When we founded Prophet’s Rock in 1999, our goal was to find sites in Central Otago like no others.
Two vineyards were established in the Bendigo sub-region: The Prophet’s Rock Home Vineyard and, subsequently, the Rocky Point. Both are steep and elevated, and each is distinctive – The Home Vineyard with its rare mix of soils, including schist, clay and chalk, and Rocky Point with its stony ground and almost treacherous slopes.
In the winery, though, we find our muses in the old houses of Europe.
Winemaker Paul Pujol refined his trade working in France’s classical wine regions, the Languedoc, Sancerre and, crucially, Burgundy and Alsace.
His traditional aesthetic — respectful, patient, vineyard-focused – resonates in our wines, and frees them to express the unique tenor of our sites.
Each glass, then, embodies both the old world and the new, past and present unified by place.
At Prophet’s Rock, we are committed to sustainable wine production. Our vines sit comfortably in the natural environment that surrounds them, and we treat these surroundings with care. Prophet’s Rock is a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
Bendigo feels remote, and it is: turn off the Bendigo Loop Road leading up from the Cromwell Basin, and your GPS will tell you there’s nothing there but a field.
The Home Vineyard sits on a north-facing terrace high above the Bendigo Station Homestead. With the altitude comes exceptional views, panoramic vistas of the sprawling landscapes beyond the vines, the river terraces of the Cromwell Basin and the stoic mountains of the Pisa Range, shaped by the glaciers that once stood here.
The region’s history looms close, too. A lone miner’s hut sits on the site, a reminder of the gold rush that gripped the region 150 years ago. Steep slopes, rising from 320 metres to almost 383 metres, capture maximum sun, while the elevation delivers cool nights, encouraging deepened flavour development and freshness in the wines. The vineyard hosts a rare mix of soils. Schist and quartz mingle with clay and, notably, a lens of chalk running through the site roughly one metre deep in the soil profile. The alkaline chalk influences nutrient uptake in the vines, while the clay retains water, ideal for keeping the sometimes-ornery Pinot grape on side in this cool dry climate.
The Home Vineyard is planted in Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Seven different Pinot Noir clones on the site combine to make our Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir, while three clones of Pinot Gris contribute to the Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris.
Perched at the rugged southern end of Bendigo, the Rocky Point Vineyard has some of the steepest planted blocks in Central Otago. The site rises from 226 metres to 351 metres, and walking through the vines one feels the land drop away to the blue waters of Lake Dunstan below.
The steep slopes of Rocky Point intercept the sun, while the rough ground – stony free-draining soil littered with shiny broken schist – stores the heat, releasing it overnight when the air temperature drops. Fruit grows and ripens earlier here, crucial in a marginal climate like Central Otago’s.
Rocky Point’s shallow soils offer the vines they host a coarse welcome. Vegetation works hard to grow here, but there is reward in the concentrated, deeply rich fruit this struggle produces. Full ripening equals full expression, resulting in wines that know, and show, where they came from.Rocky Point is planted in Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Gris. Seven different clones of Pinot Noir combine to make our Rocky Point Pinot Noir, while four clones of Pinot Gris contribute to the Prophet’s Rock and Rocky Point Pinot Gris.
This beautiful vineyard sits on a terrace directly overlooking the Clutha River, at the delta where it runs into Lake Dunstan. Protected by towering mountains on both sides of the valley, this warm site has been shaped by the passage of both river and glaciers.
Kopuwai Delta (KO-pu-why) is situated at a narrow point in the valley between the Pisa and Bendigo ranges, and lies at 225m elevation. The low vigour, free-draining schist-based soils feature loess, alluvium, quartz and rounded river stones.
Bounded on one side by New Zealand’s largest volume river, the vineyard is named after its taniwha (water spirit/essence/strength) – Kopuwai – and its place looking down on the Delta. The Maori legend for Kopuwai is one of power, and sometimes menace that one would do well to respect given the impressive force of this river.
Kopuwai Delta is planted in Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Two different clones of Pinot Gris, four clones of Pinot Noir, and two clones of Chardonnay make up the plantings on the vineyard.
Our exceptional vineyards are the foundation of our wines, and we’re fanatical about looking after them. Our journey starts in the vines, where we grow low yielding fruit with great concentration and flavour, fruit we then treat with deference.
Harvesting is by hand, and our approach in the winery is considered.
Our Pinot Gris and Riesling are slowly and gently whole-bunch pressed, followed by long slow ferments in barrel and aging on yeast lees prior to bottling before the next harvest.
Our Pinot Noir requires minimal extraction due to the extraordinary concentration of the fruit, and is fermented using only indigenous yeast from the vineyard. In barrel, the wines go through spontaneous malolactic fermentation and extended élevage. In the case of Prophet’s Rock, our Pinot Noir is bottled unfiltered and cellared before release.
Originally from New Zealand, winemaker Paul Pujol has always been drawn to the Pinot Noirs and aromatic whites of France. He joined Prophet’s Rock after a six-year around the world odyssey chasing these varietals, travels palpable in the wines he makes today.
Paul got his start working a vintage at Marlborough’s Seresin Estate. He then headed for France, where he took in three more consecutive vintages: in the Languedoc, for Henri Bourgeois in Chavignol (Sancerre) and for the prestigious Maison Kuentz-Bas in Alsace. (Yes, that’s four vintages in one year).
Maison Kuentz-Bas offered him the head winemaking position, and he became the first non-family winemaker at Kuentz-Bas since the house was founded in 1795, and possibly the first-ever permanent foreign winemaker in Alsace. Paul stayed at Kuentz-Bas for three years, producing wine from their six Grand Cru vineyards and other holdings.
Subsequently, Paul spent several years in Oregon at boutique organic producer Lemelson Vineyards. He returned to Oregon in 2006 to assist Cheryl Francis and Sam Tannahill at pioneering Oregon producer Rex Hill, producing a guest cuvée of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Perhaps the highlight of his round-the-world winemaking experiences was being invited to work the 2009 vintage in Chambolle-Musigny, Burgundy.
It has been said that the essence of a place can be found in a glass of wine. This is true of the Prophet’s Rock range. But in our wines there is an essence of these travels too, a sensorial souvenir of Paul’s journey into wine.