On an autumn day in Central Otago the air is crisp and clear and the colours vibrant. It is the ideal time to be airborne and capture some views of Grasshopper Rock. Our friend Roger Bennett captured these images while out on a CAA approved flight.
I will point out the local geography and history and its influence on the vineyard.
This first image was taken on 3 May with the golden leaves of the poplar and willow trees. The vineyard (red dot) still has the bird nets on and stands out like a sore thumb. Taken from above the eastern side of Alexandra looking up the Clutha River to the west. The snow caped Remarkables (2,234 m) which tower above Queenstown, are in the distance (45 km in a straight line).
This image looks to the south west across the vineyard from Alexandra towards the Old Man Range and the Obelisk (1,682 m). The Old Man Range is very exposed and significantly cooler than Alexandra. The cool south west air flowing down off this range in the evening is one of the reasons the diurnal temperature range at the vineyard is one of the largest and coolest in Central Otago. The vineyard is only 160 metres above sea level.
This image looks down on the vineyard and out to the north west. The area in the top right is the historic Earnsclugh gold tailings reserve which was mined by dredge. Dredges operated on Earnscleugh Flat from the 1890s through to 1963. The dredges worked within 200 metres of the north east corner of the vineyard. Earnscleugh Road runs along the northern side of the vineyard.
This looks directly south over the vineyard with the vines running in a north-south direction. The small hill at the back of the vineyard faces nicely to the north and is one of the sunniest places in the Alexandra basin. The hill also provides some shelter from the cold southerly weather. In the middle distance to the far right is Conroys Gully. The discovery of gold by Conroy Dick in October 1862 brought hundreds of miners to what proved to be the richest gully in Central Otago at that time.
This image highlights the areas of wild thyme growing on the hill behind the vineyard. The mauve colour areas of thyme love the hot, dry and stony conditions on these hillsides. More wild thyme can be seen on the hills further back on the other side of Chapmans Gully.
This image is looking directly east with Alexandra bridge in the distance and captures the vineyards on what we call the Earnscleugh rim. This is some of the very best pinot noir growing land in Central Otago making pinot noir in a very distinct style. The pinot noir is typically very perfumed, vibrant and elegant with a long finish often described as minerally.
This image gives an overview of the Alexandra basin and looks towards the north west and the Cromwell gorge. Lake Dunstan behind the Clyde dam in just visible.