Lark Hill was established in 1978 by Sue & Dave Carpenter, high on the escarpment above Bungendore, 30km North East of Canberra. Lark Hill is a cold vineyard and at 860m elevation, is one of the highest plantings in the Canberra District. The soils are shallow depleted shale over clay, and vineyard receives ~600mm of rainfall annually.
In 2002, their son Chris joined the winemaking team at Lark Hill.
The vines were planted in 1978 & are not very vigorous, giving intense flavours but limited crops. Lark Hill is sparingly irrigated, as most water available in the area is saline. Instead the vines are pruned for low yields and heavily mulched to make the most of any available soil moisture.
The first vintage was in 1981 and comprised Riesling and Chardonnay in tiny quantities.
Whilst a wide range of varieties were initially planted, the cold, dry nature of the site does not suit some varieties like Cabernet or Shiraz, and these have been grafted to more suitable choices.
The Lark Hill estate vineyard grows Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner.
In 2003, the Carpenters sought Biodynamic certification for this vineyard through NASAA (minimum 5 year transition) and in 2006 the ‘transition to Biodynamic’ certification was granted. 2008 marked the first vintage of ‘Certified Biodynamic’ wines from Lark Hill.
In 2011, Lark Hill purchased a 2nd vineyard, in Murrumbateman and renamed it “Dark Horse Vineyard”. Dark Horse was established in 2001 and comprises Shiraz, Viognier, Sangiovese and small amounts of Marsanne & Rousanne. It has supplied some of these varieties to several prestigious labels in the Canberra District, and was the source of our 2009 and 2010 Shiraz Viognier & Viognier.
Dark Horse is lower than Lark Hill (at approx. 500m) and planted on deep granite soils. It has good vigour and delivers very generous, rich fruit. We have now begun conversion of Dark Horse to Biodynamic farming and begun certification with NASAA.
Biodynamics and Lark Hill
From 2003, Lark Hill has been farmed using Biodynamic Principles, and certified by NASAA.
Our 2006 and 2007 Vintages received "Biodynamic in Conversion" labelling - and from 2008 on, all Lark Hill estate wines receive "Certified Biodynamic" labelling.
Biodynamic farming was fathered by Rudolph Steiner, in Austria in the 1920s. Reacting to a widespread loss of farm vigour and production, Steiner gave a series of lectures outlining Biodynamic farming.
In a modern interpretation, Biodynamic farming seeks to replace conventional methods with natural alternatives. In some cases, this is as simple as replacing chemical controls with manual labour. However, Biodynamics go far further than this, treating the farm as a huge interconnected web of organisms - with the knowledge that a healthy, balanced, biodiverse farm will sustainably produce wonderful crops.
We use composting and mulching to control weeds and improve soil structure - recycling all of our farm and winery waste into compost to return nutrients, minerals and organic matter to the soil.
We use the Biodynamic "Preparations" to stimulate soil and vine health, as well as control fungi on the vines themselves. This includes the well-known "500" - made up from composted cow manure: which acts as a pro-fungi culture for the soil, encouraging positive fungi growth and symbiotic relationships to help the vines grow. This holistic, closed-loop farming practice means our vineyard is very sustainable - with few inputs and fewer outputs.
Additionally, we have partially replaced the use of Organic Approved fungicides (Copper and Sulfur) in the vineyard with regular milk sprays. Milk contains a protein which stimulates a positive fungi on the vine leaves - which prevents the growth of unwanted fungi like Downy Mildew.
The elimination of poisons from our vineyard means that our fruit comes into the winery with its own healthy, native yeast cultures - and so our wines are made using only 'wild' yeast ferments.
In the winery, we seek to translate the balance and vibrance of the fruit to the wines - using minimal intervention winemaking techniques to ensure that the wine reflects the geology, climate and location of our vineyard, in a true preservation of Terroir.
Under Biodynamic certification, we use a maximum of 20ppm (parts-per-million) of free Sulphur (preservative) at bottling - a low dose that may reduce Sulphur reactions, and still ensures our wines will cellar impeccably for years to come.