What A history! Penley Estate was born from the marriage of two families, the Penfolds and the Tolleys, two of the great pioneering South Australian wine dynasties. Penley's wine-making history dates back to 1844, but it really began with a red sports car in 1945. It was a collision of hearts and minds, a collision that had been 100 years in the making – refined and distilled from two pioneering winemaking families. When Reginald Lester Tolley rolled up to a function in his red sports car, Judith Anne Penfold Hyland was suitably impressed by the car and rather taken by the man behind the wheel.
Sparks flew, romance blossomed and Penley was conceived (as a business name) in 1947 after Reginald and Judith married. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the Penley name came to life, that it finally bore fruit, so to speak. That’s when the children of Reginald and Judith - 5th generation Ang and Bec Tolley decided to create their own wines.
They bought a plot of land in Coonawarra, planted cabernet grapes and called it Penley Estate. In 1989, Phoenix Cabernet won a Gold Medal at the Adelaide Wine Show. In 1995, a winery was built at Penley Estate – a full on, all the bells and whistles, impress me with your red sports car winery. Penley's reputation had grown by then, and it made sense to have everything on site. More vineyards were planted, added Shiraz to the Cabernet, and increased the range of wine, producing classic Coonawarra reds that were full-bodied, to be kept and savoured.
In tandem with winemaker Kate Goodman Ang and Bec set about revitalising the estate and creating a new style of Coonawarra wines. With a softer, more elegant touch than is sometimes associated with the region. Today, Penley estate reestablished itself as the most exciting and progressive winery in Coonawarra.
Their history is a rich mix of endeavour, passion and vision with a touch of scandal and madness thrown in for good measure. They could write a book about it. Instead, we’ll leave you with the words of their glamorous mother; words that we hope you’ll taste in every bottle of contemporary Coonawarra wine… “Grow up and be fascinating.”
Their great, great (add a few greats) grandmother, Mary Penfold, was the driving force behind the establishment of Magill Estate in 1844, and is now regarded as one of the most outstanding pioneering women in South Australia. Then there was Gladys Lethbridge, who married Frank Penfold Hyland in 1921. She was a flamboyant woman, the great granddaughter of Governor King and an enthusiastic collector of antiques. Yet, Gladys Penfold Hyland proved she could mix it with the best. Following Frank’s death, she oversaw the running of Penfolds (with the aid of Frank’s no-nonsense secretary, Miss Longhurst) and was Chairman of Board from 1948-61. She remained a director until 1964 – no mean feat when you consider the business world was pretty much run by men back then.