Thorn-Clarke takes a long-term view of the future. Their goal is to still be growing grapes and producing high-quality regional wines for another six generations.
The name Thorn-Clarke represents the union between two families with deep roots in the Barossa Valley and six generations of grape growing. Cheryl Clarke’s (nee Thorn) family were one of the earliest settlers in the region and have been growing grapes since the 1870s. The Thorn family property ‘Clifton’ is home to one of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in Australia, and perhaps the world, with earliest records for plantings dating back to 1854. It is still owned and operated by Cheryl’s brother.
David Clarke’s family was also a pioneer in the Barossa Valley but more famously for mining gold. An ancestor, James Goddard, was responsible for opening the Lady Alice gold mine in the Barossa goldfields, the largest gold mine in South Australia at the time. A geologist by training and wine lover at heart, David set about testing soils to identify prime plots of land to acquire and plant vines. David and Cheryl’s first vineyard in 1987 was Kabininge, outside Tanunda (the name means “watering hole” in aborigine). They later acquired more land in Barossa and in The Eden Valley. This took a lot of Australian pluck at that time. During the late 1980s the South Australian government was sponsoring growers to remove vines, not plant them, to manage oversupply.
Following success as grape growers supplying other Barossa wineries with fruit, David and Cheryl founded the Thorn-Clarke winery in 2002 with daughter, Nicole, and son, Sam. The Thorn-Clarke family has a strong belief in the age-old saying "you can't make good wine from bad grapes." Theirs is a long term approach to serve as a custodian for the Barossa’s reputation and their families’ commitment to making great wines. The vineyard team focuses first on nurturing quality grapes from prime land without cutting corners. Once grapes are harvested and into the winery it’s about balance: using specific strains of yeast and appropriate types of oak to create complexity without overpowering the fruit.
The approach has worked, and the family has struck gold with its wines, collecting a succession of trophies and medals at international wine shows. The Eden Valley vineyard has become synonymous with high quality white wines and the Barossa with high quality reds.