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Kim Tyrer
23 March 2014 | History | Kim Tyrer

Galafrey Wines -A Personal Story

Galafrey Wines remains a family-owned business and all wines are grown, nurtured and bottled on the estate in Mount Barker WA. Established by Ian Tyrer (1946-2003). Galafrey Wines is survived by mother and daughter team, Linda and Kim Tyrer. Linda and Kim maintain a hands-on role to ensure that the Galafrey philosophy is upheld.

When Ian Tyrer first moved to Mount Barker to set up Galafrey Wines he made an agreement with his Melbourne-born wife Linda. He said after six months he would ask her if she liked what they were doing and if she did not they would move back east. He never asked that question!
Ian and linda looked for a suitable block for a vineyard all over WA sampling soils before choosing a site 10km west of Mount Barker. They dug so many holes it's a wonder the state doesn't leak!

Ian and Linda were among the early pioneers of the great southern region. At the time Ian had no experience in grape production or winemaking but that didn't stop him from succeeding in his dream of creating Galafrey. Their vineyard being established in 1977 followed by the birth of the daughter Kim in 1978

At the time Ian's weight was only 65kg but after splitting every jarrah post on the vineyard his weight quickly grew and stayed at 90kgs due to the physically demanding job. In the early days the development of Galafrey was a financial battle with labour substituted for dollars.

"If we could not afford something we had to go and make it and we needed time to gain experience. We had empty pockets and sore backs." said Ian.

"Remembering back to 1977, arriving in Mount Barker four months pregnant, a truck load of furniture, a few thousand grape cuttings- naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm. I have to smile thinking about the TV show 'Real Sea Change'- seems we were 30 years ahead of our time.  Leaving our secure well-paid jobs in the computer industry to be pioneers in the Mount Barker wine Industry. 

I think we have experienced almost everything you can in the wine industry over the last 30 years. Hail that wiped out 1989 crop, floods, snow, droughts, the dreaded vegetable weevil, snails, locust, birds. Cyclone Alby and lots of tail ends of cyclone that dump huge amounts of rain right in the middle of vintage. Not to mention the dominance of liquor store market and the famous wine glut"  quote Linda Tyrer

In 1984 Galafrey moved to Albany in an 80 yr old wool store on the foreshore where the winery had a surplus amount of space. In 1992 the winery was moved back to Mount Barker to a purpose built shed. Delays caused the move to coincide with vintage and as grapes were coming in one door, tanks were coming in the other. In 1997 the cellar door sales was moved from Albany to the Mount Barker property as more and more people started to visit the region. 

Hard work and high standards paid off in 1985 when Galafrey won a trophy in the Mount Barker Wine Show recognising it as the State's premium red wine and Galafrey was the first winery in the area to win an international trophy for their 1991 Riesling in the Sydney International Top 100. And speaking of first Galafrey was the first in the region to produce a sparkling wine with their 1985 Sparkling Cabernet Brut and 1987 Rhine Riesling brut.
Ian's well-planned, thought out wine philosophy has been simple- to make traditional classic wine styles that can live long periods.

In 2003 Galafrey lost it's most prominent figure with founder and winemaker Ian Tyrer to cancer at the age of 56. Ian's funeral was held overlooking his beloved vines at Galafrey's vineyard. It was at this point that we'd hear that phone message "I'm a busy little winemaker" for the last time

Ian Tyrer's passion for the wine industry did not wane in the past years. He applied the same amount of energy and commitment to the Mount Barker wine industry as he did his own business which awarded him the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry to which he received a standing ovation in 2003.

Even the vineyard name of Galafrey with it's Dr Who origins set it apart in terms of it individuality. Ian's lasting legacy is that, together with his family, he turned that quirky label into an awarded and much respected one.

For many years the enthusiasm of Ian Tyrer drove the small Galafrey operation in the Great Southern. The wines rose to great heights, especially the Rieslings and the Cabernet Sauvignons. Now his wife Linda and daughter Kim are committed to keeping the dream alive. Keeping up the total commitment to the wine industry and to the vineyard which continues to be a source of much pride and focus-  to achieve flavour intensity and regional characters.

Two most desirable terms in recent times have been old vines,dry grown or un-irrigated. This type of vineyard is quite rare in these days of mass commercial production. In times like now, with the famous wine glut these commercial vineyards struggle to find buyers for their fruit. The Galafrey dry grown grapes are sought after, demanding high prices more than eight times the average price. Galafrey Wines prefer low yielding wine crops with small berries. Most of the flavour, colour and tannin of the grape are concentrated in or near the skin. So smaller berries mean more concentration in the finished wine and a lower foliage means greater likelihood of ripe , generous flavours. Less juice more skin: a sure thing to make a red winemaker grin!

In 2006 Ray Jordan from the West Australian is quoted as saying  "Riesling is one of their best wines. But this style has changed and changed for the better. The last two vintages of Galafrey have been the best I have seen from them. Keep it going, girls."

The reds offer excellent value and quality, often big and bold with lashings of characters. The soft fleshy character making them immediately appealing with medium-term cellaring potential.

Galafrey now have 6 wines with 4 stars from James Halliday and eight wines with over 90/100 from wine writers. With the brand moving forward Galafrey  intends to move their reds to the next level with new oak treatments and bigger styles reflecting the vineyard value. Focusing on Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz off their dry grown vineyard. They recognise the importance of the dry grown vineyard and techniquically well crafted winemaking- these things will be showcased with the Dry Land Riesling and the Jovial, a Cabernet Blend in the traditional Bordeaux style.

After a few hard years getting over the loss of Ian and all his expertise, we feel that Galafrey's future is alive and well. Always planning and looking forward with enthusiasm, passion, hard work and a strong belief in what we are doing and what we wish to achieve. 

With Kim Tyrer now being a new partner in Galafrey Wines and a good secession plan in place  and keeping with the traditions of its foundation Galafrey Wines will move forward to another 30 years of success.


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