It all began in 2002 when I stumbled across an etching of a large gnarly looking ram standing in a field during my travels. He was defiant, a little sauvage, had an old world charm and was very New Zealand. I bought him, had him framed and hung him up in my lounge.

10 years later I happened across Gareth Renowden, the owner of the Limestone Hills vineyard in the Waipara Gorge. Along with a truffiere he had 1000 Pinot Noir vines planted on beautiful active limestone soil. He wanted help to make some wine, after a walk and a talk we agreed to make the wine together. I thought ‘at least I’ll have some decent Pinot to drink..’

Gareth’s vineyard ticks all the boxes, it is close planted, naturally farmed and small. I made the first vintage of Pinot Noir in 2012, all naturally, no additions and matured in neutral oak hogsheads. As the wine progressed through maturation it got better and better, and revealed its true vineyard character to me. It had an exciting mix of savoury fruit aromatics and salivating salty acidity. I had to bottle it.

I was sitting on my couch contemplating how I’d present the wine in bottle and I looked up. There staring me in the face was the framed etching of the Ram. It all made sense. So ‘The Hermit Ram’ came into being. He summed up the ethos of working with tiny sites and ancient techniques applied to New Zealand flavours, that I really wanted to pursue.

Today, the range of wines has expanded. In general the fruit comes from tiny vineyards throughout the Canterbury region of New Zealand. Every wine has it’s own story to tell. The vines are naturally farmed and the wines made with the minimal amount of additions. Old techniques are employed. They are wines of depth, complexity, individuality and most importantly drinkability.

Theo Coles

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