Establishment of the first vines
Poonawatta was established in 1860 when German immigrant Ferdinand Vorwerk settled some 3 miles north of the village of Eden Valley. A well was dug, a home built from local stone, crops sown, an orchard planted and in 1880 a small Shiraz vineyard established.
Poonawatta was sold in 1890 to Colonel John Temple on his retirement from the British army. It was a visit from John Temple’s daughters Gwen and Eleanor in 1967, a year after my parents, Sue and John Holt purchased the Poonawatta property, that gave us a better understanding of the property’s early history.
More Vines Planted
Poonawatta at that time was 250 acres and the original Shiraz vineyard was 20 years old when the Temple family arrived.
More vineyards were established, along with an extensive vegetable garden, a lucerne patch, a dairy, piggery, large fowl house, large geese yard and over one-hundred bee hives.
An old hollow red gum near the creek was used for smoking hams and bacon. A pruners cottage was built from stone from the demolished Flaxman Valley Council Chambers to accommodate the work teams required to manage the vineyards.
Post WWI RePatriation
The Temples’ left in 1922, with post WW1 soldier repatriation splitting up the property and selling to Bartholomaeus, Monteith and Kommler. Bartholomaeus owned the original homestead block.
Over that time vineyards were removed, due to changing markets and the frost prone nature of their location. Only the original 1880 Shiraz vineyard remained, on the block owned by Monteith. Bartholomaeus sold to Greens and a year later in 1966 the Homestead Block was purchased by Sue and John Holt.
Chance Change of Hands
Directly east of Poonawatta is the substantial Heggie grazing property – Burn Brae.
Settled in 1860 by James Heggie 1st, it was James’ grandson Colin Heggie and great granddaughter Sue Holt (nee-Heggie) who jointly changed the direction of Poonawatta.
In 1966 Sue was living in Adelaide, newly married and keen to find a property near her childhood home. Poonawatta was on the market and going to auction in September of 1966, but having just built a home in Adelaide and with a one-year old son they couldn’t afford to contemplate buying a farm.
Sue’s father Colin however liked a drink, and with a few under his belt he attended the auction out of interest. Colin was in a buoyant mood.
The auction came and went, and later that day Sue received a phone call from her father. “How did the auction go? Who bought Poonawatta” asked Sue.
“You did” replied Colin. “And you owe me ten thousand dollars!”
And that’s how Poonawatta came into the Heggie-Holt family!
Flagship vineyards home again
In February 1971 Sue and John purchased a block of land from Monteith; the block with the original Vorwerk planting of old Shiraz vines, and the 1880 vines were again a part of the Poonawatta property.