COONAWARRA’S Penley Estate is notable among Australian wine companies by being run by three women and by its fascinating skein of family ties.
The women are owners Alexandra and Rebecca Tolley, known as Ang and Bec, and acclaimed former Punt Road Yarra Valley winemaker Kate Goodman.
Kate had helped establish Punt Road winery in 2001 after honing her skills at Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, Tim Knappstein in the Clare Valley and Seppelt at Great Western and signed on as Penley winemaker in January 2016.
Penley Estate was established in 1988 and its name harks back 60 years to the union of the South Australian wine pioneer Penfold and Tolley families.
The union was forged when Reginald Lester Tolley and Judith Anne Penfold Hyland married in 1947 and the Penley wine venture was born in 1988 when Reginald’s and Judith’s winemaker son Kym Tolley and Ang and Bec bought land at Coonawarra, planted grapes and later built a winery. With Kym at the winery helm, the wines built a fine reputation. In 2015, however, Kym retired and Ang and Bec took full ownership of Penley.
They saw ownership of the estate as emulating inspirational female forebears like Mary Penfold and Gladys Penfold Hyland. In 1870 Mary Penfold took over the running of the growing family wine business after the death of her husband. Gladys, the wife of Penfolds chairman Frank Penfold Hyland, took charge of the company after her husband’s death and chaired the board from 1948 to 1961. The great granddaughter of colonial Governor Philip Gidley King, she remained a Penfolds director until 1964.
Ang and Bec add another layer of family fusion because Ang is the wife of viticulturist David Paxton, the owner of McLaren Vale’s Paxton Wines, and mother of two sons Bec is the partner of Mark Maxwell, owner-winemaker of Maxwell Wines at McLaren Vale.
The Penfold Hyland and Tolley families have rich history, with the Penfolds wine saga dating back to 1844, when immigrant English medico Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary planted wine grapes at Magill. The Penfolds’ daughter Georgina married Thomas Hyland and control of the wine venture passed to them and later to their sons, who changed their surnames to Penfold Hyland in honour of their grandfather. The less familiar Tolley story dates back to 1888 when brothers Ernest and Douglas Tolley helped establish the SA Tolley Scott and Tolley distillery and the family went on the play major roles in the Tollana and Tolley wine brands.