From the very first days Kay Brothers has always considered the environment and use its natural resources efficiently. The site has never been connected to mains water and so storage of rain water and use of bore water was a key consideration for the business. For the winery two 10,000 gallon storage tanks were built in 1911 and, via a system of pipes and header tanks, used to circulate cool water though the fermenters. This system operated until 1970 and the tanks still reside next to the Cellar Door.
The vineyards were dry grown until the advent of the Willunga Basin recycled water system in the late 1990’s. Kays were enthusiastic adopters of this technology and now use a sophisticated computer controlled drip irrigation system throughout the vineyard. The Willunga Basin system uses recycled water from SA Waters Christies Beach wastewater treatment plant; water that previously was simply pumped out to the ocean.
Mains electricity was only introduced to the winery in 1952. Before that time the winery was run using a combination of man, horse and, in later years, diesel engine power. Interestingly the family home had experimented with wind generation and Colin Kay remembers the very distinct sound of the wind turbine in action. Kays has recently revisited the idea of renewable energy and installed a 120 panel, 30kW solar panel system on the warehouse roof. As the peak energy use of the winery corresponds nicely to when the sun is shining, February and March, this is expected to make a significant difference to the amount of power used from the external network and hence the carbon footprint of the business.
Creek Revegetation Project
800m of creek line runs through the eastern section of Amery vineyard and is part of the creek originating in the Hardys Scrub section of Onkaparinga National Park. Over time this section has become heavily infested with olive trees which Kay Brothers began poisoning and removing in 2008. Thus far about half of the 2.5Ha infestation is now controlled.
Kays started replanting the creek with native species, grasses, sedges, shrubs and trees in 2011 to complement scattered remnant species, (mainly Grey box, River red gum, Pink gum, Golden wattle and Xmas bush) and restore native woodland and riparian habitats.
The work has been supported by State Government grant funding in later years as the property is included in the Onkaparinga Biodiversity Priority Region. Work has continued in 2014/15 to poison the next section of mature olives as well as control any regrowth in the earlier section and Kay Brothers aims to continue with dead olive removal, weed control and replanting until the creek is returned to its natural state. It is expected that this could take another 5 years to be completed and is being done in conjunction with other plantings around the vineyard.
Overtime the long term outcome is expected to be an increase in the biodiversity of property, increased native habitat for birds, reptiles, bats and native invertebrates, control of erosion in the creek line, diversification of property landscape and increase in native insectarium plants to assist with control of vineyard pests.
Here at Kay Brothers we are always seeking to improve the health and productivity not only of our vineyards but also our surrounding environments. We have been trialling different methods of vineyard management and have adopted biodynamic farm principles in a trial block of vines on the estate. The goal is to find new and improved ways of managing our vineyards that don't simply rely on a chemical or invasive solution.
Biodynamic agriculture uses various herbal and mineral additives for compost additives and field sprays; these are sometimes prepared by controversial methods, such as filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground (40–60 cm below the surface) in the autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered for use the following spring.
Some grape growers who have adopted biodynamic methods claim to have achieved improvements in the health of their vineyards, specifically in the areas of biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and pest, weed, and disease management.