I vividly remember my first meeting with Carl Lindner. I was driving up the 200m track to my property in Lyndoch. At the end of the track stood an imposing figure of about 6’2’’, leonic mane and beard of light brown intermingled with grey, and a stance that was all business. Carl, in one of his many guises as a property developer, wanted to buy my property which adjoined a new development of his.
We shook hands and a warm and engaging persona was revealed. Here was a man with a twinkle in his eye and direct turn of phrase. He announced that he would make one (good) offer only and if we didn’t accept, he would walk away. We didn’t and, good to his word, he did. Despite the lack of business success, from that point a warm friendship began.
Carl Lindner was born in 1944 in Tanunda as a 5th generation Barossan. His ancestors were original refugees from Silesia who migrated en masse to the other side of the earth to escape religious persecution. They ended up in a large valley amongst the old hills to the north of Adelaide as part of a patronage deal sponsored by George Fife Angas. The Silesians were hardworking and god fearing souls who quickly established a new community and over time created the wonder that is now the world renowned Barossa Valley.
Carl soon found that “school was not for him”. He left early to work as a farm hand for brother Mervyn. One extremely hot day cutting fields of artichokes, Carl came to a conclusion that he needed to find an easier way to make his fortune. He moved into vineyard ownership and this became a mainstay of his working life.
Most of us would consider being associated with one successful winery to be a life highlight. Carl has been associated with 4 diverse wineries, each having strong success in its own right.
First there was the family business, St Hallett, started by Carl’s father in 1944. Carl bought in to St Hallett in 1974 and teamed up with the late Bob McLean and winemaker Stuart Blackwell. Carl was able to pay back debt by pioneering “Collection Series” Port, commemorating sporting milestones. St Hallett would come to have significant success with table wines including elevating its Old Block Shiraz to “Excellent” status on the Langton’s Classification.
In 1996 Carl and partners purchased the defunct Bernkastel Wines and set about refurbishing the historic old winery and reviving the oldest shiraz vineyard (planted 1842) on the planet. The result was Langmeil Winery and wines like The Freedom (“Excellent”) made from that gnarly old vineyard that Lindner and his partners had saved.
Next was a partnership in Dandelion Wine and it too quickly established itself as an innovative, quality wine business. Dandelion has won multiple awards including its Red Queen of Eden Valley winning 3 trophies at the 2014 Barossa Valley Wine Show.
But it is Carls latest wine venture has him most excited. Several years ago Carl took me on a tour of Seppeltsfield Winery. His passion for the site and everything within it was clear from the moment we stepped in to the hallowed buildings. At the end of the tour Carl talked of his dream of one day being involved with Seppeltsfield. As with many of his dreams, it has become a reality with Carl now a minor but nonetheless significant shareholder in yet another business undergoing a renaissance.
Carl has an intense sense of community. He has a very clear memory of the Barossa’s near death experience in the 1980’s. This was the time that the region’s stocks were at its lowest, most clearly exemplified by the ill conceived “vine pull scheme” which saw priceless vine treasures grubbed up and burnt. Carl knows that Barossans cannot take their last 25 years of prosperity for granted and can ill afford complacency or arrogance. For this reason he has spent enormous amounts of personal time and cash ensuring that his region stays vital and contemporary. He was a key factor to the reopening and success of the community icon The Tanunda Club. He was instrumental in ensuring long term water supply in the Valley through his energy and commitment to the Barossa Infrastructure Ltd water pipeline scheme. He has built housing developments sensitive to the history and tone of the Barossa. He strives to protect both the region’s soul and its economic future.
Carl is a collector of tragic proportions. Over his life he has collected cars, wine, early settler farm machinery, period furniture, property sites, water and vineyards. Two of his collections are the largest owned by an individual in Australia - his collection of Jaguar cars and his collection of fortified wine. He owns in the order of 50 Jaguars and 430,000 litres of fortified. Both collections are cosily ensconced in separate purpose built, spotlessly clean and immaculately ordered accommodation. Quite what Carl will do with either is not entirely clear. But he loves them both.
In August 2013 Carl was diagnosed with cancer, which eventually found its way into his bones. Fifteen months ago he was given 10 months to live. For a man of big dreams and enormous energy this would have been a tremendous blow. But you would hardly know it. His cheery “go get ‘em” positive style prevails. Carl simply has too many things to do to be derailed by his health. His current projects include building a sensational new home, building a supermarket, being knee deep in the revival of Seppeltsfield and musing about how he can put his beloved Jaguars on show and create a new tourist attraction for the Barossa. He is genuinely an inspiring human being.
Wine regions by their very nature are riddled with hierarchy. Things like history, provenance, privilege, site, ratings, show results, grape prices and export success confer a competitive but generally supportive environment. The Barossa, with its added history of Silesian and English gentry settlers, has even greater hierarchical complexity. Carl Lindner stands apart from all that. He is obsessed with only 2 things, his reputation for fairness and integrity, and that everything he does is for the long term prosperity of his beloved Valley.
The Lion’s role is to protect and defend his pride with every fibre of his being. In every respect Carl Lindner is the Lion of The Barossa.