Meet the crew

John Kalleske

Barossa, South Australia

John is a fifth-generation grape grower, whose family arrived from Silesia, Poland, in 1839. His independent venture in wine began in 1975 when he bought the Nuriootpa property that the family still own today. He extended it in 1977 by buying one in Koonunga Hill, too.

He was a farmer – growing crops and raising sheep – during the day and a vine grower, tending his vines, in the evening with the help of his wife, Barbara. The aim was to build future employment for their family… ironic then, that the Kalleskes bought their second property just as Australia suffered from a grape glut in 1978. This was the famous moment when Peter Lehmann decided to stand by the Barossa growers and take their grapes, despite his employer, Saltram, wanting to renege on the contract.

The 1980s were tough times, but John and Barb worked endlessly to restore the Barossa back to what they felt was its rightful position as one of the key areas for wine in Australia. They were right and now its grapes are some of the most sought after. All of this hard work lead the Kalleskes to move solely into grape growing in the 1990s when vines and wine took a more prominent position. Shiraz and Cabernet, Chardonnay and Semillon were the main staples during the first decade. Then from 1999 to 2005, John and Barb started pushing the boat out with more leftfield varieties such as Petit Verdot and Durif … Vermentino now, too.

John feels privileged that the family has vineyards not just in one top area, but two – Koonunga and Ebenezer. They both lie at an elevation of 280 metres, so enjoy hot days followed by cool nights which help slow down the ripening of the grapes. Meanwhile the deep red/brown earth over deep red clays of the vineyards promotes superb depth of flavour and intensity. And to retain all the quality, John goes the extra mile and handpicks all the vineyards – painstaking work, but worth every pluck!

The Kalleske’s now have a bit of additional help around the place too, which they’re very grateful for! Their son Andrew has now turned his hand towards the family business.