In 1965 the first commercial vines were planted in Mt Barker. Forrest Hill was the first with a trail plot with the Agriculture Department, followed by Plantagenet Wines in 1968. It was then a decade later in 1976 when Goundrey wines planted their vines and was then followed by Galafrey Wines in 1978, established by my parents, Ian and Linda Tyrer.
My Parents gave up their jobs in the then emerging computer industry to lead a life in rural WA. Not wanting to be farmers they look at other industries which included the new and emerging wine industry. There was a lot of research into wine industry done by the Agriculture Department. The local apple industry had fallen over with the decline in prices in export and new industries needed to be explored. There were two main documents commissioned by the Department which influenced many growers. One by Professor Harold Olmo 1955 and another by Dr Gladstone in 1963.
My parents also spoke to many established wine growers in the East coast before they come looking for land in WA. My uncle was a geologist and help dig holes in various properties looking for the right plot of land before they choose the property that the vineyard is planted on. These days' people choose properties on location, location, location. In those days it was about soil types, climatic conditions and altitude. But the Great Southern is the largest viticulture area in WA boost more than twice the size of the more well-known Margaret River which was establish in 1967 with Vasse Felix by Dr Tom Cullity
In those days my parents cleared trees to make way for the vineyard. They contracted a bulldozer to push trees over, and then a sawmill to mill the trees into logs. My father then split every jarrah log making thousands of post for the vineyard. Not like now where you go down to the rural store and buy a treated pine posts. At about the same time the bulldozer came in to push trees over Cyclone Alby come through and ironically push more trees over but for free.
My mother had an old Mary Poppins style pram and would push me along as a baby with the cuttings. The cutting would be on one size of the pram and I would be on the other. She'd push us both along and plant the vineyard. As years went on I follow my mother in the vineyard. Each day she'd pack us a little picnic lunch and we'd go out into the vineyard
As the vines grew they encountered many problems such as Black Beetle and weeds. These days, again, you go down to the rural shop and buy plastic protectors for the vines and spray over them. But they did not exist in the late 70's.
I love stories like these because they remind me of a time when people took a risk and invested their time, money, blood, sweat and tears into a property and an emerging industry and earning the title of pioneer.