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What happened to Spring Vale Winery?

Updated: Apr 1

What was Spring Vale winery in 1841 became Buring and Sobels, Springvale, Quelltaler, and then endured some weird name changes - Black Opal, Eaglehawk, and finally Annie's Lane.

c. 1920, Spring Vale Vineyards and Winery near Clare

THE big old winery on the hill outside Watervale in the Clare Valley has been known by many names. Buring and Sobels initially called it Springvale in 1889, where they made Quelltaler hock. The Quelltaler winery itself has been around since 1863.

The winery itself was started near Clare by the retired sea captain, Sir Walter Hughes, who made a fortune from the Moonta Mining Company, purchased land in Spring Vale – 'an English approximation of the Indigenous name for the locality, Manoora '– and established vines on the property.


Buring and Sobels:

It was in 1863 that "Spring Vale" was acquired. Here, two years later, Capt. Hughes planted 50 acres of vines. In 1868 the first wine cellar was built, and Capt. Hughes applied for a manager.

From four applicants Mr. C.A. Sobels of Tanunda was chosen."

Carl Sobel planted his legendary Carlsfield vineyard in the early 1900s, located less than 1km east of the township of Watervale, which is in the "terra rossa" and limestone at Watervale.

The free draining soils range from red-brown earth over limestone, to dark brown clay loam over siltstone and slate, which given rise to characteristic mineral structure and mid-palate richness.

Buring and Sobels Quelltaler Winery in 1975.

The "Spring Vale" house was rebuilt into an attractive and modern dwelling in 1940. This winery, which was growing rapidly, employed many of Watervale's town people in 1951.

  • Carl Sobels was lovable, fun-loving, musical and devoted to his family. His wife Meta was the strength of the family, very hospitable and they entertained widely including Governors of the State. By 1890, they had thirteen children and their education was a problem. Four children attended Stanley Grammar School.

  • The name 'Quelltaler' (Native of Spring Vale) became the firm's trademark. For two years from 1898, Leo Buring, second son of Hermann Buring became cellarman at Spring Vale.

  • Herman Buring and Carl Sobels decided in 1910 to convert their growing partnership into a limited company.

  • Rudi Buring, a talented draughtsman and artist became the first secretary of the company. He designed all the bottle labels for the company.

  • In 1932 the new Spring Vale building was completed for storage of wine.

Les Salter, Hugo Gramp and Rudi Buring judging wine during a Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

In 1934 the firm's Adelaide office was transferred to the freehold premises of Quelltaler house, regarded as one of the most interesting and attractive of Adelaide Buildings.

On 11 December 1945, three months after the end of the second World War, a Jubilee Luncheon was held at Quelltaler House which marked the 55th anniversary of the formation of the company.

in 1950 Rudi Buring died. He had became secretary and director of his father's firm in 1910 and was managing director during the years 1934-1950, operating at Quelltaler House.

In 1951 Leo Buring (Holdings) Ltd purchased the Florita vineyard in Watervale (Clare Valley wine region) and replaced its vines with Pedro Ximenes and Palomino for sherry under the "Chateau Leonay" label.

Leo was a director of H. Buring & Sobels Ltd from 1934 to 1960.

The priceless Quelltaler vineyard then fell from favour until it was bought by Remy Martin, and the Frenchman, Michel Dietrich, revitalised it with his glorious oak-matured Quelltaler Semillons of 1982, '84 and '86.


Remy Martin

In 1982 the French firm Remy Martin bought Quelltaler Estate near Clare, and Francois Henri, Remy’s Australian boss, brought in an Alsace winemaker whose progress he’d admired, whose name was Michel Dietrich.

He’d got on a plane in a blizzard in Alsace and alighted in Adelaide in a 40+ Celsius heatwave, hired a car, drove to Clare, raised the French tricolour over the old Buring and Sobels winery, and asked for a back hoe.

They thought he was mad. But he got his digger, and made pits around Carl Sobels’ old Riesling and Semillon vineyards, delineating which bits would be picked in which order.

Dietrich studied in both Beaune and Bordeaux before working in Australia for 6 years. With a serious passion and undoubted ability he's now making elegant and tasty Bordeaux wines back at Château Haut-Rian.

To Michel, fences and ancient headlands meant nothing. He was looking for, and found, chalk, which the locals called limestone.

Years later, we worked out the chalky crust around Watervale was actually calcrete, which is different in its formation but chemically similar in its calcerious nature.

Around 1992, Wolf Blass bought the big, beautiful Quelltaler property in the Clare Valley from Cognac maker Remy Martin and renamed it Eaglehawk, and later on Black Opal.

Matt O’Leary was Senior Winemaker who, in changing careers, discovered his love for wine and vinification rather late in life. O’Leary has been dedicating himself to expanding the selection of red and white wines offered by Wolf Blass Wines with great success since the year 2000.

Wolf Blass Wines Ltd was purchased by Mildara in 1991, to form Mildara Blass, and was itself bought by Fosters Brewing six years later, which then acquired the Rothbury Group in 1998.

In 1994 David O'Leary turned his back on Hardy’s and joined Mildara Blass.

Mildara Blass was run by Ray King, one of the few CEOs who generated handsome profits for shareholders of an Aussie wine company at that time. King’s focus was on producing good reds at sharp prices, and David had proven that he was as good as they come in that genre.

Annie's Lane

3 Horrocks Highway, Watervale South Australia 5452 

Annie's Lane was a winery in the Clare Valley, South Australia, now closed.

Annie’s Lane wines were launched in 1996 when Ray King changed the name of Quelltaler to Annie’s Lane, and the new focus was on a range of $15 wines.

