Gorilla loves celebrating our clients & all they do for the South Australian wine industry & Katie Spain has done just that. The Balnaves of Coonawarra winery keep their family values alive throughout their work as displayed in The Producers Book. Read more about this small family winery by getting a copy of the book here from BudMedia.
Kirsty and Pete Balnaves have a lot to live up to. They grew up under the watchful and loving eyes of Annette and Doug Balnaves – two of Coonawarra’s hardworking residents.
“Mum had a saying: Do it once, do it well, do it with passion, do it with love, do it for family, do it now,” Kirsty says. “And she lived by that every day. Mum and Dad drove tractors, worked in cellar doors, planted vines and pruned vines. Both sat on tourism boards and numerous other boards, both regional and state, they were involved with the Coonawarra Vignerons and volunteered with many committees in the Penola and Coonawarra communities… they were, and are still, so committed to our region.”
The Balnaves family arrived in the Coonawarra district in 1855. Doug was a farmer and part-time shearer when Hungerford Hill Vineyards employed him in 1971. His job was to develop 100 hectares of vines on the Coonawarra property they’d purchased from the Balnaves family in 1970.
At the time he had no idea he’d eventually go on to run his own successful wine brand, though ‘successful’ is an understatement. As of 2019, Balnaves of Coonawarra has been named a James Halliday five-star winery an impressive 17 years in a row.
Fellow Coonawarra wine buff Bill Redman (aka ‘the Grand Old Man of Coonawarra’) helped Doug make his first wine in an old cement vat in 1974. Soon after, Doug planted the first of Balnaves’ vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – still producing outstanding wines 43 years later) but has been happy to leave winemaking in the hands of qualified winemakers. In 1986, Doug resigned as manager of the Hungerford Hill Coonawarra vineyards to focus on his own vineyard.
Kirsty and Pete returned from Tasmania and New South Wales in the late eighties to join the family company. That year their wines were produced on a contract basis at a neighbouring winery. “Mum and Dad taught us how to work hard, be fair, have a go, and give back,” Kirsty says. “To their great credit, they let us be involved, have a crack, make mistakes and Pete and I both signed the guarantees with the bank to build a winery in 1995.” She grins. “It ensured that we got out of bed to work every morning, were very interested in how the business worked, and were very involved in all aspects of the business from an early age – we both wanted to keep a roof over our heads!”
Family is everything to the Balnaves. When Annette passed away in mid-2018, they were devastated. “To be honest, I think we are facing our biggest challenge with the recent loss of Mum,” Kirsty says. “She was one of the driving forces in our business, right from the start, and we will continue with her determination and commitment to our business every day.”
Staff members are regarded as family, too. “Our family values define our business culture, which is reflected in our brand and who we are. Above all, we are genuine and real and we’ve made all the mistakes in the book.”
Winemaker Pete Bissell joined the crew in 1995, has worked his magic on more than 20 vintages, and oversees the architectural, award-winning 1000-tonne winery.
A fine job he’s done of it, too. In 2018, The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was included in the revered Langton’s Classification with its third consecutive outstanding classification.
The team won’t rest on its laurels. They are committed to improving, “whether it be looking at new cabernet clones, how to improve our cellar door experience, technology in vineyards such as Greenseeker imaging, new packaging, continuous trials with our wines and vineyards, and working with a great bunch of people”.
The release of the William Wilson Shiraz Cabernet in 2018 celebrates the legacy of William Wilson, a Scottish immigrant who inspired John Riddoch to establish the Penola Fruit Colony in terra rossa soils, which went on to become the Coonawarra wine region. It was released 200 years after his birth and is a collaboration between his descendants – the Redman and Balnaves families.
It is a nod to the past, the present, and the future. “There is currently a buzz around the region. With vineyards being redeveloped, new clones and varieties, new opportunities, and new people moving into the district,” Pete Balnaves says. “This is a real commitment to the long-term future of Coonawarra.”
If you are like Balnaves of Coonawarra, a thriving winery in need of grape bins for harvest, and barrel racking systems for storing wine, you need to contact Gorilla. We have all the products to help you get through the year successfully.