50 Years of Geoff Merrill Wines

  • 1953September 17th

    Geoff Merrill was Born

    Geoff was born in Port Augusta on the same day as his father Ray 31 years earlier. He was raised on a sheep station in the far north of South Australia and at age 11, the Merrill family moved to the Barossa Valley where Geoff’s first links with the wine industry were formed.

  • 1970April 30th

    Geoff Merrill the Winemaker

    Geoff’s formal education was gained at local Barossa Valley schools and the Institute of Technology in Adelaide.

    From 1970 to 1973 Geoff undertook a winemaking traineeship at B. Seppelt & Son. A position as Experimental Winemaker with Stellenbosch Farmers Winery lured him to South Africa for a year in 1974, after which he travelled through Europe. By the end of 1975 Geoff was back in Australia and had joined Chateau Reynella as Assistant Winemaker. In 1977 he was promoted to Senior Winemaker, a position he held until 1985.

    When Thomas Hardy & Sons purchased Chateau Reynella in 1982 Geoff stayed on, continuing to make the Chateau Reynella wines. By 1985 he had become a Consultant Winemaker for Hardy and Chateau Reynella’s red wines and by 1988 Geoff had left Hardy’s to run his own operation.

    Since 1988 Geoff has concentrated on the winery and his wines. He has continued to gain national and international recognition for his distinctive style of winemaking and his zest for life. September 1993 marked a new stage in Geoff’s winemaking career as he took up a position as a Consultant Winemaker in Italy to UK supermarket Sainsbury and Gruppo Italiano Vini.

  • 1980March 1st

    Geoff Merrill Wines First Vintage

    Whilst working at Chateau Reynella, Geoff also managed to find the time to make wines under his own“Geoff Merrill”label starting with a Cabernet Sauvignon utilising fruit from the Coonawarra and McLaren Vale wine regions. A 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1981 Semillon were released in 1983.

  • 1983October 30th

    The Scales - "The Perfect Balance"

    When Geoff was first writing winemaking notes for his early Geoff Merrill labels, he often referred to the balance of his wines. Geoff says great wine is a combination of fruit, tannin, acid and sometimes oak, all being in balance. It was these references which prompted him to use a set of scales, depicting balance, as the Geoff Merrill Wines corporate logo.

    The scales logo is still in full use today and remains one of the most recognised labels in the Australian wine industry.

  • 1985April 30th

    Mount Hurtle Winery

    At the same time as working for Hardy’s and Chateau Reynella Wines, Geoff was on the lookout for a winery where he could base his own operations. He found the beautiful, but run-down,Mount Hurtle Wineryin 1985, which he restored and began to create this oasis amongst suburbia for the home of Geoff Merrill Wines.

    The history of Mount Hurtle begins over 100 years ago when it was built by a young Englishman, Mostyn Owen, who purchased 200 acres of prime Reynella hillside and built a winery in 1897. It was set in the Hurtle Vale Ward just behind Reynella (Hurtle Vale was named after Sir James Hurtle Fisher, the first Mayor of Adelaide).

    Of these 200 acres, 150 were planted with vines. Mostyn Owen ran the winery and vineyards until he passed away in the mid 1940’s. The winery itself was innovative for its time, using the principles of gravity to feed wine throughout the cellars. Because of this, the building is now state heritage listed.

  • 1987February 28th

    Mount Hurtle Winery's First Production

    The Mount Hurtle Winery required two years of love, hard work and a special vision by Geoff and his supporters to restore the winery and vineyard to its former glory. While retaining an almost Tuscan charm, the original winery now perfectly copes with the rigors of modern-day winemaking and was ready for Geoff Merrill Wines first vintage to be processed at the Mount Hurtle property.

  • 1988April 30th

    Graymoor Vineyard Purchased

    Geoff purchased the‘Graymoor Vineyard’in the Coonawarra wine region where Geoff Merrill Wines creates wines using the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay fruit produced at this premium vineyard.

    Located in the northern fringe of the township of Penola, the Graymoor Vineyard was planted in 1988 and covers approx. 68 acres. Famous for its iconic ‘Terra Rossa’ soil and cool climate growing conditions, the Coonawarra is the ideal location for Geoff Merrill Wines to produce high-quality Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    A high proportion of these grapes finish up in our much loved and respected, Reserve wines.

  • 1993February 28th

    Scott Heidrich Joins the Team

    Scott Heidrich was born in Gawler, South Australia and grew up in Williamstown. He got his first taste in the world of wine during his first job at Orlando Wines in the Barossa on the bottling line. This triggered his interest in other aspects of the wine industry leading to work in the laboratory at Yalumba Wines and then back to Orlando as a Cellar Hand.

    Scott went on to study Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1988. After a year working at Krondorf Wines post-graduation, Scott made the move to Geoff Merrill Wines just prior to the 1993 vintage.

