Our estate vineyard, together with the winery and cellar door, is located at Musk five minutes from the town of Daylesford in the Macedon Ranges.
It sits on a steep, north facing slope with a top elevation of 770m ASL. Deep volcanic soil would suggest high vigor; but in addition to the soil being very well drained the cold temperatures and high winds assist keeping unnecessary vigor under control. Macedon is arguably Australia’s coldest grape growing region, this site is arguably the coldest in Macedon.
The vineyard was planted in 1998, some irrigation was used during establishment but it is now un-irrigated. Average annual rainfall is 1100mm. It consists of 1.62 hectares (4 acres) of Pinot Noir (largely MV6 with some 777) and 2.43 hectares (6 acres) of Chardonnay. The trellising is a modified wide T trellis. Great attention to detail is taken with canopy management. The site is marginal and disease pressure can be high. Shoot thinning, leaf plucking and fruit thinning (when required) is carried out, not only to produce fruit of optimum balance and maturity but also so we can minimize the application of fungicides and increase the use of organic fungicides when we do use them.
Crop levels for the Pinot Noir rarely exceed 1.5 tonne/acre (and more often than not are closer to 1). The Chardonnay is normally about 1.5 tonnes/acre.
These factors combine to produce wines of complexity and longevity. The Pinot Noir is delicate but typically shows great depth and complexity, the Chardonnay, which sits in the citrus spectrum, also carries stone fruit character. Racy acidity remains even after full malolactic fermentation, it is a new world Chardonnay that cellars particularly well.
In October 2015, we planted an additional acre of Pinot Noir, split across the MV6 and 777 clones.
Up until 2014, we also sourced Syrah from a vineyard we leased in Vaughan Springs. Although it is in the Macedon Ranges wine region, it is on the northern most border of the region and at a comparatively low elevation (283m ASL).
The vineyard is organically run (although not certified at this stage) and consists 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of 21 year old and 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of 10 year old Shiraz vines.
Minimal irrigation is used if and when required to produce a very individual style of Syrah showing genuine complex spice and earthy characters.
From the 2014 vintage, we have been lucky enough to have access to fruit from the Quarry Ridge vineyard, near Kilmore. The vineyard is a satellite vineyard of the Macedon Ranges situated just to the East and but for a slip of the pen could have been incorporated into our region. It is mainly from 27 year old, own rooted MV6 vines. The 18 acre site was planted in 1988 and 1998 to predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Elevation is 400-428mm with an average rainfall of 700mm. Fruit from this vineyard is vinified at our winery into our Single Vineyard Kilmore Pinot Noir.
Our viticultural (and all other for that matter) roots are in Bendigo, and always will be. Graeme planted the vineyard at Kingower in 1973 & ’74 together with co-founder of Passing Clouds, Sue Mackinnon and that’s where they made wine for decades.
Drought and climate change plagued Kingower from 1998 through to 2010 (and at the time of writing, does again).
In 1998 parcels of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon were being purchased from growers with not only as much attention to detail in the vineyard as Graeme, but with access to water, something which Kingower lacked.
This process has continued (we have been buying fruit from two of the growers for over 10 years now), and we believe the wines are as good as they ever were, and in some instances better as viticultural methods continue to improve and growers learn their sites with increasing intimacy.
The Axedale vineyard is situated between the townships of Bendigo and Heathcote, 20km east of Bendigo. The vineyard, planted in 1998 sits on the banks of the Campaspe River. The plantings comprise of (predominantly) Cabernet Sauvignon (Clone: SA125) and Shiraz (Clone: PT23), with a small amount of carefully tended Chardonnay vines. The soil is sandy clay loam.
The vines are mainly spur pruned, irrigation is used when required to achieve a balanced canopy and optimum fruit quality. Due to the low rainfall during the growing season and canopy management practices fungicide sprays are kept very minimal. Average annual rainfall is 540mm with an altitude of 176 metres above sea level.
We have had access to Shiraz and Cabernet from this vineyard since 2004, and a small volume of Chardonnay since 2015. It produces classic Bendigo Shiraz of dark red fruit character with power and excellent structure. The Shiraz from this vineyard makes up in part the Shiraz component of the Graeme’s Blend Shiraz Cabernet and in select years contributes to our Bendigo Shiraz. The Chardonnay is of a warmer climate style, exhibiting stonefruits dominated flavours with softer acidity compared to that of our estate vineyard fruit at Musk.
A relatively recent addition for Passing Clouds, we have been purchasing fruit from the Serpentine vineyard since 2011. The vines were planted on the banks of the Loddon River in 1999 in sandy clay loam topsoil over friable reddish clay with limestone pebbles. We purchase PT23 Shiraz and SA125 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Shiraz either becomes part of our reserve Shiraz or goes into our Bendigo Shiraz. The Cabernet from this site goes into The Angel, making it a single vineyard wine. It also makes up the Cabernet component of the Graeme’s blend.
Graeme convinced Phil and Ann Adam to plant a vineyard at their Zonnebeke property in 1994. It sits in a shallow valley in a slightly cooler part of the Bendigo region, although only 5km down the road from our original vineyard.
The Shiraz (clone unknown) vines sit on granitic sands. The very low yielding (1-1.5t/acre) Shiraz vines produce often highly perfumed wine of elegance. Phil uses minimal chemicals in the vineyards.
In exceptional vintages past, Shiraz from the Zonnebeke vineyard has created our Reserve Shiraz, making it a single vineyard wine. Irrigation is used sparingly if at all.