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Robert Oâ€™Callaghan was born into a family of grape growers. He grew up amongst vineyards and wineries, where he inherited a great respect for the pioneer Australian wine trade
All that Oâ€™Callaghan experienced is reflected in the Rockford fundamentals. Quality winemaking is a skilled craft that consumes a very large part of oneâ€™s life, so it must give you joy. Oâ€™Callaghan's parents and grandparents were grape growers, so his childhood was spent in their vineyards. His family moved to northeastern Victoria where his father managed a vineyard for Australiaâ€™s then largest family winemakers, Seppelts. In 1965 Oâ€™Callaghan followed a natural path and started as a trainee winemaker at Seppeltâ€™s Rutherglen winery. It was a wonderful apprenticeship in the old, ordered, slow and gentle Australian wine trade. The wines he drank, the winemakers from previous generations with whom he associated and everything he absorbed in that period had a major influence on the way Rockford is today. Although Oâ€™Callaghan spent all his life in the industry, the pleasure he derive from walking through rows of vines or casks filled with wine has not diminished.
In 1971 Oâ€™Callaghan purchased an 1850s stone settlerâ€™s cottage and outbuildings on five acres of land in the village of Krondorf, which sits in the shadow of the Barossa Ranges, at the heart of Barossa Valley. The courtyard shaped winery which grew from this was built in the same style and from the same materials as the original buildings. The vintage shed is equipped with plant from the pioneer era. Oâ€™Callaghan collected these valuable pieces when they were discarded by other Australian wineries as they modernised. This allows Rockford to carry on the traditional Australian winemaking techniques, but more importantly the winery is the same scale, age and pace as his growers vineyards. Rockford are committed to keeping the best of the traditional wine trade alive and sharing it with their friends, so drop in during your next visit to the Barossa.
To Oâ€™Callaghan the winery is not just a building but a large piece of sculpture with Barossa wine running through its veins, hopefully when you walk into the courtyard youâ€™ll instantly feel a sense of all that it represents. Wine is crafted, not created. The skill is to capture and enhance the fleeting flavours that grapes give from their variety and extract from the earth, then bottle these as a living record of the vintage they represent.
Rockford wines are made from established Barossa varieties which form an important part of the region's winemaking heritage, in a style that best reflects the vineyards, the winemakerâ€™s attitude and the climate. Oâ€™Callaghan feels most comfortable with the warm Mediterranean climate of the Barossa where grapes ripen easily.
Because of the way the Barossa Valley was originally settled, the majority of vineyards are owned by over five hundred small, independent grape growers. Many of these fifth generation mixed farmers have their vineyards broken down into small patches of different varieties, soil types and ages. These vineyards are then dispersed across the whole spectrum of Barossa soil, altitude and weather conditions. The result is an extremely diverse, viticultural, patchwork quilt, with each grower giving their patch its own distinctive character.
During the twenty years prior to establishing Rockford, Oâ€™Callaghan worked for several Barossa winemakers. This allowed him access to many of the finest Barossa growers, so by the time he started Rockford, Oâ€™Callaghan knew exactly the kind of wine he wanted to make and precisely which vineyard would give the grapes heneeded. It also allowed Oâ€™Callaghan to continue the established tradition of winemakers building long term partnerships with growers rather than owning their own vineyard. Many of the growers have vines that were planted on their own roots, sixty to one hundred years ago. The partnership not only gives Rockford access to exceptional grapes from ancient vines, but also provides consistency and reliability that is not possible from a single vineyard.
Oâ€™Callaghan has a great deal of respect for the accumulated knowledge, skill and long term commitment of his growers. He never underestimates the contribution they make to each of his wines. His preference is to make the wine by hand with traditional methods, attitudes and equipment to produce elegant but rich, earthy, soft, generous wines that will age - the kind that he drank in his youth.
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