Andrew Gunn is an engineer by training and in 1997 he was looking for a change; something that would fulfil him. He decided that, as an outdoorsman, he should look at farming and he spent a long time searching for the right place to put down roots in more senses than one. He found it at a former apple farm near Elgin, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, fell for the place immediately and bought it. The unprofitable apple business gave way to vines and a unique vineyard was created, renamed Iona in honour of his ancestral home off the coast of Scotland.
Surrounded by forests and the Kogelberg Biosphere and situated at 420 metres above sea level, the mesoclimate of the site makes it one of the coolest, if not the coolest, vineyard plots in South Africa, with a summer climate lying somewhere between Sancerre and Bordeaux but with the priceless asset of considerably less rain than either during the summer, and warmer spring and autumn temperatures. These factors were further enhanced by the presence of post-glacial alluvial soils offering excellent drainage and promising the vines a struggle for nutrients.
With the air-conditioning unit of the Atlantic just 4km away the vines enjoy cooling breezes which lengthen their hang time on the vine, developing complexity and balance in the fruit while retaining freshness. Thanks to where the grapes grow they are picked about two months later than anywhere else in the country.
Sauvignon blanc was the first variety planted alongside some cabernet sauvignon and merlot, all three classic Bordeaux varieties, in 1998. Since then chardonnay, semillon, shiraz, petit verdot, mourvèdre, viognier and pinot noir have joined the roll call of grapes available to winemaker Werner Muller, either for the Iona varietal labels or the estate blends.
With a location that provides so many of the prerequisites for fine wine production it will come as no surprise to learn that the estate is farmed as sustainably as possible, with biodynamic practices employed to ensure the healthiest, most vital soils possible. This commitment goes hand in hand with the terroir to deliver great freshness, purity and complexity in the wines.