott Henry Trellising system that divides the canopy into two sections allowing sunshine and airflow to reach the fruit zone. The Sauvignon Blanc is Vertical Shoot Positioned (VSP). This does shade the fruit a little more but this tends to favourably extend the ripening season in this early ripening variety.
Our planet is so polluted with toxins that we have made every effort to reduce the use of chemicals in the Sinclair vineyard. We believe in prevention rather than cure so rather than spraying willy-nilly, the vineyard is inspected regularly and the vines are hedged and leaf plucked to reduce shading that promotes disease.
Insecticides are to be avoided at all costs. Spiders sling their webs between the rows and we tolerate a few insects believing that it is best to maintain a healthy balance. Spraying may kill most bugs but probably builds up resistance in the insects that you don't want.
There are countless birds that eat vineyard pests but a lot of birds also snack on grapes! Silver Eyes are the worst. When the birds' natural food is scarce they travel in huge flocks and randomly peck at fruit causing it to spoil. We have found that netting the vines is the only way to protect the fruit from the birds. Frustratingly the nets sometimes become aviaries when birds manage to get underneath and can't get out.
Sinclair is located on Graphite Road 17km west of Manjimup in the south of Western Australia. The Sinclair vineyard is at the edge of the wild and impressive karri forest in a locality known as Glenoran.
While Sinclair does not have a cellar door at present the area around is very beautiful and well worth a visit. If an appointment is made in advance wine clubs and other groups can experience a rustic wine tasting in the vineyard. Watch out though, you may find yourselves on the end of a pair of secateurs!
There is a sign next to our place letting visitors know that lovely Glenoran Pool and the giant karri trees known as 'The Four Aces' are only 4km away. The Bibbulmun Track, a 900km long-distance walk trail From Kalamunda near Perth to Albany in the South, winds its way through Glenoran locality. The attractive towns of Bridgetown, Nannup and Pemberton are close by.
The vineyard is over 300m above sea level and is close to the Southern Ocean. This makes Sinclair one of the coolest vineyards in the region. In a normal year rainfall is in excess of 1000mm. In fact around 1200mm is considered to be one of the requirements of karri forests.