The story of Keith and Alison Hentschke’s Hentley Farm should be compulsory reading for anyone seeking to establish a truly great vineyard, winery, and wine business from the ground up.
Keith started by enrolling in Agricultural Science and Wine Marketing at Roseworthy College, and on graduation was awarded the Gramp Hardy Smith Memorial Prize for Most Outstanding Student. His first job was with Elders, but he then moved into the wine industry in senior production and operational roles with Orlando Wyndham. The next step was as chief executive of Fabal, one of Australia’s largest vineyard management companies, but he and Alison already had a long-range plan to establish their own vineyard and winery.
He sought advice from winemakers and soil scientists, combining this with his own formidable bank of knowledge. All pointed to the red-brown soils of the western side of the Barossa, and a 1950s soil map helped pinpoint the Seppeltsfield Greenock district. After years of watching and waiting, Keith knocked on the door of an old house on a property on the banks of Greenock Creek. It was answered by an elderly widow who did not know what to do with the place. Some things were meant to be, and later in 1997 the Hentschkes became the owners of the 40ha mixed farm.
The soil is red clay/loam overlaying shattered limestone, with lightly rocked slopes and little topsoil. The planting of the vineyard began in 1999, and was completed in 2005. In 2004 a neighbouring vineyard, planted to 5.7ha of shiraz and 0.8ha of cabernet sauvignon by Otto Kasper, was acquired.
Greg Mader joined as viticulturist after 12 years with Penfolds, heading a team responsible for 700ha of high-grade vineyards. Hentley Farm offered him the opportunity to play a key role in the whole process, from vine to wine.
Winemaker Andrew Quin began winemaking in California, then went on to France with Jacques Lurton, managing large cooperative wineries. He came back to the Barossa to work with Yalumba, but when he saw the Hentley vineyard and tasted its ’06 Premium Shiraz he was hooked.
Then there is the restaurant run by executive chef Lachlan Colwill, who had a glittering career full of awards before he took Hentley Farm to the Adelaide Advertiser’s 2013 titles of Best Restaurant of the Year and Best Regional Restaurant.
The final piece is a sophisticated four-tier loyalty program.
Read Sarah Lewis' interview with Keith Hentschke.
View the Hentley Farm winery listing.