Lenswood Vineyard & Winery

Lenswood vineyard, Tilbrook Estate Wines, Adelaide Hills

– where grapes are hand grown with passion!


James first got called eccentric by other vignerons…..or just plain crazy……. 

James set up our vineyard using ideas and practices common in French wine regions but far from common here. All the vineyard is close planted at double the norm of other Adelaide Hills vineyards. Including one block that is ultra close planted, of which there are only a few in the whole of Australia! You can’t get a tractor down the rows, it has to be all done by hand! He planted most of the vineyard on low vigour rootstocks and there isn’t anyone in the Hills doing that. The vine rows are planted across the slope with some blocks being terraced, and he uses under vine sprinklers instead of drippers. He’s got to be crazy! Or is he?

James was inspired by the classic French wine regions and this is reflected in the principles used in our Lenswood Estate. Lenswood is famed for apples and pears, and since the early ’90’s as one of the coolest wine grape growing areas in the Adelaide Hills and Australia …


Close planted vines feature with low vigour rootstocks and 6 to 7 different clones in the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. James says this allows wine complexity to be “built” in the vineyard. With the Pinot Noir he harvests each rootstock seperately believing the co fermentation of the various clones works the best. But in the Chardonnay he harvests each clone and rootstock combination seperately and then nutures them to reach their full potential in the winery. The rootstocks are less vigorous than “own roots” and so we have found yields have been kept down naturally with them. James wants his wine to be a reflection of place as much as possible.

Under vine sprinklers are used to spread the roots evenly as well as terracing across steep slopes, which lets water soak into the ground instead of running off when it rains. This also means that we have uniform ripeness along the whole length of a row instead of different levels of ripeness which you get when the rows go up and down the slope.

The vineyard was planted in October 1999, with 3.5 acres of Chardonnay and the same of Pinot Noir. Then an acre each of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay for sparkling base and Pinot Gris for dry white and dessert wine were planted in 2003, 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Annabelle and James Tilbrook, Tilbrook Estate Wines, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Annabelle and James Tilbrook in the Close Planted Vineyard


After 15 years experience we can now tell which clones and which parts of the vineyard are suited to different wine styles and quality levels. The bottom of the Hill Chardonnay block is often the coolest part of the whole vineyard and is suited to our Reserve Chardonnay, whereas the top ripens earlier and is more suited to our Estate Chardonnay. In the Pinot Noir, some clones produce bigger berries and bigger bunches – we use these for sparkling base. Whereas some produce small berries and small bunches which is best for our Pinot Noir.

We aim to grow the best possible grapes with the least impact on the environment so the crop is netted when the grapes start to ripen; we think that our vineyard should coexist with native birdlife and animals.

Often a mob of kangaroos can be seen in the back paddock at dusk or one can be startled by the “thump” of a ‘roo passing in a nearby vine row. The front Chardonnay block known as “The Hill” (aka that bloody hill) has a couple of ‘roos who visit most evenings as well as various parrots and lorrikeets who swoop in amongst the vines on their way to their roosting sites. Occasionally sulphur crested cockatoos can be seen overhead and now and then a wedge tailed eagle. It’s a joy to see “nature” carrying on oblivious to Man’s presence.


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