Drew Noon was the wine maker for the certified Chambourcin wine produced by Cassegrain (see Acres 4.4 and 6.?). Prior to that he was the State Oenologist in Victoria, an advisory position with an emphasis on boutique, cool climate wine production, and before that he was assistant wine maker at Tyrrell’s. He was trained in winemaking at Roseworthy, in South Australia.
Drew has returned home to his small family vineyard and winery in October 1996, and is now working on his third vintage.
The property was bought by Drew’s father in 1967. He was the French language teacher at St Peter’s College and had developed an interest in wines while living in France. The property was purchased from the family which had originally planted the vineyard in 1934, and consisted of 25 acres of vines, almonds and apricots.
The Noon family originally sold the grapes, but started making wine in the early 70’s when almond prices were very low. They made a ‘home brew’ in 1972, and the first cellar door sales were made in 1976. Around that time ten acres, including the almonds and apricots were sold, leaving a property of fifteen acres.
The vines are all bush vines (ie no trellis) and are dry grown. This produces a very high quality product, but a yield only one third of the average for the district.
Because of the bush vines, there is no mechanisation, and pruning and picking are very labour intensive tasks.
The only grapes used are grown on the property or purchased from a family at Langhorne Creek, who grow Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drew described this property as “also a good mature dry grown vineyard”.
Drew first heard about Biodynamics while working for the Department of Agriculture in Victoria, but learnt much more after moving to Cassegrain, at Port Macquarie. Based on positive experience with Biodynamics at Cassegrain, Drew was encouraged to adopt BD growing methods on the family vineyard, but is not a certified grower or wine maker. He sees the BD methods as “in keeping with my philosophy and goals of flavour and quality”.
He told Acres “what happens here is influenced by my experience at Cassegrain. When I took over a sixty-five year old vineyard, I new that it had almost never had any conventional chemicals applied. With a one year exception, it had not had Roundup or synthetic fungicides.”
“A couple of years before I took over it had a few Roundup applications, but right through my upbringing it had gone without.”
“With that sort of background, why would you start?”
The vines are mulched, because they are dry grown, to extend the spring moisture and to provide some weed control under the vine. Drew says “we did have a wiggle plough - that is a similar idea to the hydraulic dodge plough, but works on a sled behind the tractor which has to be pulled in and out between each vine”. Because of the bush vine shape, they are not well suited to machinery.
“The first year I was here I brushcut the entire vineyard several times, which was a lot of work. This year we have mulched by hand, pulling biscuits off big square bales.”
Fungal control is provided by wettable Sulphur (for powdery mildew), using 3 or 4 sprays early. Drew described powdery as “reasonably easy to manage, because we know well how the disease works and can get on top of it early”.
He says “the Sulphur works well and has minimum impact on the vine”.
“We have also used a little BT for Light Brown Apple Moth, one or two sprays with the sulphur in spring.”
“Downy mildew is rare here, except in a wet spring. We use Copper as a protectant, but we need very little. In France they have very high Copper levels in the soil because it has been used for many years. We use it only as required, usually before a storm.”
“We need to ensure good fruit exposure in the outer rows. Growth is limited in the middle due to water competition, so the problem is only the outer rows which have to be leaf plucked to let light into the vine.”
Virtually all sales are made from the cellar door, which is the historic practice at Noon Winery. A little wine is sent to California, to an importer who specialises in small Australian producers.”
Wines sell for $12.50 to $23.00 per bottle and include only red varieties. Drew makes a Grenache, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Almost half of the production is a 2/3 Grenache 1/3 Shiraz blend called Eclipse which Drew’s father has always made, There is also a small amount of straight Shiraz, a Cabernet and a light Grenache called “12 Bells”. A very small quantity of Rose and Vintage Port is also made.
Information about the wines can be obtained direct from the cellar door on (08) 83238290.