Skillogalee History

Delve into our rich history from humble beginnings in 1970 to becoming one of Australia's premier Riesling producers, Skillogalee's fascinating journey is deeply rooted in tradition and perseverance

Skillogalee History

Established in 1970, Skillogalee boasts over fifty years of family-owned winemaking history and is now renowned as one of Australia’s premier Riesling producers.

The winery began garnering accolades with the 1978 Skillogalee Riesling, just its third vintage under the Skillogalee label. This exceptional wine first claimed the Adelaide Wine Show trophy for the best Riesling and subsequently took home the trophy for the best 1978 Riesling at the National Wine Show.

Where It Began

Skillogalee operates a wine tasting room, cellar door, and restaurant from a historic stone cottage built in 1851 by a Cornish miner named John Trestrail. He settled in the area with his wife Anne, and together they had 18 children, 13 of whom survived childhood. They ran the property, known as Trevarrick Farm, as a mixed home farm. Interestingly, John was a religious man who did not approve of drinking!

The property remained in the Trestrail family until the early 1900s, after which it was used for growing stone fruit and cultivating grapevines for dried fruit, such as currants and sultanas. In the 1950s and 60s, the property served as a grazing land until Spencer and Margaret George purchased it in 1969. Over the next two or three years, they planted wine grapes, including early varieties of Riesling, Shiraz, Grenache, and Crouchen (previously known as Clare Riesling).

In the early 1980s, most of the Grenache and all the Crouchen were grafted to Traminer and Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, small areas were planted with new Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

Origin of the Name

In the early 1840s, pioneering explorer John Horrocks settled in Penwortham, a town he named after his hometown in England. From this base, he ventured further north into the Flinders Ranges, employing Afghan camels to assist in his search for land suitable for settlement.

During one of these expeditions, Horrocks and his party faced numerous challenges, including illness, injuries, and harsh weather conditions. As their provisions dwindled, they were forced to subsist on a thin porridge or gruel called “skillogalee” or “skilly,” which they likely made from grass seeds and water. The term “skillogalee” has Celtic origins, and the dish was commonly served to prisoners in Ireland during that period.

Upon his return to Penwortham, Horrocks named a nearby creek Skillogalee in remembrance of the hardships his party endured on their journey. Today, the Skillogalee winery and vineyard derive their name from this creek, which flows through the eastern, lower end of the property. Our winery and vineyard have been producing award-winning wines for over fifty years under the Skillogalee name – or just Skilly, as it is often affectionately called.

Over Fifty Years of Wine

1969

The Beginning

Spencer and Margaret George purchased the existing grazing property and planted grapes over the next 2 or 3 years – early varieties planted were Riesling, Shiraz, Grenache and Crouchen (formerly known as Clare Riesling).

1976

First Wines Released

The vineyard produces the first vintage. The 1978 dry Riesling won major trophies at the Adelaide Wine Show and the National Wine Show, putting Skillogalee firmly on the Australian winemaking map.

Early 1980s

New Varieties in the Vineyard

Changing tastes saw most of the Grenache and all the Crouchen grafted to Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon. At the same time, additional small areas were planted with new Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

1989

New Ownership

Dave and Diana Palmer bought the vineyard in 1989 and developed it into a world-class tourism and food and wine experience, opening a cellar door and restaurant, and building an extensive portfolio of award-winning wines.

Early 2000s

New winery established

Building began on the small modern winery, with the ability to crush up to around 500 tonnes of grapes, giving Skillogalee the ability to hand-make artisanal wines in small batches.

1989 - 2021

Over 30 years of excellence

For more than 30 years, Diana and Dave Palmer operated the Skillogalee winery, cellar door, and restaurant, delighting thousands of wine lovers and guests from around Australia and around the world.

July 2021

Next Custodians

With retirement plans beckoning, the Palmers passed the ownership of Skillogalee to new custodians, with the Clausen family acquiring Skillogalee in July 2021. With a desire to respect the past but continue the evolution, the new owners plan to enhance the much-loved Skillogalee for generations to come.

Present Day

Award-winning Wines

The new family owners continue to develop Skillogalee to produce award-winning wines and maintain the reputation of being recognised as one of the top boutique wine producers and food and tourism destinations in Australia.