Torbreck owner defends departure10th September, 2013 by Lucy Shaw
Dave Powell, founder of Barossa Valley-based wine estate Torbreck, has hit out at claims that his “volatile” management style led him to be ousted from the company he started up in 1994.
Powell parted ways with Torbreck and its current owner Pete Kight last month.
According to a story broken by the Wine Spectator, Powell chose not to accept Kight’s offer to stay on at the company in a marketing capacity, with the magazine citing “personality clashes” and Powell’s “volatility as a manager” as the reason for the split.
Powell released an impassioned statement yesterday in which he described himself as being “deeply distressed and saddened” by the split
“It was never my intention to leave Torbreck. I was offered a deal five years ago when I had my back to the wall financially, which my lawyer told me not to sign.
“In extremis and under the illusion of goodwill I signed it anyway and that one stupid mistake has cost me my life’s work,” he said in the statement.
“I have been accused of playing the victim, of being dishonest, of being reckless with company money. If I’m a victim it’s of my own stupidity in signing that deal in the first place.
“They can take the company I built, but they can’t take my passion,” he added.
He also hit out at claims that he has not been responsible for winemaking since 2006, calling them “complete bullshit”.
“I’ve been in the Barossa alongside the troops every single harvest since 1994, and I take full responsibility for the quality of every wine with a Torbreck label on it,” he said.
He finally went on to claim that the 2009 vintage of top wine The Laird is “unsalable at the high price (we) command for it,” due to high levels of volatile acidity.
The 2008 vintage currently has a market value of over £500 a bottle.
Torbreck had to be financially bailed out a decade ago and was taken over by Pete Knight, the American owner of California’s Quivira Vineyards, five years ago for a reported US$20.5m.
“It’s a classic example of a business that has outgrown its original founder,” Kight told the Wine Spectator of the split.
Powell spent 19 years sourcing unique plots of old vine Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier to go into wines such as RunRig and The Laird.
He also did much to put Torbreck’s fleet on the fine wine map in Asia.
Hired by Powell two years before Knight took over the company, chief winemaker Craig Isbel plans to stay on at the estate.
Powell meanwhile is planning a new venture in the Barossa with his son Callum, who is currently studying winemaking in the Rhône with Jean-Louis Chave.