A Barossa passion gave birth to
"This vineyard really is something special,” Trevor enthuses. “It’s part of what some people refer to as the ‘golden triangle’ and earned us the title of Eden Valley Winery of the Year at the 2021 Melbourne International Wine Competition."
NEARLY 30 years ago Sunshine Coast resident Trevor Harch, then the owner of Queensland’s second largest family owned and operated commercial construction company, had his first taste of Barossa shiraz. It was love at first sip.
Now in retirement, sort of, he’s the owner of Brockenchack Wines growing 120 or so tonnes of grapes annually on some of the best vineyard land in Eden Valley, and among the 8000 cases of wine he produces each year is a fair proportion of his beloved shiraz.
But it was a journey that took place over a number of years and extricating himself and his family from Queensland didn’t happen overnight.
After several years of visiting, falling in love with its people and history and, of course, the wine, Trevor and his wife Marilyn backed up their love by purchasing the historic Tanunda Cellars bottle shop in the late 90s, which they still own.
Trevor expanded this wine connection by also getting involved in both wholesale and retail liquor sales in Queensland, even opening one of Brisbane’s top wine bars – not surprisingly, and cleverly, named Bar Barossa. Along the way he became an unofficial spokesman for the Barossa and spent the following decade “bringing the Barossa to Queensland”, showcasing and supporting boutique Barossa wineries wherever possible through his retail and wholesale avenues.
The next logical step was to transition into growing grapes and have a go at producing his own wine. In 2007, Trevor jumped on an opportunity to purchase an established vineyard in Eden Valley’s Keyneton, with the vision of one day retiring there with Marilyn, which he eventually did in 2013.
Determined to make it a truly family endeavour he named it after his four grandchildren – BROnte, MaCKENzie, CHArli and JaCK, three of whom Trevor says are now working in the business.
The property, a working vineyard for well over a century, was then producing riesling and shiraz grapes, including what is thought to be some of the oldest riesling vines in Australia, planted in 1896, alongside shiraz vines planted in the 1930s and 50s. Following his first 2008 vintage of a tiny 37 dozen Jack Harrison Shiraz (just to see what he had), Trevor’s excitement grew when the exceptional quality of the wine spoke for itself.
“This vineyard really is something special,” Trevor enthuses. “It’s part of what some people refer to as the ‘golden triangle’ and Shawn Kalleske, who was our original winemaker, reckons it’s one of the top 10 vineyards in the Barossa region.”
Initially the grapes from the vineyard were contracted to Yalumba – with the grapes that now go into their Jack Harrison Shiraz and William Frederick Shiraz originally going into Yalumba’s Octavius.
The property has been expanded over the years to now total 125ha, of which 17.5ha under vine, with shiraz (average vine age 50 years) on 10ha, and smaller plantings of cabernet sauvignon, grenache, pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris. There’s also room for a small but growing cattle venture, with 80 or so Black Angus cattle now in residence.
The family immediately set to work restoring the history of the property, starting with the rebuilding of an old stone coach house from a pile of rubble, which was eventually completed in 2012. In 2017 they completely restored one of the property’s original 1880s vineyard homesteads, turning it into a luxury vineyard B&B, and in 2021, opening the Retreat and Studio B&Bs, bringing their accommodation offering to three luxury B&Bs.
Next to the homestead was another old 1880s stone building, (once the local butcher shop that much later was converted into a two-room brothel, the red lights of which still exist). In 2018 this was also restored into a cellar door, including a private tasting room and the underground meat cellar becoming an underground trophy room.
There’s been similar development on the wine front, with overseas exporting starting in 2014 with a shipment to Japan, followed over the next two years with further exports to Germany, China, the US and New Zealand. Winemaker Joanne Irvine started making Brockenchack’s riesling, rosé, sparkling shiraz and Zip Line Shiraz, while Kalleske continued to make the William Frederick Shiraz, Jack Harrison Shiraz and the company’s first release chardonnay.
One singular triumph came with the release of the first Megan Jane Grenache in 2017 – a “sensational” wine, Trevor says – that won a gold medal at the Melbourne International Wine Show but also made Brockenchack the Eden Valley Grenache Winery of the Year.
Irvine has since taken over most of the winemaking at her own winery, with Kalleske still making Brockenchack’s pinot noir. However, further change is on the way, Trevor says, with his own 200 tonne winery now under construction which he hopes will be ready for the 2023 vintage.
That underground trophy room is now steadily filling with trophies as Brockenchack builds a name for itself as one of the more successful boutique wineries in the region. Trevor is the first to admit that in some ways he seems to have come a long way in a short time, though the truth is its success has been many years in the making, turning a dream into a reality through hard work, determination and family spirit.