Tapanappa acquired the thirty year-old Whalebone Vineyard in 2002 and completely renovated it onto a new trellis supporting a shoot thinned vertical canopy.
The old Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc vines of the Whalebone Vineyard have responded magnificently. After a thirty-year struggle, the vine roots have penetrated the deeper limestone layers and are extracting a balance of moisture and nutrient capable of sustaining a meagre crop of 4 tonnes/hectare as a maximum yield.
The vines have sufficient canopy and root system to fully ripen the harvest relying only on natural rainfall.
The 2004/2005 growing season was normal and moderate until the first two weekends in April when successive un-seasonal heatwaves arrived. In 2004/2005, the heat summation for Whalebone Vineyard for the 7-month growing season was 1340°C days. In nearby Coonawarra, the 2007 heat summation was 1455°C days – only pushed above the longterm average of 1376°C days by the very hot April events.
Whalebone Vineyard has consistently proven to be cooler than Coonawarra in both prior and subsequent vintages (for a comparative table, please go to our website: http://www.tapanappawines.com.au/Whalebone.Climate.aspx). The paradox is that despite being cooler, Whalebone Vineyard ripens each variety earlier and more completely than Coonawarra. This is probably because of the protection it receives from the crest of the Naracoorte Ranges to the west and the much reduced wind speeds from the Great Southern Ocean from the southwest.
The still air – cool night – warm day temperature regime of the Whalebone Vineyard particularly suits Shiraz in its support role for Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc also performs well at the Whalebone Vineyard, which is not surprising given the similarity of the soil, geology and climate to that of St. Emilion in Bordeaux where it excels.
The moderate ripening months of vintage 2005 allowed Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Shiraz (25%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) to be picked between the 7th and 10th of April after the finishing heat of the first weekend in April and before the second heat wave weekend.
The thirty year-old vines of the Whalebone Vineyard yielded the meagre crop of 3 tonnes/hectare in 2005. The average sugar level at harvest was 25 Brix, the pH was 3.5 and the acid 5gpl as tartaric.