Shocked and devastated.
That’s how Prue and Stephen Henschke, Henschke Cellars, Keyneton owners, describe their feelings after losing 30 hectares of vineyard to fire.
In total, 1,100 hectares were damaged by the fire, about one third of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region.
The Cudlee Creek fire, which started back on December 20, tore through the Lenswood vineyard within hours, damaging vines, irrigation and trellis along the way.
Also destroyed were both sheds, machinery and equipment. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Stephen recalled when the pair first heard about the fires, which took out their riesling, chardonnay, pinot and merlot vines.
“It was so hot that day, so our staff only worked the morning. We heard about the fire so we made sure they’d evacuated,” he said.
“All we could do was keep watch through ABC radio and CFS. It was only when our neighbour called us saying we’d lost a shed we realised just how serious it was.
“We thought the fire had gone past and the wind change moved it to Lobethal and back over our vineyard.”
Prue and Stephen went to the property the following morning, which Prue described as ‘a shock and devastating’.
They explained that the whole place was black, with piles of ash on the ground and the black skeletons of trees surrounding them.
“Vineyards are a very concentrated form of agriculture and there is just so much damage, so much infrastructure destroyed,” said Prue, who describes the loss as a ‘double header’.
“Being so dry here in the Barossa we have a much lower yield in Eden Valley by 30 to 50 percent. Then to lose Lenswood, that was going to be the gem that would rescue us.
“It’s going to be a big loss for two to three years with no production. Now we’re hoping the vineyards here will pull us through.”
In 1981 Prue and Stephen purchased what was then an apple orchard in Lenswood with the intention of building a vineyard.
But in 1983, they lost the orchard to the Ash Wednesday bushfire.
The pair had replanted with a vineyard by 1989, and soon released their first wine of Lenswood.
With so much history at their much loved Lenswood vineyard, the pair have begun to look at restructuring and rebuilding.
“You go through a period of loss. Then the stress period of if we can get it done. Then your whole mind goes through the process of how to plan for restructure. At the moment we’re in the stress stage,” said Prue.