Tim Adams, you’re my hero

This article first appeared in Style Magazine, March 2011
Tyson Stelzer

Last month, the owner of a little winery in South Australia’s Clare Valley did one of the gutsiest things I’ve seen in a long time.

Until Tim Adams came forward, it looked like the historic Leasingham winery was doomed. Wine giant Constellation (owner of Hardy’s, Banrock Station, Leasingham and a couple of dozen other brands besides) put it on the market in 2008, without a buyer to be found.

In this age of asset dumping, vineyard ripping and high density housing smothering our precious wine regions, it looked like the wrecking ball was swinging precariously close to the ancient stone tower that was once the cellar door at Leasingham.

It would have been a travesty to lose this piece of history, one of the first wineries in Clare, converted from an old jam factory in 1893. This place was among the original pioneers of riesling, now the signature wine style of Clare. The list of winemakers who trained here reads like a veritable who’s who of Clare winemaking today, including familiar names like Knappstein, Barry, Paulett and Adams.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of it being bulldozed and sold off to some scumbag to build housing,” Tim Adams told me.

So he bought it.

The little guy (and this may be the first and last time that the towering Tim Adams is ever named ‘the little guy’) saved the day by buying out the big boys.

It was a crazy thing to do. At this time in the economic cycle, in the middle of a grape glut, in the midst of droughts and floods, of currency crises, of export woes and domestic decline, this was not the time to make a monumental investment.

“It’s going to be very tough and we are risking all we have achieved to have a crack at this,” he told me. Crazy. But isn’t this what Aussie heroes do? They take crazy risks to save the things they believe in.

For Tim Adams, it’s not just a building. It was here that Mr Mick Knappstein offered a young Tim Adams his first position as a cellarhand in 1975. He would mentor Tim until he retired a decade later, after fifty-seven years at the winery. “’Mr Mick’ continued to encourage me and to consult at tastings, embracing me as his last apprentice,” Tim recalled. “This relationship continued until he passed away in 1997.”

In spite of the challenges, Tim is confident that he and his wife and business partner, Pam Goldsack, will be successful in what he calls “more of a homecoming than a new venture.” He told me he has her full support, even though this means selling her new car, purchased just a few months ago.

They’ll need some help, too. If you have the slightest concern for preserving the history of the Australian wine industry, if you want to do your bit to empower the little bloke to take crazy risks to resurrect a story that the corporates left to crumble, and if you want to enjoy some of the best value wine in Clare at the same time, go out and buy yourself a case of Tim Adams.



Tyson’s Picks

Tim Adams Riesling 2010, $23

One of the Clare’s best value rieslings; a pristine, pure wine that transcends a difficult vintage.

Tim Adams Pinot Gris 2010, $23

This is what gris is all about. Zesty and fresh, with a subtle pink tint to its colour and flavour.

Tim Adams Reserve Tempranillo 2008, $35

Classic tempranillo, accented with black cherries and violets, with a tangy palate layered with cloves and cinnamon.

Tim Adams The Aberfeldy Shiraz 2008, $59

A Clare shiraz of tremendous energy, drive and complexity. Its controlled power demands at least a decade in the cellar.