Dave Sutton, Nick Hunter & Mark Naismith of Te Kano – Northburn Vineyard


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2024 Otago Finalists: Dave Sutton, Nick Hunter & Mark Naismith of Te Kano – Northburn Vineyard – Viticulture

The owners and managers of this Central Otago vineyard are guided by a strong vision that places equal importance on life, land and legacy. 
Owned by Keith and Rhonda Lloyd, Northburn is one of four Te Kano vineyards which together deliver everything from grape to glass. The 120ha (41ha effective) Northburn vineyard is located in the pristine landscape of Cromwell and is managed by Mark Naismith and winemaker Dave Sutton. 
Since 2015, it has been transformed from dryland sheep country to an irrigated vineyard surrounded by large areas of native plants. The team is focused on developing a premium product and they’re achieving this by using innovative techniques tailored to the land. 
The judges were impressed with their awareness of the environment, partially based on soil maps that were generated by ground-penetrating radar before planting. Since then, they’ve gradually built organic matter by using such things as cover crops, mulching and crimping, while also introducing organic approaches. 
Innovative techniques are common, including for disease monitoring, water use, and to manage health and safety. Staff development and training is a priority, with Dave and Mark getting trainees to teach back what they’ve learned – to demonstrate and embed their learning. 
The judges commended the significant areas of native planting, largely using eco-sourced seeds that are grown at an on-site native plant nursery. As well as attracting native wildlife, the rejuvenated areas are protecting streams. 
Risk management is a key part of future planning and development. For example, Mark and Dave are responding to climate change by trialling new grape varieties and introducing new orchard management practices. 
Northburn is seen as a multi-generational project, with this vision guiding decision-making and setting the vineyard up to ensure its best vintages are still to come.

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