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

Nestled in the heart of a timeless landscape, our property holds a rich history. Settled by the Trestrail family in 1850 and originally known as Trevarrick Farm, the land has undergone various agricultural evolutions over the years, culminating in its transformation into Skillogalee more than fifty years ago.


At the heart of Skillogalee’s story lies our charming stone cottage, dating back to 1851, and crafted by the hands of a Cornish miner named John Trestrail. Together with his wife, Anne, John not only built a home but also forged a life in this picturesque location, raising a large family of 18 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood. The couple lovingly tended to the land, known as Trevarrick Farm, cultivating a thriving mixed home farm. Interestingly, despite Skillogalee’s current operation as a vineyard and winery, John Trestrail was a devout man who abstained from alcohol.

The Trestrail legacy endured on the property until the early 20th century. Following this period, the land transitioned through various agricultural phases, initially cultivating stone fruit and later nurturing grapevines for dried fruits such as currants and sultanas. By the mid-20th century, the focus shifted to grazing.

The George Family

A new chapter unfolded in 1969 when Spencer and Margaret George purchased the property, which was then an oat and cattle farm in a state of dilapidation. Over the subsequent years, they infused the property with new life, planting vineyards of Riesling, Shiraz, Grenache, and Crouchen (once known as Clare Riesling) and restoring the cottage which also served as the property’s first winery and cellar door.

Before the 1977 Adelaide Wine Show, Skillogalee was relatively unknown beyond Clare Valley. However, its outstanding 1977 Rhine Riesling won significant accolades, establishing it as a notable quality producer. The 1978 Skillogalee Riesling further cemented this reputation by claiming trophies at both the Adelaide and National Wine Shows. Behind these acclaimed vintages was Spencer George’s son, Stephen George, who, at the time, was a 29-year-old final year oenology student at Roseworthy Agricultural College.

Margaret George’s vision extended beyond viticulture; she created an extraordinary garden at Skillogalee, cultivating hundreds of different herbs. This passion culminated in her authoring a book titled “Herbal Recipes and Remedies” in 1980, sharing her extensive knowledge and love for herbs with a broader audience, and highlighting her multifaceted contribution to the property’s legacy.

As the vineyard matured into the early 1980s, the Georges embarked on a period of transformation, grafting most of the Grenache and all the Crouchen to Traminer and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, a few resilient Grenache vines withstood the test of time and now serve as the foundation for our Small Batch Grenache wine. The range of grape varieties in the vineyard expanded further with the introduction of new plots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, diversifying the wines and legacy of Skillogalee.

The Palmer Family

In 1989, the story of Skillogalee took a delightful turn with Dave and Diana Palmer’s acquisition of the vineyard. The Palmers, brimming with vision, unveiled a restaurant within the historic cottage, marking the inception of the first winery restaurant in the Clare Valley. This initiative not only enhanced the winery’s charm but also set a precedent for vineyard hospitality in the region.

Their ambition and foresight were further manifested in 2003 with the construction of the winery on the estate, a substantial move towards not only achieving self-sufficiency in wine production but also ensuring the production of higher-quality wines. That same year, to cater to the ever-growing demand for their wines, the Palmers expanded their production capabilities by acquiring the neighbouring property, ‘Waninga’.

2004 was a landmark year for Skillogalee; it saw the opening of Skillogalee House and cottages, introducing accommodation facilities that promised visitors an immersive experience in the heart of the Clare Valley. Furthermore, 2004 heralded the launch of the Trevarrick ‘Single Contour’ wines, which have since ascended to become among the most lauded in Skillogalee’s range.

For more than three decades, the Palmers meticulously honed the estate into a beacon of tourism, food, and wine, garnering renown far beyond the Clare Valley’s borders. Their dedication and passion for excellence were unwavering until 2021, when they entered retirement and passed the stewardship of Skillogalee to the Clausen family. The Clausens, embracing their role as the current custodians, are committed to preserving the vineyard’s illustrious heritage while steering it towards new horizons.

Skillogalee Cottage, built in 1851 by the Trestrail family
Stephen George and his father Spencer George at Skillogalee, 1978
Diana and Dave Palmer at Skillogalee in 2020
Early Viticulture in Clare Valley

The Clare Valley’s viticulture journey began in 1840 with the arrival of the first European settlers. Among the early pioneers was John Ainsworth Horrocks (22 March 1818 – 23 September 1846), who founded Hope Farm, now known as Penwortham, in tribute to his birthplace, Penwortham Lodge in Lancashire, England. Around the same time, Edward Burton Gleeson (1803 – 2 February 1870), known as “Paddy” Gleeson – the ‘King of Clare’ – established the Inchiquin property in 1840, and in 1842 laid out plans for the town of Clare, which he founded and named in honour of his birthplace in County Clare, Ireland.

Horrocks and Gleeson are reputed to have introduced and planted the first vines in the region, likely Grenache grapes, on their farms around 1840. Subsequently, in 1842, George Hawker commenced the cultivation of vine cuttings at Bungaree Station. However, the exact provenance of these vines remains a mystery.

Sevenhill College is recognised as the Clare Valley’s first winery. Founded by Austrian Jesuits in 1851, the college began planting vines in 1852 and initiated winemaking in 1856 to produce sacramental wine.


In the early 1840s, the pioneering John Horrocks extended his explorations into the northern expanses of the Flinders Ranges, employing Afghan camels to navigate the rugged terrain in his search for suitable settlement land.

During one of these expeditions, Horrocks and his team were beset by a multitude of hardships, including illness, injuries, and extreme weather. With their supplies dwindling, they resorted to a basic sustenance – a thin porridge known as “skillogalee” or “skilly.” This makeshift meal, likely concocted from grass seeds and water, was named after a dish with Celtic roots, traditionally served to prisoners in Ireland during that era.

Upon his return to Penwortham, Horrocks, deeply impacted by these challenges, chose to name a local creek Skillogalee, a nod to the resilience and fortitude of his party. Today, this creek meanders through the lower eastern part of our land, lending its name to the Skillogalee winery and vineyard. For over fifty years, our vineyard, affectionately termed Skilly by many, has been crafting award-winning wines, proudly bearing the name Skillogalee.

John Ainsworth Horrocks, approximately 1840, State Library of South Australia
From the heart of
the Clare Valley since 1970

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).


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.


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.


New winery built and vineyards expanded

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. In the same year the adjoining vineyards of ‘Waninga’ were purchased to expand production. 

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

New 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 Clausen family continue to evolve Skillogalee to produce award-winning wines and enhance the reputation of being recognised as one of the top boutique wine producers and food and tourism destinations in Australia.

We have to ask

You must be 18 years old or over to enter and purchase wines from Skillogalee