Little did wine maker Carl August Sobels know that when he migrated with his family from Germany in 1847 that a sixth generation descendant of his Jason Sobels would be continuing an unbroken tradition for the next 166 vintages making wine in Australia. History shows that the tradition has been handed down from father to son since he made his first wine for a Mr Jacob in the Barossa Valley in a small winery he was commissioned to build and make his first wine. In the annuals of the Barossa 1839 – 1939 it refers to CA that he could be considered the first consultant as when he built his own winery in Tanunda in 1850 and was consulted by many people in the Valley who wanted to plant vines and make wine. Some of those descendants of those people still exist today and are still involved in the wine industry. He sent his eldest son also named Carl August back to Germany to study winemaking and copper smithing. He returned in 1860 and worked with his father in the Barossa. Carl August the 1st died in 1863 and when his son was offered an opportunity to finish building a winery and to become the winemaker at Watervale in the Clare Valley, he sold the business his father started and moved with his family which was the start of a Sobels dynasty for over 100 years.
Not long after moving to Watervale he was offered the business so with the help of his brother in- law H Buring they purchased the winery calling the company H Buring and Sobels Quelltaler wines. After his death his son Emil aged 30 who was the winemaker was appointed the CEO and then made one of his sons Laurence (Kevin’s father) aged just 26 the wine maker. Laurence Sobels followed tradition and took charge when his father died but keeping the winemaking role for many years until his sudden death in 1968. At that time another descendant Jamie Sobels moved to Watervale taking over the role as winemaker. Kevin aged just 24 was in charge of Seppelt’s Chateau Tanunda winery in the Barossa Valley. After Kevin’s father died suddenly, Quelltaler which had been under continuous pressure from other wine companies to sell, the directors later that year approved a merger with the Melbourne based company Nathan and Wyatt a wholly owned subsidiary of the French Remy Martin.
Kevin’s career really launched when he started working with winemaker Jack Neilson who was the winemaker manager of Hardy’s winery in the Riverland in South Australia. The 10,000 tonne winery made mostly fortified table wines, spirits and brandy. The experience and knowledge he gained from Jack Neilson was invaluable. Not only did he learn about wine making and distillation on a large scale but there he met Margaret, Jacks eldest daughter and in January 1964 they married and moved on to Saltrams winery where he became assistant wine maker for 3 years to the famous Barossa Baron Peter Lehmann. Late in 1966 Mr Bill seppelt offered him a job as winemaker/manager of Chateau Tanunda and over the years the winery was expanded from 1500 tonnes to 15,000 tonnes. In 1971 the Seppelts field winery was assigned to his responsibilities adding another 15,000 tonnes. He resigned to take up a winemaking position in the Upper Hunter NSW in 1972, the only reason being to put the Sobels name back on an Australian wine bottle, which had been removed after 120 years. Many things were achieved whilst at Seppelt’s but the jewel in the crown was the birth of two boys Jason JK and Laurence LK followed by winning the Jimmy Watson trophy in 1972 for the best one year old red wine in Australia. Jason whose bio is in “The Team” section is very much involved in the wine company today but Laurence chose the life of a licensed set builder based in Sydney and with his partner Fiona they have created the 7th generation Sobels, Harry who was born in 2004.
The Upper Hunter winery built for Denman Estates was small and made their first wine but midway though that year it was decided that Margaret and Kevin would build their own winery in Muswellbrook offering growers an outlet for their grapes and wineries both in the Hunter and South Australia wine in bulk or bottles. The first vintage in 1974 saw 1000 tonnes crushed. During their 12 vintages in Muswellbrook their wines were sold firstly under the Queldinburg label, until 1980 when it was changed to just Sobels.
After the 1986 vintage they purchased the old McPherson winery in the Lower Hunter along McDonalds Road and the business including stock and equipment was totally relocated to the winery in Pokolbin. After installing the equipment from Muswellbrook further additions started which included building a tower, a champagne cellar, new sales area, restaurant and a front entrance. In 1991 an offer which was too good to be true was given enabling the purchase of a vineyard in a better position right in the middle of Pokolbin with Broke Road frontage so with the help of some friends MacDonald’s Road winery was sold minus the equipment that came down from Muswellbrook and the company Kevin Sobels Wines was formed and the Sobels tradition continues to this day.