Lark Hill was established by Sue & David Carpenter in 1978, on the Lake George escarpment overlooking Bungendore Village.
Lark Hill is the highest & coldest vineyard in the District (at 880m) and from a wide range of grape varieties initially planted, the Carpenters quickly narrowed their focus on cool-climate suited varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
In 2003, their son Chris began full time as winemaker and brought a fresh direction to Lark Hill, converting the estate to Biodynamic (and Organic) farming, planting Australias first Gruner Veltliner vines in 2005, and purchasing a second vineyard in Murrumbateman in 2011.
This vineyard was renamed ‘Dark Horse’ and converted to Organic & Biodynamic farming, and adds Shiraz, Sangiovese & several rare white varieties such as Marsanne & Roussanne to the Lark Hill range.
Chris has been nominated for the 2017 Young Gun of Wine awards and so we’ve borrowed some of their Q&A’s as a way of introducing Chris;
What got you into wine?
I grew up with my parents growing grapes and making wine – I guess it was always in my blood. We have countless embarrassing photos of me as a little kid helping out to pick grapes, clean tanks and bottle the wine. I learnt to drive on a tractor, not in a car. I guess I can’t really name a time when I decided I was going to be a winemaker – it’s just been growing up doing what I love.
With wine, what’s next?
I don’t think I’ve exhausted my passion for sparkling production – I love the leap of faith that comes with a bottle ferment (Traditional Method/Champagne Method); you don’t really know how well you’ve done until years later.
I’ve also been reading a lot recently about some of the historical spirit production that came from wine. I think there’s a lot to be explored here- but I don’t want to say too much just yet.
Why should people vote for you in the Young Gun of Wine awards?
I think I represent a part of our wine industry that isn’t getting wide recognition just yet. I’m from a very small winery – we crush around 50 tonnes of fruit; which sounds like a lot until you consider that Australia crushes around 1.7Million tonnes each year in total. Add to that the fact that Lark Hill is a certified Organic & Biodynamic estate and you see I’m in a tiny, tiny niche; but one that is really interesting in terms of the wines that are produced.
As an example of this; I pioneered Gruner Veltliner in Australia; I planted the first 20 vines in 2005 and bottled the first Australian Gruner Veltliner in 2009. I’d like to think Australian wineries could focus on things like this more, and spend less time churning out wines to satisfy a profit margin.
You are, in one word…
Arcadian. Ancient Greek mythology tells of “arcadia’ – a sort of agricultural Utopia. Some days I’d like to just turn off my phone and live that vision.