By Melissa Keogh
Vineyards and rustic cellar doors are not usually associated with the towns that line the traditional barley belt of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.
The coastal playground is more likely associated with camping and fishing, with its economy running on an engine fuelled by agriculture.
But 12km from Maitland not far off the Spencer Highway is a boutique winery offering visitors an unexpected experience.
Barley Stacks Wines husband and wife duo Lyall and Cynthia Schulz opened the cellar door 10 years ago and are now the largest wine producers on the peninsula.
While winemaking is usually left to the state’s wine-centric regions such as the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale the Yorke Peninsula still knows how to make a good drop.
Aside from Barley Stacks Wines, the region is home to a small handful of vineyards and another cellar door Emoyeni Wines at Ardrossan.
“Because of the fact we are surrounded by wheat, barley, canola and lentils it’s probably the pollens that are impacting our grapes in a positive way, giving us flavours that a lot of people don’t expect,” says Lyall Schulz.
“We’ve done the Cellar Door Fest at the Adelaide Convention Centre for the past four years and people say to us that our wine is so different to anywhere else in SA.
“We have people drive up the road and come to our cellar door thinking it’s a practical joke because there is a winery on the Yorke Peninsula, but they come in and they’re amazed.”
Lyall and wife Cynthia bought the property 10 years ago from its previous owners, the Gregory family, who planted the original vineyard in 1996 and later launched Gregory Wines.
While Cynthia is originally from the Barossa, Lyall is a “local born and bred farmer”, harnessing his skills on the land producing wheat, barley, canola and lentils.
So when the pair decided to give viticulture a crack, they sought the help of local consultants and have since welcomed two esteemed winemakers, Tim Smith, who is widely regarded in the Barossa, and Colin Sheppard, of Flaxman Wines in Eden Valley.
Colin is also well versed in the culinary arts having made it to the top 10 in the TV series MasterChef in 2014.
Over the past decade the Schulz’s have built the Barley Stacks brand through word-of-mouth and making appearances at a number of industry events.
Over the years they’ve also scooped a number of awards including medals at the Yorke Peninsula Tourism Awards, the Australian Small Winemakers Show and a gold medal at the Winestate Magazine World Shiraz Challenge in 2015.
Their wines are influenced by the peninsula’s climate, sea breezes and limestone sub-soils, with past reviews describing tasting notes of ‘plum’, ‘lingering liquorice’, ‘apricot’ and ‘passionfruit’.
Barley Stacks produces 25 different lines from four grape varieties, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and viognier.
They aim for an average production of 40 tonnes of grapes and between 2500–3000 cases of wine each year.
All growing, picking, processing and bottling occurs on site, except for the whites and sparklings which are bottled elsewhere.
Most Barley Stacks Wines are sold direct from the cellar door, with some also sold through the Barley Stacks website, and at a couple of Cellarbrations stores in the region.
Aside from the four main varieties, Barley Stacks also puts out a rosé, sparkling wines, a fortified range and a verjuice.
Verjuice is a sour drink made from unripe grapes, made famous by SA cooking queen Maggie Beer who produces her own line.
“It’s like a Granny Smith apple juice and kids can drink it, it’s not alcoholic and you can mix it with soda water,” Lyall says.
“On the Yorke Peninsula we have the new Sunny Hill Distillery about to start up at Arthurton, so you could mix your verjuice with gin.”
Speaking of the new distillery, Lyall says he’s working with its owners as well as two other local business operators to look at ways of leveraging each other’s success.
“We are looking connectively to run tours and do things together to give a tourism experience on the Yorke Peninsula that’s quite unique,” he says.
“The tourism side of the peninsula is growing exponentially, we now have Watsacowie Brewing Co at Minlaton who are doing a great job at driving high volume tourist interest.
“We want to collectively work together.”
Barley Stacks Wines is open seven days a week at 159 Lizard Park Drive, South Kilkerran.
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Header image courtesy of SATC.