It’s coming up to the first anniversary of the Cudlee Creek bushfire, which ripped through the Adelaide Hills on Friday 20 December 2019.
Simon Tolley of Simon Tolley Wines watched as the fire raced towards his family home and vineyard.
“On the Friday morning, I was at an early-morning business meeting, ironically discussing future strategy for Simon Tolley Wines, when I heard the first of several fire trucks rush past,” says Simon.
“It didn’t take long to realise it was serious.”
Simon and his viticultural team spent the day fighting spot fires, relocating livestock and supporting their neighbours as best they could.
“I tried to send the team home, but they wouldn’t leave,” he says.
“They stayed to help us save our family home and as much of the vineyard as we could.
“We even had friends and neighbours appear with tankers filled with water to help.”
The fire tore through 90 percent of the property, damaging fences, irrigation and vineyard trellising, destroying 30 percent of the vines and rendering the 2020 vintage unsaleable due to smoke taint.
Simon and his wife, Narelle, reflect on the days shortly after the fire.
“I remember Simon and I packing and dispatching online orders,” Narelle says about the days just after the fire.
“Every now and then we would have to stop to rush outside to put out spot fires.
“It was terrifying but at the same time completely overwhelming to see the generosity of Australians supporting our industry.”
A tremendous amount of recovery work has been undertaken over the past twelve months.
“It has been a monumental effort,” Simon says.
“Across two of the most damaged vineyards we have pulled and replanted 3,500 vines, along with cutting back around 5,000 vines that are currently showing great signs of vigour.”
Despite the challenges of the previous year, Simon and Narelle have been busy executing their long-held ambition to create a home for their wine brand, with the opening of their cellar door in January.
Located adjacent their luxury accommodation Simon Tolley Lodge, the new cellar door will be open Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday by appointment.
“We wanted to create a home for our wines, a space where people can relax and enjoy wine in the same way we like to enjoy it,” Simon says.
“It’s really an extension of our own home,” Narelle adds.
“People can come to our cellar door for a tasting or a glass of wine, stay for a while and chat to Simon and me about our wines and the viticulture, while looking out over the beautiful vineyards.”