In 1998, on a whim, John bought Château Tanunda. Having kicked off in diamond country in South Africa he made a lot of money in the tea business and sought a new challenge. When he rang his Swiss wife Evelyn to tell her he'd bought a château she asked how many bedrooms it had.
It just wasn't shiny enough. At one stage it was set for demolition; at another it was to be converted to a posh hotel.
Vineyards were expanding, but many grapes were left to rot in the good years. There simply wasn't the winery space to use them.
For some reason its brick-and-bluestone form reminds me of the Model School (above) that architect Edward John Woods designed in Adelaide in 1872. Like the Château, it's after the Roman villa form via the Gothic revival style of the day, and miraculously survives on the corner of Grote and Morphett Streets.
The winery could handle 100 tons of fruit per day and held a million gallons. By 1902, exports totalled 80,000 gallons of Château Tanunda brandy and 700,000 gallons of wine at ₤1 per gallon.
Grand Barossa Shiraz ($25; corks)
2012 - Rich creamy conserve with lots of fatty acids ... soft marshmallow around all those ripe blackberries and part-dried prunes ... good wine for this price 85+ points
2010 - This seems to be younger, tighter and leaner wine than the 12. It has much tighter focus. 87+ points
2009 - Too ripe and jammy for me but still juicy and cute. 80 points
2008 - The cork has left this wine smelling of wet black wood fungus. Cork enthusiasts will probably love it. 75 points
2007 - More of the above. 70 points
The Three Graces Marsanne Viognier Roussanne 2013 ($24; screw caps)
Chorus Tempranillo Garnacha Graciano 2013 ($15; exclusive to Dan Murphy's)
Raspberry and Morello cherries ... taut Rioja-style tannins ... like most of those wines, it looks a little awkward in this its yoof ... probly need to drink it in Spain! 79++ (?) points
Newcastle Shiraz Grenache Mourvèdre Carignan Cinsault 2013 ($22; exclusive to Dan Murphy's)
Oak dominant ... licorice and Morello cherries ... slender ... bit brash and green rather than soft or soulful. 78+ points
The Château Shiraz Nebbiolo Primitivo 2012 ($30; exclusive to Wine Selectors)
Oak edge obvious ... Morello cherries, raspberry ... slender ... quite powerful aniseed all the way through it ... they think this Primitivo may in fact be the Zinfandel side of that strange family ... a bit raw. 80 points
The Château Shiraz Primitivo Montepulciano 2013 ($30; exclusive to Wine Selectors)
As it had been bottled only days, this wine was looking a bit kicked in the head ... but it's really promising, and easily the leader in this bracket ... dark charcuterie meats; raspberry; bitter cherry ... slender - almost skinny - but highy promising ... lovely fine tannin. 86++ points
Primitivo di Gioia 2014 ($30)
This was made from one of the strands of Zin/Prim with small berries, each containing one big seed ... delightful aroma! ... bright aniseed; mace; grappa grappa grappa; sweet soft blackstrap licorice and meaty blueberry. 88+++ points