Cowra winemaking pioneer passes away

May 11, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Winemaker David O’Dea has died at the age of 91. O’Dea played a significant part in the success of the Cowra region with his winery: Windowrie Estate Wines.

Windowrie was purchased by O’Dea in 1959 and he completed an agricultural degree at Hawkesbury University in 1961. He married his wife, Wizz, in 1964 and they went on to have four children.

In 1988 the O’Dea family planted 30 acres of vineyard, the first in the Canowindra region to plant wine grapes.

“I had always thought that there was great potential for viticulture in the valley,” commented David, “and Brian Croser was proving this with his Cowra Chardonnay.”

Of this period, David said: “It was a huge gamble, and many thought I was crazy. When you love the land so much you find yourself willing to do almost anything to stay in the game.”

In 1998, they further cemented their place in the industry and the local wine region by developing the region’s first winery, expanding their vineyards, and diligently resurrecting the town’s old Mill, in order to build tourism within the region.

O’Dea was also a leading proponent of organic wine growing, having converted much of their vineyards well before it was considered the ’norm’. Today, the winery employs up to 45 people in casual labour and 14 people in full time labour.

O’Dea was an active member of the Cowra community as well as the Australian wine industry. O’Dea was involved in the establishment of the Cowra Vignerons Association and served two terms on the NSW Wine Executive Committee as well as being a member of the Wine Industry Council for Primary Industry.

In 2009 O’Dea was named as one of the 50 Stars of the Australian Wine Industry by ABM Magazine, with the magazine saying: “While many are only talking about China, David O’Dea’s Cowra winery is making it happen, exporting eight containers this year.”  

He was also recognised by ‘Industry and Investment NSW’ when he was named Delegate of the Show at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair in 2009.

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