CHOWILLA WINES: From hobbyist to host

When John (Jock) Robertson started making wine for a hobby in 2010, little did he know it would become his retirement income.

Jock now sells his beautiful reds and has even gained bronze medals for two of them.

He has some of his wine stored in barrels at Coriole at McLaren Vale and has now registered the brand ‘Chowilla Wines’ with his most successful brew being his Cabernet Sauvignon blend petit verdot.

Jock and wife Elizabeth are about to begin conducting wine tasting at his beautiful home in Meningie and will hold an opening this Sunday, November 26.

Jock said plans to open a bed and breakfast at his home is near completion. This, along with the wine tastings, should create a new and exciting experience for both he and visitors to Meningie.

Local Father Ian Jansse will conduct a blessing of the wine at around 2pm on Sunday after a simple barbeque lunch and tastings.

Jock said that he and his family have a strong connection to wine-making. Two of his great-great grandfathers owned and ran pubs. The Bushman’s Inn at Gawler was built and run by R Robertson in the early 1840’s, before he went farming, and Thomas William Harvey ran the Blanchetown Pub for some time in the middle of the century. His grandfather Robertson’s brother Uncle Jack, founded the Glenloth winery in the Happy Valley area, his grandfather Yeatman’s sister married Cliff Birks of Wendouree and his mother’s brother, Morgan Yeatman, was a well-respected wine maker in the industry.

Jock sources his grapes from T. Pfeiffer’s Chowilla vineyard and his daughter-in-law’s family, who own the Maraki vineyard east of Naracoorte. 

Pfeiffer’s vineyard was formerly the irrigated Lucerne paddock when the family bred and raced horses. During the first-world-war, his grandfather and Robertson’s two sister’s planted the area to oranges. When their brother, (Uncle) Douglas returned, the family handed the orangery to him. He ran a very successful enterprise developing markets in Sydney and Melbourne. Jock’s Uncle Doug’s family sold the orangery after the 1956 flood. It remained in orange production until the present Pfeiffer family converted it to a vineyard over ten years ago.