Welcome to SHINE BASIN
We feel privileged to welcome guests to Shine Basin Vineyard. You will have an opportunity to experience the beauty of the area and feel a sense of connection with the environment that we enjoy.
Shine Basin was the name given to the inland basin around the Clutha River during the gold rush of the 1860’s from the shine (gold) extracted there. Our vineyard sits almost centrally in this huge basin bounded to the north and west by the Pisa Range, the south by the Old Woman Range, the east by the Dunstan Range and the north-east by the St Bathans Range.
The first light of the day touches the tops of the Pisa Range and the last light turns the St Bathans Range pink. Overnight a moonless night highlights the Southern Cross amongst a vast haze of stars forming the milky way. During the day harrier hawks (kahu) patrol the huge expanse of sky.
It is inevitable that such grandeur brings a sense of proportion to our lives in the knowledge that we as individuals form but a small part of something far greater all around us. It is a reminder of human frailty as the natural elements transcend all else. The summer sun is severe but the clearest of light brings out intensity in the colours. The winters are harsh but sun on a hoar frost is a sight to treasure. The ferocious north-west wind, whilst a torment on the ground, produces the most amazingly beautiful lenticular clouds.
In this environment of extremes the finest quality Pinot Noir grapes thrive. The vines race to deliver their fruit in a six month growing season from bud burst in early October to harvest in April. They change from the dormant naked-looking sticks of winter to manicured green hedges in summer before turning to the spectacular yellows, oranges and reds of autumn.
SHINE BASIN History 2000 – 2007
Shine Basin Vineyard is situated at Parkburn on the Cromwell-Wanaka Road, the name being taken from that given to the locality during the gold rush years. Shine was the glimmering gold amongst the gravels.
We bought 9 hectares of bare land in 2000, in consultation with Greg Hay of Peregrine, after looking around the Cromwell area for a few years. Our aims were to establish a property we could enjoy for lifestyle purposes, that would give some productivity to the land and that might eventually give some financial return. We knew nothing about growing grapes and thought briefly about cherries, about which we also knew nothing, but the romance of grapes won out!
We were aware of the risk of frosts in the area but weighed that against the ease of working flat land in a site with plenty of heat during most of the season. We reassured ourselves in the end that the paddock we bought did seem to grow some of the best grass along the Wanaka Road!
Greg Hay, with Brett Duffy and his Shamrock crew, did all the initial work setting up the vineyard and planting in 2001 and 2002, a total of 7.5 hectares. Greg chose a mixture of clones of Pinot Noir for the majority with about 1ha each of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Around half of the total plantings is on phylloxera resistant rootstock. The management of the vineyard was left to Peregrine whilst we gave thought to landscaping the property, trying not to dwell too much on what we might have got ourselves into.
The first few years were not particularly encouraging. The initial strike rate for plantings was poor and the severe frosts of November 2003 killed many plants and stopped growth of those that survived, just at a time when they had been starting to get established. At that time we took out two rows of dying trees leaving large piles of unsightly logs and, to add to the depressing scene, a tornado came and demolished our pump shed!
From that low point we have been delighted with progress. The grapes are growing and we have now had two seasons of production, selling our grapes to Peregrine. The Sauvignon Blanc never recovered from the 2001 frosts and was consolidated into two rows with the rest being replaced by Pinot Gris.
In 2005, Sean Guildford joined us and took over the day-to-day management of our vineyard and the neighbouring vineyard of 13 hectares owned by the Ramsays. Bev Pasco is our other full-timer and Sean hires temporary staff as needed. Peregrine provides an advisory service. Frost fighting is done with a wind-machine supplemented with frost pots and no doubt the neighbouring squadron of wind-machines contribute as well.
Whilst Sean has been getting the vineyard up and running, we have continued with the aesthetics. Native plantings around a pond near the roadside entrance have done well and we have a very functional building on the vineyard. One end serves as a very comfortable residence while the other end provides workers’ facilities and a shed for those items of machinery and equipment necessary to run the vineyard.
At present, whilst we are very busy with our life and work in Dunedin, the vineyard offers a fantastic means for revitalising mind and soul. We have also found it a wonderful family experience, as our boys (now aged 17 & 15), have been able to grow up with the vineyard, experiencing an alternative life to the city and learning some practical skills. It provides them and their friends with holiday employment where they quickly learn the value of money. They asked us never to leave the vineyard to them because how could they possibly afford to run it!
Our challenge now lies in working around the very marginal profitability of simply growing grapes for sale. We don’t want to establish yet another label in Central Otago but are contemplating the idea of vineyard tourism in some form, perhaps developing opportunities for working holidays on a functioning vineyard.
We remain enthusiastic and feel very fortunate to be privileged caretakers of such a fantastic piece of New Zealand countryside. It is exciting to be a small part of the evolution of the wine industry in Central Otago and we hope we can contribute to enhancing those special qualities that make Cental Otago such a unique and awe-inspiring place to be.
John and Jennifer Dunbar
SHINE BASIN – Maori origin concepts
At Shine Basin we accept that it is the responsibility of all humanity to respect and care for our environment and planet. As individuals some of us are privileged to serve as temporary custodians (kaitiaki) of small parts of the world, thereby creating what we experience as a spiritual connection with the land. We hope that visitors might gain some sense of this relationship although it is difficult to describe. Fortunately in New Zealand we have the benefit of Maori culture to express such concepts far more eloquently than can be expressed in pure English. What follows is a pakeha’s description using Maori terminology of this spiritual relationship with the land.
The land represents our earth mother, Papatuanuku, who provides nourishment for us, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. Ranginui, the sky father, contributes life and knowledge. In this sense all humans are unified by being children of the earth and sky.
People disperse and find their own place on the land with their families. Over generations, the families living in a particular area become the tangata whenua (people of the land) for that small part of the world. These people and that land are like a family being provided for by Papatuanuku. The people become kaitiaki (guardians) of the land. The tangata whenua come to be able to speak authoritatively about where they live, the plants that grow there, the wildlife living there, the weather patterns and the natural cycles occurring. Over time the tangata whenua are able to recount the history of their ancestors. Such tangata whenua come to identify themselves, not so much by name, but by their ancestry and where they live – their mountain and their river. Every individual then possesses a turangawaewae (a place to stand) or more-so a place where they feel connected and that offers a sense of belonging and security.
When you visit Shine Basin we invite you to reflect on the concept of a turangawaewae. We are yet to be true tangata whenua but are working on that. Our turangawaewae lies in the shadow of Mt Pisa on the river terraces of what was the Clutha River and is now Lake Dunstan. Our ancestral history is recorded on a carved post (pou whakapapa) standing near the entrance to the vineyard. As time passes our ability to speak with authority about the physical environment around us grows.
We invite you to visit Shine Basin, enjoy the property and respect it as if you were the guardian. We hope especially you will benefit from some of the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment that the land can provide and that you find your own turangawaewae.