Our Story

Desert Heart Desert Heart

Desert Heart Estate began in 1999 as the dream of Denny and Jane realizing our aspirations of living and developing a vineyard and wine business on the celebrated Felton Road, Bannockburn in Central Otago.

Jane from as far back as a high school geography trip had fallen in love with Central Otago – it's smell, the clarity of light, it's magnificent landscape, the big skies; a deep blue that seems to go on forever, and knew that one day she would live here. Denny whose continued passion for a challenge, whilst energised by this land of extraordinary contrasts and grandeur and recognising the area is on the edge for the growing of grapes and wine making, the allure and the love affair endures.

The dream journey has continued with our most recent property, on Felton Road that borders the Kawarau River to the North and to the South the historic Gold Sluicings on Felton Road, and to the West, the sculpted mountain, Mt Difficulty and the Kawarau gorge, to the East the gateway to the "Heart of the Desert" the Bannockburn Bridge.

Wine is about the hedonistic, sensual pleasures of life, the sounds, the flavours, the colours. Our philosophy is to let the fruit speak for itself and in keeping with the romance inherent in our wine, we believe the wine should express an approach to life, ensuring that what is captured in the bottle is not just processed grapes but a taste of "Desert Heart" and the culture and care that created it.

Desert Heart is where beautiful wines are created, with what is best for the land, the grape and the soul; for us, it is the relentless pursuit of creating great enjoyment, wrapped in mystery, with a touch of sensuality.

Desert Heart The Bannockburn Sign. Reconstructed from the original suspension bridge's pillars.

The Name

The name Desert Heart was chosen to pay tribute to the land, because Pinot Noir, more than any other grape reflects where it is grown, and to the historical reference to the name of Bannockburn, "Heart of the Desert", from the gold rush era and due to its atypical climatic conditions. Bannockburn has a climate of extremes with long hot dry summers and harsh cold winters. Rainfall is minimal bordering on desert conditions which makes for superlative growing conditions for our award winning Pinot Noir grapes.

Desert Heart

The Logo

We wanted to create a discernible link between the name Desert Heart and the logo. The logo is centered on the graphic element that at first glance looks like a heart, though with closer inspection shows that in fact it is the leaf of a grapevine.

The hot orange / red colour is used, a colour that we would associate with a desert, a symbol of intense heat and also the beautiful autumn colours of Bannockburn. The ragged leaf edges giving a rugged, rough look that reflects somewhat the rocky elements of the vineyard landscapes.

Desert Heart

The Brand

What we have endeavoured to capture and project with the topography for Desert Heart is a feeling of earthy yet dynamic elegance.

The Brand typography becomes a signature, a personal guarantee.

Desert Heart

Presenting Untamed Heart

Presenting from the Team at Desert Heart Untamed Heart "elegance and attitude". The concept for the Untamed Heart brand is the heart icon complementing the Desert Heart brand to maintain consistency, the key focus for our branding retains the Heart icon. We have utilised the ‘wild’ although classic typography that is incredibly evocative of Central Otago.

The selection of the black, red and white are traditional New Zealand colours.

The Untamed Heart icon symbolises the spirit of the people and the land - timeless, enduring, strength.

The result seems totally natural, untamed yet superb in form. The two pieces of the heart making a whole the heat of the day and the cold of the night a perfect fit, new growth.

Our Vineyards

Our grapes are grown on vineyards, selected, to display the bright fruit characteristics of Central Otago Pinot Noir, to create a wine that is a true reflection of our sites, their surrounds and the people that care for them.

The Desert Heart Renaissance Vineyard with contemporary Cellar Door and Cellar Door Café continues our adventure and the fascination remains compelling, as the love affair with the area and the Pinot Noir grape continues the dream. This land offers the quintessential “Heart of the Desert” experience, immersed into the timelessness of the immense landscape. The sweeping vista of the mountains, river and gold sluicing’s is at the heart of Desert Heart’s new development on Felton Road, an immersion into the agelessness of the vast “Desert” panorama.

