Mt William Vineyard is situated on the northeast slopes of Mt William at an altitude of 605 metres. The first vines planted were Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1985 and 1987. These were followed the next year with Semillon and Cabernet Franc.
The vineyard site is a sloping amphitheatre of grey loam soil to 600mm depth, overlaying a clay base. The considerable slope of the blocks ensures a frost-free site of excellent sunlight interception and certainly provides a magnificent working environment with spectacular views.
The new Pinot Noir block could arguably contend to be planted on the steepest site in Australia, with each row having been terraced to enable the use of tractors and four wheel motorbikes, even though they are all 4WD. The views are outstanding and make you feel as if you are standing on the edge of the world.
The vines are trained to a 1.8m high Vertical Shoot Position, drip-irrigated trellis. Row spacings are 2.5 metres apart and vines planted at 1.25 metres apart, within the row. Undervine is kept clean and weed free, however the mid row area is mown to a grass sward to ensure there is no soil erosion on the quite steep slopes.
All vines are cane pruned and we aim for a cropping level of around the 3.5 tonnes per acre. As this is a very cool climate vineyard, intense effort is put into canopy management to ensure clean and ripe premium fruit. Until vintage 2000, leaf plucking was a time consuming manual task for three or four people, however with the introduction of our own manufactured leaf plucking unit, one person can now complete this extremely important process in exposing the fruit to sunlight.
Generally, Chardonnay for Sparkling Base Wine is picked mid March, with table wine fruit following two weeks later with the Pinot Noir. Semillon follows two weeks later after the usual bunch thinning - a prolific bearer no matter how hard we prune - and the Cabernet Franc is last to come off the vines.
Bird neeting is rolled out over the later varieties depending on the bird activity, however we seem to be able to escape unscathed with the Sparkling Base fruit.
Considerable time is spent prior to picking, in bunch sampling and testing to ensure the fruit is picked at the optimum time for wine quality. At present picking is done by hand, however later plantings such as 2 acres of Merlot adjacent to the Cellar Door, are set up for machine harvesting should this be required.
Mid-Autumn sees the end of picking and the commencement of the Winter maintenance program. Post harvest spraying, irrigation, fertiliser replacement and then the ubiquitous pruning sees us through to the end of August when we look forward to budburst in late September and the cycle starts once again.