    Scott has worked alongside Geoff for over 25 years where they have collaborated to produce the premium wines in the Geoff Merrill Wines range. Scott’s contribution has played a significant part in the brand winning numerous trophies and awards including theJimmy Watson Trophyin2005for our 2004 Reserve Shiraz. He has earned the position of Chief Winemaker and continues to produce the high-quality wines that we have come to know from the Geoff Merrill brand. 

  • 1996January 1st

    Henley Arrives

    Henley is named in honour of Geoff's Grandfather, who passed away at the ripe old age of 102. This wine is the best of the best of our McLaren Vale Shiraz and only a maximum of 10 barrels each vintage are set aside for Henley.

    In numerous tastings around the world since the first vintage in 1996, Henley has performed in the top 3 wines tasted against Penfold's Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, Chateau Tahbilk 1860 Vines, Rosemount Balmoral, Eileen Hardy and La Chapelle among others.

    The Peel Estate 'Annual Great Shiraz Tasting' is a great example of how our Henley Shiraz triumphed in a tasting that showcases amazing six year old wines, all of outstanding quality and flavours. The results of the People’s Choice were overwhelmingly in favour of our 2008 Henley. Of the 98 people involved in the blind tasting, 47 of them gave their points to the Henley. In fact, the Henley scored 24 first preference votes, twice as many as it nearest competitor, Penfolds Grange!


  • 1998October 1st

    Winemaking Philosophy Creates Need for Barrel Cellar Addition

    The Geoff Merrill winemaking philosophy has been and always will be to make wine that allows regional, varietal and vintage expression, without excessive winemaker intervention. Great wine is a matter of balance, and our passion for subtle, elegant and harmonious flavours in wine is well documented. We believe that maturation, both in cask and particularly in bottle, at our cellars prior to release, plays an important role in achieving this aim.

    The premium red wines from Geoff Merrill will generally be released 3 years after harvest, while our reserve selection, Parham and Henley will be held in our cellars for up to 5 – 6 years prior to release. This created the need for the addition of a 1500 square metre barrel maturation cellar at Mount Hurtle with the ability to hold over 2000 barrels and 20+ tanks.

  • 1998April 30th

    Wickham Estate Vineyard Purchased

    Geoff Merrill Wines purchased Wickham Estate situated in McLaren Flat with 112 acres of vineyard. The vineyard produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Shiraz. This vineyard was later sold in 2017 however the fruit is still utilised at Geoff Merrill Wines.

  • 2005April 30th

    Geoff Merrill Wins the Jimmy Watson Trophy

    The Jimmy Watson Trophy is the most prestigious and sought-after wine award in Australia. The trophy is awarded annually at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show to the producer of the best one or two-year-old, dry, red wine.

    This trophy was awarded to Geoff in 2005 for his 2004 Geoff Merrill Wines Reserve Shiraz.

  • 2017January 17th

    The Next Generation Arrives

    Geoff's daughter Charley Merrill, named after his Great Grandfather, joined the team at Geoff Merrill Wines in the position of Accounts Manager. After spending a year in the business learning from Geoff and the staff, Charley took over as General Manager.

    Geoff, Charley and the Geoff Merrill Wines family work together to build the future of the winery and produce the very best wines to release under ever evolving labels.

  • 2018July 2nd

    Parham Released

    The first vintage of Parham Cabernet Sauvignon was introduced to the world with a private dinner at Mount Hurtle with family and esteemed guests, including James Halliday.

    A seven-course degustation menu was expertly paired with a selection Geoff’s favourite wine releases, and championing the headliner; the 2015 Parham Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Named after Geoff’s Grandfather Bill Parham, this wine represents the very pinnacle of our Cabernet fruit from each vintage, with a maximum of 10 barrels selected from our premium McLaren Vale and Coonawarra vineyards. 

    James Halliday (Weekend Australian) rated the 2016 Parham 96 points with the following review;

    “The focus is on the fruit, which needs no winemaker flourish other than 100% new oak. Blackcurrant rides high on the bouquet, oak on its position. Tannins make their presence felt on the palate, which will stand the wine in good stead as it ages.”

  • 2020February 8th

    Robert George Dylan Willis

    On the 4th of December 2019 the great legend of cricketBob Willisbowled his final over. His wife Lauren Clark along with a number of Bob's nearest and dearest including Sir Ian Botham, daughter Katie Anne and best mate Geoff, laid a third of Bobby's ashes at our Mount Hurtle Winery on February 8th 2020. Geoff and Bob met in Adelaide in 1978 at a bar during the ashes series and became life long friends.

    Bob was an integral part of our Botham Merrill Willis range and will be sorely missed.

  • 2020May 22nd

    50 Years and Counting

    Over the years Geoff Merrill Wines has gained domestic and international recognition for our wines winning in excess of 1000 medals and trophies including the Jimmy Watson Trophy. Geoff Merrill Wines continues to strive to produce'The Perfect Balance'in every glass.

    We look forward to what the next 50 years brings........