‘Annie’s Lane was a terrific experience,’ says David O'Leary. ‘After 14 years with Hardy’s, I met and worked with great people from the Barossa to the Riverland.

Annie’s Lane Cellar Door Manager Grant Thomas, with wine maker Alex MacKenzie, outside the iconic Quelltaler winery

Ray King was on top of his game, Mike Press was chief winemaker and had talented people in the Group like Chris Hatcher and John Glaetzer, You could see why Wolf Blass was a juggernaut with these guys directing the winemaking.’

David O’Leary still relished the chance to make some great whites, and Annie’s Lane was a place where many great Rieslings had come from.

‘I would always check with Nick Walker on making Riesling,’ David stressed, ‘as he was part of the group and ran the Krondorf winery pretty much since we graduated from Roseworthy.

David O'Leary’s new talent with Riesling didn‘t go unnoticed. ‘As I passed Chris Hatcher at work one day,’ David recalls, ‘he said “did you soak the label off a Wolf Blass Riesling?” ‘I was lucky to work with Chris,’ he concedes. Hatcher has won over 200 gold medals and trophies.

Sale to Seppeltsfield
Seppeltsfield Wines makes Clare Valley purchase

Seppeltsfield Wines has acquired the historic Quelltaler Estate winery in the Clare Valley from Treasury Wine Estates for an undisclosed sum.

Seppeltsfield Wines has acquired the historic Quelltaler Estate winery in the Clare Valley from Treasury Wine Estates for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the deal, Seppeltsfield will also acquire around 900 acres of vineyard assets in Watervale and Polish Hill, and the existing Quelltaler 1000 tonne winery.

The cellar door site in Watervale will be closed for the time being while strategic planning continues for its future usage.

The original Quelltaler trademark is also included in the deal, while Treasury Wines Estates will retain ownership of the Annie’s Lane brand, which will continue to be made and promoted within the group’s portfolio.

O’Leary Walker Wines

In 1998, David O'Leary was dispatched to Coonawarra to run Mildara’s operation there after Gavin Hogg resigned.

A year later David O’Leary resigned and joined forces with Nick Walker in their new venture  – O’Leary Walker Wines.

‘Everyone told us we were mad,’ David recalled, ‘to give up our well-paid jobs and go out on our own.’

Nick Walker spent over 14 years with Mildara Blass making wine for Yellowglen, Yarra Ridge, Baileys and St Huberts labels. He had cut his winemaking teeth at Krondorf in the early 1980s, where he made Eden Valley Rieslings that won a ton of bling on the show circuit.

David O’Leary is most likely the best winemaker in Australia you’ve never heard of. He has worked with many great winemakers such as Brian Barry, Mick Knappstein, John Vickery, Bryan Dolan, Jeff Merrill, Brian Croser, Tony Jordan, Chris Hatcher, Wolf Blass and John Glaetzer who won all those Jimmy Watson trophies for his master.

"O’Leary deserves much of the credit for having pulled Hardys out of its red-wine tail spin of the mid to late seventies and early eighties. With respect for historical achievements in red wine making and a good mastery of technology, he’s quickly dragged the company’s reds back to their roots without closing an eye to what consumers may want."

"He worked his first vintage in 1980 at Lindemans in Coonawarra. There he saw those blue-bloods, St George Cabernet and Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet in the making. From there he moved to Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills under the inspired guidance of Brian Croser." - Chris Shanahan

At the turn of the millennium, David and Nick Walker joined forces and set up their own wine company – O’Leary Walker.

They had been good friends ever since they met at Roseworthy in the mid-seventies.  Between them, David tells me, they have 93 vintages under their belts.

David grew up in the Hills, and his family owns several vineyards there, but he and Nick ended up in the Clare Valley where they leased the mothballed Quelltaler winery for $50,000 a year.

That was a blessing in the first few years, but then the owners kept raising the rent, so David and Nick decided to build their own winery which was completed in 2010.

The winery is now quite empty:

They didn’t plant a vineyard in Clare since they knew the best growers in the valley to buy fruit from. They made wines from the traditional varieties – Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet. The model was to make small batch, high quality wines from the best sites in South Australia.

In the nineties, David planted lots of vines at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills, some on the original ‘Wyebo’ property that his grandfather bought in 1912. The varieties they planted here were Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz..

That meant David and Nick had 2 styles of wines for sale: the traditional Clare styles, and the more modern, cool climate Adelaide Hills styles.

In 2015 they bought the old Johnston family brewery and cordial factory beside the Oakbank racecourse, and turned it into a cellar door and restaurant.

‘These days you need to offer tourists a lot more than just wine,’ David explains. ‘They want a more complete experience, and you want them to come back for more.’ That’s why their winery in the Clare Valley employs a full-time chef today.

‘Covid was very tough and I feel for a lot of businesses especially in Victoria,’ David recalls. ‘Our Sales were mainly to on premise restaurants and independent retail, which was closed down. Our sales domestically were down 75%, which was really tough.’

Early in 2021, they had to close their cellar door at Oakbank in the Hills, and sell the historic brewery site. ‘The only good thing Covid did,’ David summed up, ‘was make us really have a critical look at our business and how we can improve the running across the board.’

Read more:

Locally owned and operated in the heart of the Clare Valley, O'Leary Walker Wines celebrates 24 years of great wine in 2024!

As a James Halliday Five Star Winery, we are committed to crafting award-winning regional wines which combine uncompromising quality with personality.

We celebrate the best of South Australia’s wine regions, carefully hand-crafting wine from a selection of the best vineyards across our state and highlighting their unique characteristics.

Quelltaler's Dams:

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