Change of seasons

The magic of the Barossa Valley

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Winemaker Trevor Harch and his three-year-old kelpie Rex at Brockenchack vineyard in the Barossa Valley region of South Australia.

HE’S excited about his life.

Enthused, animated, energetic, positive, happy.

A change of pace suits Trevor Harch. But as a vigneron?

Where does the builder of some of Queensland’s best commercial buildings retire to? No, not a yacht drifting around the world.

Neither a glitzy penthouse overlooking the ocean.

Retirement village reminiscing?

Few would guess but he and family are re-inventing themselves in South Australia.

Trevor is as happy as a pig in mud in the Keyneton hills at the head of the Eden Valley above the famous Barossa wine growing region.

Dirt roads, derelict stone ruins and untended vines equate to his own version of pure paradise.

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The Keyneton Hills in the Barossa wine-growing region of South Australia.

Since acquiring the run-down wreck of someone else’s dream, the former director of Evans Harch Constructions has redirected his energies into an outstanding transformation.

Where once a butcher shop dating back to the 1880s and later a brothel flourished, stands the most intimate wine-tasting room.

The fully restored stone building sits among 106 acres, including grape vines dating back 119 years.

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A restored stone cottage at the Brockenchak vineyard at Keyneton.

Alongside this charming stone wine-tasting room in Sawpit Rd sits a reconstructed home.

Not just an ordinary place to sleep, but a haven which will become one of the best B&Bs in the mighty Barossa Valley.

Settled in amongst the vines, you will look out into row upon row of grapes.

Each season providing a different vista. Autumn leaves one with a sense of peace and harmony of colour … reds, maroons, yellows, greens and some grapes left to dry upon the vine for snacking on “sultanas”.

This is what retirement is all about.

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But what a change.

From big buildings to grape vines and stone cottages.

Having been brought up on the land and an avid wine enthusiast since his early 30s, Trevor came to his own conclusion after many years of research that there really was no other wine that tasted as good as Barossa shiraz, so why not make some yourself?

“I decided to look for a good vineyard, grow grapes, make wine, sell wine, make a dollar. “How simple is that?” he said.

“We are on our way.

“The Eden Valley is famous for riesling and shiraz.

“They are wonderful wines. We are part of that style but making elegant wines in keeping with today’s market.

Soft, beautiful-drinking shiraz, all in new French oak barrels.

“That’s the style that’s coming forward. Palates change, wines change, we are looking for an up-front flavour

“We do that by making sure the grapes are ripe when we pick them.’’

The final picking at Brockenchack for 2016 was on April 5, as cabernet is a slow-ripening grape.

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“People like cool-climate wines,’’ Trevor said, looking down the valley from almost in the shadow of Mt McKenzie.

“They are coming in more and more.

“Keyneton is a lovely place to live, among the vineyard, the trees and the birds.

“I said if ever I was to come to the Barossa it would be up in the hills. That’s what we did in 2007.

“Everything about Keyneton is beautiful. We average about 450-460m above sea level, while the Barossa Valley is about 220-250m.

“Vines love cool nights and warm days, especially for ripening.’’

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Stone farm shed in the Keyneton hills of South Australia

Just down the road is the famed Henschke Wines and their most notable Hill of Grace shiraz.

And Stephen Henschke, the latest in a long line of Henscke winemakers, says there is no better place to grow grapes or make wine.

Why is someone who helped bring the highly regarded Sunshine Coast University library into being finding such joy in vintages and stone cottages?

“Some of those buildings are wonderful,’’ Trevor said, talking about the many developments carried out by Evans Harch from 1977 until they were taken over by Badge Constructions (Qld) in 2011.

“They all bring me joy … the library as well as the information and communications technology building,” he said.

“Whistling Rufus we used to call it in strong winds, but that was until they adjusted the angle of the sunshades.

“The Innovation Centre, at the entry to the university, has a roofing system where it curves both ways. It was nearly impossible but we built it.

“All those buildings are there for years to come.

“The university … the place is alive.’’

Another building Evans Harch did really well was Underwater World at Mooloolaba.

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ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: In the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.

So how do you go about making the change from big business and iconic constructions to a more balanced lifestyle?

“If I can’t live forever in these surrounds there is something wrong,’’ Trevor answers.

“Working among the vines is relaxing. It’s physical yet there is brain work.’’

Formerly long-time Buderim residents on the Sunshine Coast, Trevor and Marilyn purchased the historic Tanunda Cellars bottle shop in the late ’90s.

He still runs the wholesale beer, wine and spirits business Liquid in Queensland as well as specialist bottleshops on the Sunshine Coast as well as in the Barossa Valley.

This is in addition to an orchard at Nambour, growing citrus, avocados and persimmons primarily for the Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore markets.

“It’s been a good transition,’’ Trevor said, “I’m not slowing down. It’s just totally different.

“We always had good staff at Evans Harch.

“If you employ someone, make sure they are more clever than you are.’’

Being born on a cattle, cane and small crops farm south of Brisbane taught Trevor good values and how beautiful life can be.

Their two daughters and four grandchildren all have wines named after them on

market except Bronte, but her cabernet is expected to be released in two years.

“The kids love it here, the freedom and doing things,” Trevor said.

“The boys love driving the tractors and utes, picking and planting time.

“I was lucky because we got to know a lot of the local growers, especially the younger ones as they are the future. They help you.’’

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Trevor agreed that gut instinct, built up over years on the land and in business, plays a big part in the success of Brockenchack.

“My ancestors were all farmers or blacksmiths, so it is in the blood a bit. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.

“The whole secret is I love getting up of a morning and doing things.’’

Saying that, Trevor was ready to get a ute load of wine to the courier.

So what advice does he have for anyone contemplating such a transition?

“Do your research and love the land for a start. You want to have to come,’ he said.’

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FAST FACTS

■ Brockenchack is a family endeavour named after Trevor and

his wife Marilyn’s four grandchildren; Bronte, Mackenzie, Charli

and Jack

■ It’s been a working vineyard for well over a century. The

riesling vines date back to 1896 and are thought to be some of

the oldest in Australia.

■ Together with shiraz vines dating back to 1927, they create

hand-crafted boutique wines, made with care and attention.

■ While the flagship is the Jack Harrison shiraz, the most recent

wine style is the 2016 on-point pinot grigio, sourced from their

single vineyard.

■ Trevor’s other love is his three-year-old red kelpie Rex, who

was rescued from an animal shelter.

■ A constant companion, Rex has a wonderful personality and in

many ways reflects how Trevor has resurrected the vineyards.

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Winemaker Trevor Harch with plantings of riesling and pinot grigio vines on the slopes of Mt McKenzie at Keyneton in South Australia.
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