As a teenager in South Auckland, Karl Nola began to grow grapes on the 40-acre family vineyard and for the next 15 years tended the vines and sold grapes to wineries.
Karl’s Dalmatian heritage, with generations of hardworking vintners and horticulturalists, instilled in him a passion for winemaking and a foresight to create a vineyard on 23 hectares of rolling grassland in Big Omaha.
Throughout his career as a builder, Karl was never far from the vines. At each of his homes, grapevines were planted and harvested for his own winemaking. Free time was often spent touring Matakana, comparing wine styles and vintages, and speaking with vineyard owners to determine which grape could grow well in the clay soil and warm environment. Karl and his wife Sheelagh settled on Syrah, Chardonnay and three unique varieties Chenin Blanc, Marsanne and Tempranillo which are new to Matakana.
Karl and Sheelagh planted 6000 vines in 2013, a fantastic vintage for older vines that could prosper in the summer drought, but for Karl’s young vines, it was a stressful start. Fortunately, the surrounding paddocks provided enough grass to mulch and protect the vines.
NOLA’s vineyard management is underpinned by sustainable practices and the needs of a working farm. In late autumn, after harvest, cattle play a role to remove the grass under the vines. Karl can confidently move between organic practices, biodynamic and permaculture guidelines to ensure the system that works best at the time is used. The coming months will see 100 fruit trees planted on the farm with Karl and Sheelagh planning open days to welcome visitors to Big Omaha.
Karl is quick to point out that growing grapes is not an obsession; however, Sheelagh disagrees, citing Karl’s desk laden with books on postmodern winemaking, catalogues of grape varieties and vine disease.
While the vines were young, Karl along with local winemakers at Heron’s Flight, Gillman, Matavino, Ransom and Yakutin consulted with international expert on viticulture Danny Schuster. These technical sessions, learning in the vines, promoted the sharing of ideas and experiences amongst these Matakana winemakers and helped to increase the quality of grapes in their vineyards.
2019 saw the first commercial harvest from NOLA vineyard. Matakana recorded a spectacular harvest not dampened by any late rain which produced some terrific red wines with deep colours, rich tannins and ripe fruit flavours. 2019 NOLA wines are stocked at the Vintry in Matakana and Matakana Liquor Centre, and Karl’s website will soon be ready to process direct online sales.
Nola vineyard is family owned, sustainably farmed, tended by hand and surrounded by wild agrarian fields. Growing quality grapes and making memorable wine is deeply influenced by Dalmatian tradition, terroir and their philosophy of living life well.