IT was a gatecrasher with a difference, making a whirlwind entrance at a picturesque Pokolbin winery, hanging around well past its welcome and damaging the joint as it left.
Staff at the Keith Tulloch Wine vineyard were still counting the cost of a mini-tornado which ‘‘chewed’’ through some of its vintage vines and destroyed a shed, throwing some sheets of corrugated iron hundreds of metres away as it gathered speed.
Customers were ushered into the downstairs area of the winery’s cellar door and windows were shut after the vortex of the twister was first seen about 3.30pm on Sunday.
After ripping up several mature trees, it gathered speed over part of one block of vines before crossing a small creek and into another block that boasted semillon vines first planted in 1969.
More than 150 vines were destroyed, although this year’s vintage had already been harvested and there were thousands of vines still intact.
‘‘It was fortunate. Obviously unfortunate in the way that we now have to regenerate this vineyard site and vineyard shed,’’ family spokesman Alisdair Tulloch said. ‘‘But realistically in terms of people being in danger, it never really threatened.’’
Mr Tulloch, whose father Keith is a fourth-generation winemaker and founded the winery in 1997, said staff took action as the wind picked up.
‘‘They looked up and they saw a spiral vortex which then started to touch down on the vineyard on the other side of the winery,’’ he said.
‘‘That became pretty urgent at that point, we brought everybody to the ground level of the cellar door tasting room, closed the doors and windows, brought everything inside that could move around and then, basically, watched it chew through a couple of hundred metres of our vineyard and one of the sheds.
‘‘It really took off, as the vineyard and tornado sort of spiralled together ... it was pretty breathtaking.
‘‘When you look at the footage afterwards and you can see it is a really bright sunny day, it looks so normal but what’s happened is anything but.’’