The Wilsons of Williamstown

The Wilsons of WilliamstownStory and photos by Kendrea Rhodes

Labels such as `The Man About Town`, `The Stubborn Patriarch`, `The Slab Hut`, `The Black Hammer`, `The Monarch`, `Dear Nellie` and `The Steam Maker` are curious ways to pay homage to your ancestors. But this is exactly how the Wilson family pays tribute to the many previous generations whom have contributed to where they are today. This family is proud of their roots, they have a genuine interest in history and being sixth generation Australians, they’re about as Aussie as it gets for English settlers.

The Wilsons own and operate Linfield Road Wines which overlooks their beautiful vineyard on the Kersbrook road out of Williamstown. The old, gnarled Grenache vines are over-shadowed by ageless gum trees that are the icon for the Linfield label.

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot really, and just so you don’t go looking for a road named Linfield, the entrance to the cellar door is off Victoria Terrace. In order to preserve the local heritage, the winery has taken its name from a property that was once called Linfield, which existed before the South Para Reservoir was built in the 50’s. Every wine made here by wine maker, David Norman, comes from this single vineyard. They don’t blend grapes from other sources, instead using only fruit from their own vineyard, to create dynamic wines in small quantities, thus infusing a sense and taste of the place once known as Linfield.

The land, on the southern outskirts of Williamstown, was bought by Edmund Major Wilson in 1860, but the family’s Australian story begins one generation prior to this, with Edmund’s father, Thomas Wilson. Thomas and his family arrived in Adelaide in 1838 from England. He became Adelaide’s second Mayor in 1842, but as if this was not enough, he was also an art lecturer, the first editor of The Adelaide Magazine, a poet and a lawyer. ‘The Man About Town White Tawny’ was named for Thomas who indeed fits the bill.

Thomas’ son, Edmund, planted the first vines in the mixed soils at Williamstown in 1860, which makes some of their vine stock, the oldest in the world. ‘The Monarch Merlot’ is not the royal devotion you expect, but a reference to Edmund and his brother’s butterfly obsession. Theodore would walk up from Adelaide, go butterfly catching with Edmund and then walk back home again!

Edmund kept daily diaries, all his life, which are still in good condition and serve as a brilliant resource for his descendants today. These provided the inspiration for the “Dear Nellie” Label. Every reference to his wife Nellie, in the diaries, was preceded with the word “dear”. Even more delightful, besides the exquisite taste, is the label written in Edmund’s own handwriting, copied from the diaries.

Edmund’s son, James Wilson was next in line and a real character at that, with three labels named for him; ‘The Black Hammer Cabernet Sauvignon’ in respect for his Blacksmithing work, ‘The Steam Maker Riesling’ for his part-time steam engine driving and ‘The Slab Hut Blend’ for the house he lived in while building the stone cottage.
‘The Stubborn Patriarch Shiraz’ has broken the mould somewhat in that it isn’t about a South Australian, but a stubborn Scottish soldier from 1679. Captured by the English, all a Scotsman need do to be spared, was declare allegiance to the King. You can probably guess that Andrew Wilson refused!

The lineage continues for the Wilsons with the three surviving generations after James Wilson, still working side by side. They are 87 year old Arnold, 55 year old Steven and 25 year old Daniel, whom all share the workload on the 65 acre vineyard.

On a typical day, Arnold might be pruning, or checking the grape quality, while Steven is digging trenches, cooking or checking stock. Steve’s wife Deb is planning the next cellar door event and Daniel is at the cellar door looking after customers or travelling the world to spread the word on the Linfield label. Their handcrafted wines are exported worldwide with particular interest in places like China and Japan who love the family story, loyalty and quality products.

The winery hosts many events which are relaxed and indulgent, with great music, food and wine. Steve and Deb are busy in the kitchen, while Arnold, Daniel, and Daniel’s sister Stacey are out serving and entertaining customers. The next event is the Picnic Day with blues and jazz group ‘The Loni Thomson Ensemble’ on Sunday the 15th of November and the Friday Unwind on November 20th with local musician Joe Ahern. Drop into the cellar door and treat yourselves to a wholesome platter or a gourmet wrap along with a Linfield wine and you will undoubtedly taste the tradition and devotion in every drop. For more information please call on 8524 7355 or visit the website at www.linfield