At Inkwell, we practice fine winemaking at a human scale. To keep the spotlight focused on Inkwell's distinguished vineyard, we keep it simple: one forklift, one de-stemmer, one press, one pump, small fermenters and twenty amps of single phase electricity.
The goal is to personally connect the vines on our California Road vineyard with people who value age-worthy wines that retain freshness and intensity.
To best express wines from our special site, we removed as many inorganic products as we sensibly can from all parts of Inkwell’s wine growing and wine making.
We found that by removing the man-made from wine, space is created for man - friendship, joy and a connection with nature that you can taste.
Inkwell’s vineyards have been using sustainable farming principles and methods since we acquired the property in 2003. Our journey towards sustainability is Inkwell' source code - the guide to what we do.
When we replaced the vineyard’s mid-row of annual weeds with a permanent grass sward to reduce weeds in 2004, we found that the soil stopped cracking open in summer and the competition with the new grass caused the vines to produce smaller grapes with more intense flavors. And, the vines started to balance themselves while mid-row weeds disappeared. This was the "aha" moment that started the journey.
We began the process of restoring six acres of native vegetation in 2005 and eliminated inorganic fungicides and pesticides in 2006. Spiders and native birds re-appeared. Native birds now chase exotic birds (who used to eat the grapes) away. We now have at least twenty bird species living here. Kangaroos, rabbits, foxes, lizards and snakes also reappeared and keep each other in balance.
Because half of a grape vine is below ground, we spend as much of our attention on soil, roots, nutrition and soil moisture management as we do with the visible portion of the vine.
We removed herbicides from regular use in 2007 and started using additions of organic matter to build soil carbon and fertility. In 2010, we began using a biological approach where silica, humates, fulvates, kelps, mineral dust and other natural materials are used to activate and improve root life and build carbon in the soil.
All of our vines are pruned by hand and under-vine weeds are mechanically “knifed,” mowed, disced or removed by hand to encourage deep root growth. While we still machine pick some of our thirty acres of low yielding Shiraz, Grenache, Mouvedre, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier for winery customers, we employ people to hand pick whole bunches into small bins for delivery to our on-site wine shed for Inkwell.
The vineyards at Inkwell straddle distinct one to two million year old exposed geological formations: Pirramimma Sandstone and Ngaltinga. These formations create ideally difficult growing conditions for growing winegrapes with intense flavors.
Michaelangelo said he didn't carve statues from stone; he only released figures from the stone they were enslaved in. We think wine is no different.
Fruit ripeness is the magic moment when increasing sugars (measured in Beaume, or “Be”) and decreasing acids (measured as Total Acidity or “TA”) in fruit reach an optimal balance of flavors. Inkwell's goal is to capture that magical intersection.
The trick in winegrowing is to deliver ripeness and flavors at modest levels of sugar with enough natural acid that none is required to be added in our wine-making. Inkwell's progressive vineyard practices yield fruit that reaches ripeness at lower sugar levels than in conventional vineyards.
Modern winemaking methods are designed around what machines are capable of and not necessarily what sort of wine we want to make. To make wine of freshness and intensity, we chose a less modern path. We handpick our grapes earlier than most, kept fruit whole by eliminating must pumping, removed chilling by using small fermenters, and, most importantly, chose to not add cultured yeast, DAP and tartaric acid to our ferments.
Handpicking allows us to bring fruit in at a speed where we can give it maximum attention. The wild ferments are slower and preserve freshness with whole fruit and bunches preserved through fermentation.
Dudley Brown and Irina Santiago-Brown are mid-life converts to winegrowing and winemaking. After leaving overseas careers in high tech and government to move to Australia and “be the change,” we are fanatical about our vines and wines.
Irina earned a Masters and PhD in Sustainability in Viticulture at the University of Adelaide. Dudley is also involved in numerous industry bodies, blogs at TheWineRules and helps out at DJ's Grower Services.
Irina provides consulting services regarding biodynamic, organic, sustainable and ISO14001 systems design and certification. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.