GALLERY: Historic winery is in good hands
WELL over a century old, Assmanshausen Winery, west of Warwick, has an indelible connection with the past.
Only the fourth owners of this most historical property, Bill and Susan Goddard purchased Assmanshausen Winery in 1996, and have worked hard to maintain its ambience.
Mr Goddard's quest has been to research the history and find the story behind the winery and its founders.
After unveiling the historical significance of the winery, Mr Goddard was ultimately responsible for having the winery and homestead, located on 36ha, heritage listed in 1998.
The Queensland Heritage Act 1992, states that "the former Assmanshausen Winery and residence is important for its association with, and as a role model for, and as surviving evidence of, one of the earliest economic activities on the southern Darling Downs - the establishment of vineyards and wineries".
Located at Sandy Creek, the Assmanshausen vineyard was established in the 1860s by German immigrants, Jacob and Elisabetha Kircher, who were also among the first in the district to establish commercial wine production on a substantial scale.
In the late 19th century, its award-winning wines were known throughout southern Queensland and the winery was a popular attraction for visitors to the Warwick district.
Mr Goddard said the winery ceased operation in 1940, and today stands as a permanent reminder of the hard work and skills of the early German immigrants.
Mrs Goddard said her husband was "fairly passionate" about the history of their property.
"He is an Englishman who has always wanted to own a piece of rural Australia," she said.
"We were looking for a home with some sort of history and then this place came on the market."
Moving from Brisbane, the self-confessed "urbanites" now relish in their new surroundings.
They have established Hope Cottage Country Retreat, which is self-catering accommodation for up to five people located in a separate cottage on the property.
Mrs Goddard said the cottage was running along very nicely.
"We have lots of return visitors, which is not surprising considering what a beautiful part of the country we live in," she said.
"We have been fully booked for the month of July, which has been wonderful."
However, the Goddard's focus has been squarely on renovating the homestead and winery as tastefully and authentically as possible in recent years.
The stately homestead gained its heritage status for its "particularly fine cedar joinery and fireplace surrounds, and early pressed metal cornices above the windows".
The finely finished house illustrates the success of the winery, and the desire of its immigrant owners to establish themselves in their adopted country.
"I've been researching the Kircher family's history ever since I bought the winery, and there are a few people still around the district who remember people who worked for them, or their relatives," Mr Goddard said.
"We have the medals the Kirchers won with their wines, and even have an 1875 bottle of wine from the original winery," he said.
Despite the loss of the upper level, the sandstone winery, which the Goddard's have restored after receiving a grant from the Queensland Heritage Grant program, survives as a rare and important example of its type.
It retains much of its early fabric which contributes to the understanding of the construction and functioning of a 19th century Queensland winery.
They include the dressed sandstone and heavy adzed beams and posts, and design elements, including the underground sandstone cellar, air shafts and small shuttered windows in the upper level.
Under the "Living Buildings and Places" grant, Mr and Mrs Goddard restored and preserved the stonework of the winery, and are hoping for further funding to put a new roof on the winery.
At their own expense they have also replaced the timber floor and beams of the former winery.
Certain parts of the winery also featured in the 2009 Australian film, Shadows of the Past.
Today the Goddard's host events and parties in the former winery, and enjoy living in this most important part of Queensland's agricultural history.