Katnook’s rich history stretches back to 1896, when Coonawarra’s first vintage was crafted in our Woolshed by entrepreneurial wine pioneer, John Riddoch - who immigrated from Scotland. He recognised the enormous potential of the maritime climate and unique terra rossa soils which now define Coonawarra wine styles.
But it all began even earlier. In 1861, Riddoch arrived in Coonawarra, after successfully operating a trading post in the goldfields. He purchased vast parcels of land over the years and was impressed with the remarkable rate of growth of fruit trees and vines. In 1867 John commissioned the building of his ‘Woolshed’ which still operates as Katnook's barrel room today. Determined to encourage closer settlement in the southeast, in 1890 Riddoch formed the Coonawarra Fruit Colony, established its administration headquarters at ‘Katnook’ and sold off his land in 10 acre blocks. It was here at ‘Katnook’ that the Coonawarra wine region was born.
Riddoch planted 140 acres of vines and his first vintage in 1895 was a modest event in a neighbouring nursery shed. However, his second, with a much greater volume of fruit and attended to by qualified winemaker William Salter was made in the woolshed at ‘Katnook’ in 1896. By all accounts this second vintage gave an indication of the outstanding quality that was to come.
Read early newspaper accounts of this first Coonawarra vintage here.
John Riddoch died aged 73 in the Federation year 1901 and Coonawarra struggled as a winemaking district for the next fifty years. Most of the grapes were used for brandy or fortified winemaking. In 1951, Samuel Wynn recognised the potential of Coonawarra's remarkable strip of terra rossa soil and bought the Riddoch cellars, now Wynns.
In 1971, the first vines of a new era for Katnook were planted, after an extended period of farming on the property and the woolshed being used as a shearing station. Over the next decade, great attention was paid to executing superior viticultural management. The first commercial vintage was made in 1980 by winemaker – Wayne Stehbens in the ‘Katnook’ woolshed, just as Riddoch had done 84 years earlier. When Wayne passed away in 2017, he was one of the longest serving and most successful winemaker's in Australia's history. He was suceeded in July 2018 by current winemaker, South Australian Tim Heath.