Our Terroir refers to our land, a sense of place and the distinctive qualities of the land, our complete natural environment including our soil, topography and climate in which our grapes are grown. This will give our wines their unique flavor and aroma that is attributed to the growing environment of our grapes.

Vineyards are managed by Denny, who continues the journey of embracing the philosophies of organics and permaculture, which involves the practice of using our land in a stable, sustainable way that is beneficial to human needs whilst maintaining the natural order of our physical environment.

Organics are integral to our philosophy and the means of discerning our interpretation into a practical system that sustains the health of our soils, the ecosystem that is part of the vineyard underneath and above the ground and the people that contribute to preserving the land. Organic viticulture also depends on ecological procedures, biodiversity and cycles modified to Bannockburn conditions instead of the use of inputs and unfavourable consequences. Our objectives with organics include healthy vines, healthy grapes, resulting in theory with remarkable wines.

A diversity of clones and an emphasis on quality and balance in the vineyards all contribute to the complexity and structure of Desert Heart wines.

The pruning, shoot positioning, leaf plucking, bunch thinning and harvesting are all carried out by hand to ensure optimum quality grapes. The carefully handpicked grapes are harvested by clone, kept separate and hand sorted to manage any quality differences.

We have a commitment to actively advance sustainability, environmentally responsible, land management, utilising organic practices, which result in more intense wines that transmit the unique characteristics of our site and soils.

Our Terrior

Desert Heart To enhance soil fertility cover crops were planted between the rows to assist with vine balance and general biodiversity.

The sweeping vista of surrounding mountains and valleys create ideal growing conditions of well drained soils, coupled with distinct micro climates on the 45th parallel, resulting in an excellent terroir for growing Pinot Noir.

Desert Heart, Bannockburn is positioned at the Southern end of the Cromwell Basin, on gentle, North facing slopes south of the town of Cromwell. It is the most intensively planted of the microclimates, with an ideal rainfall a little over 350 mm and it is one of the warmest sites. Several of Central Otago's highest-profile, iconic wineries are located here and it is generally considered to be the epicenter of the finest Central Otago Pinots. Desert Heart Vineyard is situated in a 'sweet spot' of latitude 45°, only shared by Burgundy France and the Williamette Valley Oregon USA.

Desert Heart Renaissance Vineyard is planted on consistent, pleasant slopes, producing lower yields giving more concentrated fruit flavours, thereby achieving better ripeness as a result of increased sunlight exposure and cool air draining down the valley.

The north facing extensive terrace with a low surface gradient and an undulating terrain, at lower levels, is located on dissected river alluvium, with a thin fan of loess mantle that extends generally into a graduation of sand, silt and a modicum of clay and limestone. These are free draining soils formed in schist river alluviums, modelling of the terraces indicates an 85,000 years age for the river alluvium.

Our Wine Making Philosophy

Desert Heart

Desert Heart wines are not just made, but are created by an unyielding and impassioned focus on quality and attention to detail in all facets of the winemaking process that allows our vineyards to express their true capabilities.

Our philosophy is to let the fruit speak for itself, and in keeping with the romance inherent in our wine, this involves minimal intervention from the vine to the bottle, and is integral to our practice, with the low yields allowing the wines to communicate our site and terroir.

At harvest the grapes are hand-picked, clone by clone as the soil types allow the grapes to attain optimum physiological ripeness and deliver the purest possible reflection of our vineyard's unique characteristics.

Desert Heart

The norm is to retain 20 – 25% of the Pinot Noir grapes as whole clusters where the remainder are gently destemmed then transferred to fermenters. An elongated pre-fermentation soak, precedes a conventional fermentation with wild or indigenous yeasts and punch downs 4 times daily with the overall time on skins usually between 18 -20 days. The extended maceration on skins facilitates superior colour and tannin, contributing to substantial complexity of flavor.

The wine is then matured for 12 months in French oak barriques selected to preserve the grapes, to give weight and subtlety of flavour without being too intrusive, to craft the Desert Heart Wine into, a harmonious, balanced, rich, complex intense and textural wine. The wine undergoes a light filtration for clarity before bottling.