1800s Aussie winery glorious again
A recent lunch and tasting of Chateau Tanunda gave me a fresh look into one of Australia’s up-and-coming wineries and a pleasant introduction to John Geber, the visionary behind the label.
In 1998, Geber was on a morning bike ride in Australia’s Barossa Valley when he saw the abandoned and deteriorating Chateau Tanunda. In its prime, the majestic Bavarian-style estate was the largest winery in the Southern Hemisphere. It was built in the late 1800s with a goal of selling wine to phylloxeradevastated Europe. (With the winery’s capacity to house a million gallons, they were obviously selling a lot.)
But Geber happened upon not a majestic winery but one with broken windows, the roof open to the sky and pigeons roosting throughout the 37,000-square-foot, two story building. But he was able to see the promise, not just the neglect, and bought Chateau Tanunda the next day. Eleven years and a multimillion-dollar investment later, today’s Chateau Tanunda boasts a range of 25 wines and a state-of-the-art facility.
In addition to the winery, the newly renovated complex has a grand ballroom, immaculate gardens and, would you believe, a world-class cricket oval? During renovations, Geber was faced with carting away 30,000 tons of rubble at a staggering cost of $500,000. He turned the negative into a positive and, instead of paying the hefty disposal fee, decided he would have his own “Field of Dreams.” Now Chateau Tanunda has become one of Australia’s favorite spots on the cricket circuit and hosts the Annual Cricket Masters Match.
Chateau Tanunda’s selections are a stark contrast to what Geber describes as a trend in Australian wines being “hijacked” by either inexpensive critter wines or those considered the rock stars with high alcohol content, overuse of oak and aspiring for high scores from wine critics.
His vision for Tanunda has always been to “make good wine and sell it.” His own descriptions of his products refer to their “gracious character” and “depth.” After tasting Chateau Tanunda’s wines, I must agree they were delicious, and more importantly to most of us, they offer amazing value for the quality.
- 2010 Chateau Tanunda Riesling, Australia (about $16 retail)
- 2009 Chateau Tanunda Cabernet Sauvignon , Australia (about $18 retail)
- 2008 Chateau Tanunda Noble Baron Shiraz , Australia (about $50 retail)
- 2008 Chateau Tanunda Noble Baron Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia (about $50 retail)