Tapanappa acquired the 30 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 to sustain a meagre crop of 4 tonnes/hectare. The vines have sufficient canopy and root system to fully ripen the harvest relying only on natural rainfall.
The 2005/2006 growing season was normal except for a hotter than average January. After veraison in January, the ripening months were moderate and cooler than average.
In 2005/2006 the heat summation for Whalebone Vineyard for the 7-month growing season was 1394°C days against the average of 1377°C days. In nearby Coonawarra the 2006 heat summation was 1431°C days, only pushed above the long-term average of 1376°C days by the hot January.
Whalebone Vineyard has consistently proven to be cooler than Coonawarra in prior and subsequent vintages (see www.tapanappawines.com.au and scroll down from Vineyards to Whalebone Vineyard, Wrattonbully to Climate).
The paradox is that despite being cooler Whalebone Vineyard ripens each variety earlier and more completely than Coonawarra, 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 2006 allowed Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Shiraz (30%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) to be picked between the 29th of March and the 1st of April in dry, sunny and cool autumn conditions. The 32 year-old vines of the Whalebone Vineyard yielded the meagre crop of 2.5 tonnes/hectare in 2006. The average analysis at harvest was 25.5 Brix, the pH was 3.5 and the acid 6.5gpl as tartaric.