South Australia was founded in 1836 and the pioneering families of these early settlers quickly spread north to create Clare Valley, which remains one of Australia’s most productive regions for wool, grain, and wine production.
Koonowla was established there shortly after by Colonel Barker, who began a farming/grazing enterprise but sold in 1892 to John Tothill who, with great vision, planted the first vines, built a fine winery for commercial wine making, and produced wines with a thriving export trade to England.
Koonowla became one of the six original wineries in the Clare Valley and continued to develop until a tragic fire in 1926 destroyed much of the stock and cellars. It continued with vitaculture as a major business activity for another twenty years, but slowly reduced the area under vines to make way for the economic boom developing from grain and wool production. Finally, in 1985, 8 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon was planted, heralding the recommencement of Koonowla wines as a bottle label.
Koonowla's current owners are Andrew and Booie Michael, who purchased in 1991 to expand their interests in the district. They immediately set to restoring the homestead and establishing new plantings – many of which are now in full production – to cover the same area that was originally planted in 1896, plus another 120 acres. This makes Koonowla one of the largest and most technologically current privately-owned enterprises in the district.