Growing up with a grandfather and father working in the vineyard, there was a time when Pete thought he was going to branch off on his own path and wanted to be a broad-acre farmer instead.

But as time went on, he began to really understand and feel the pull towards the vineyard and found this to be something he wanted to put his energy into.

Previous generations cropped apricots on the property which was a very common planting in the Barossa at that time, sadly today you will not find this anymore.

Pete’s father worked at Orlando in the vineyard and was mainly the number one tractor operator at the time, at the same time running the property at Stone Well just five minutes west of Tanunda.

The 1980s arrived and maybe a parallel to our current day situation, the vine pull was introduced, and Pete’s father pulled out fifteen acres of vines and then wanted to diversify into setting up an irrigation supplies outlet on the Stone Well property.

Today Pete and Sarah run the vineyard, irrigation business and excavating with family members and team. Pete and Sarah have four children, Cooper, Aiden, Julius and Sophia who are very much a part of helping where they can to support the family business.

Looking to the future Pete and Sarah’s vision is to create a sustainable business model and to work towards an environmentally friendly business, working of the ground to get the best outcomes improving the soil year after year and being proud of the quality of the fruit.

They can see the generational growth in what they have and build something for their kids for the future, whether all the kids intertwine themselves into this or go forward to pursue their own goals they will be welcome whatever.

The plan is for a long-term look at the vineyard and to maintain and improve healthy vines, produce great quality fruit, work closely with winemakers, and not cause stress to the vineyard.

Like most generational vignerons, the next generations are pushing forward and sometimes doing things a lot differently to previous generations, making sure you keep some of the history but also looking at new thinking of looking after the soil.

Pete and Sarah’s decision tends to not work the soil as much as previous generations, leaning towards alternate varietals, listening to winemakers and what the public is looking for and moving on from traditional varieties here such as Semillon which was planted heavily in the early years.

Trying not to be reliant and heavily into Shiraz and dealing with a combination of smaller wineries and a few larger establishments is a good balance.

The planting of different varietals has created a very diverse vintage and has allowed the vineyard overall to have different ripening times to handle picking pressures.

The thing to do was to plant all to Shiraz, which is then dependent on selling one varietal, but the ripening time can cause some hectic moments.

Seeing a demand for Mataro a later ripening varietal was planted as well as speaking to other vignerons and winemakers Cinsault seemed to be a variety that had lower disease pressure and less water-reliant and would do well in some tougher ground on the higher position of the vineyard.

Stone Well is a very special subregion of the Barossa, not only does Pete and Sarah’s property have beautiful pink quartz, ironstone and limestone running through the vineyard it also sits slightly higher above the valley floor.

The original Stone Well still exists but not for public access to private property, which signifies this special area and its history.

This business is truly a family affair with Sarah very much the administration and account’s role and sounding board, and the future seems bright and exciting with the next generations’ passion and driving force to see this into the future.

For Pete and Sarah, the best part of vintage like most vignerons is the start of vintage when the fruit starts to come off and everything you have put into this is starting to pay off, also once off the vine the risk is over, and you can start to relax about future weather conditions.

Vintage sees a time where it is all hands on deck with family vineyards, kids picking fruit after school, older kids delivering fruit to wineries after their day job, and everyone pitching in to help everyone get through the busiest time of the year.

Living on the vineyard enables you to see and breathe every season in the vineyard and walking through the vineyard in the summertime after warm days and nights once the frost is out of the picture you can see the vintage before your eyes and the crop that is the vintage.

Every vigneron has their own journey, their own story, and their own vision, and we look forward to seeing the Sonntag Family’s fourth generation evolve and prosper into the future.

 

-Susan Papps