Vineyard looks to the sun

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The name may be rooted in the past but Jurassic Ridge has placed itself at the technological cutting edge with its latest installation.

Planted proudly on the winery roof are 42 solar panels as the winery, which has always traded on a sustainable ethos, looks to the sun to do more than ripen grapes.

Owner Lance Blumhardt says it is the first vineyard on Waiheke to meet all its electricity needs with solar energy. The panels power the winery (including presses, pumps and refrigeration) and cellar door and are more dependable than the island’s conventional electricity supply, Professor Blumhardt says.

He believes the investment will pay for itself within a few years. On an overcast afternoon when Gulf News visited, the panels were generating a healthy 7.5 kilowatts of electricity.

The price of installing solar systems has come down in recent years and their efficiency has improved, he says. “The payback time is much shorter than it was.”

The Church Bay winery has long followed sustainable practises – from vine management and waste composting to recycling bottles and cardboard boxes. It specialises in single vineyard, single variety wines and all wines are vegan (with no animal products used in their production).

The vineyard sits on what’s left of a once massive mountain ridge, with underlying rock dating from the upper Jurassic period, 155 million years ago. Professor Blumhardt, a trained geologist who went on to become a neurologist, believes the underlying rock is a major factor in variations in varietals.

He hopes eventually to take the winery totally “off grid” but is waiting for battery technology to improve.

  • Geoff Cumming

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