Phase Three, situated in the Flaxman Valley, is a family project started by Ben & Sabina Kelley, named for their “third phase” of life. It all began when they made the bold decision to leave behind their careers in wine retail and the food industry in search of a simpler life. They sold their possessions, packed up their car with a 6-year-old, one-week-old, two dogs, and bird and set off for the Barossa with the only intention of planting a few truffle-inoculated oak trees.
In the beginning of their third phase in the Barossa, Ben was working at a local winery where he was asked whether he was going to make some wine for himself? Not knowing that was an option, he suddenly embarked upon the arduous challenge of finding fruit. In 2019, grapes were nearly impossible to find if you didn’t already have a standing relationship with a grower, but one lucky call changed it all. With their kids, Ben and Sabina picked a mere 87 kg of old vine Shiraz and 320 kg of Chardonnay to make their first vintage.
By the following year, they had purchased their Flaxman Valley property, a local heritage listed blue stone cottage built in the late 1800’s. Their 38-acre property is in the G.I of Eden Valley and in close proximity to some very esteemed vineyards, including those of the Hoffmann family. In between planting their new truffière, they lined a shed with insulation, had cooling installed and thanks to the help of Gumtree & Facebook marketplace, they amassed a little “Winemaking Starter Kit” consisting of picking bins, stainless steel tanks, two small basket presses, and barrel racks. All of a sudden, their truffière turned into a veritable farm. They planted three vineyard using local cuttings, hazelnut groves, and pine trees. The remainder of the property is dedicated to native wildlife and sheep grazing.
In the cellar, their philosophy is to keep simplicity at the forefront of everything they do. It’s a true family operation, with everyone – even the kids – helping out. They hand pick the very best vineyards they can obtain, and the wines are made in tiny parcels with a no-compromise approach. There are little to no additions, and they do mostly whole cluster fermentations with transfers made via gravity, with excellent barrel maturing conditions and ruthless barrel selection. The wines are then bottled without fining or filtration.
Dero, their flagship wine, holds a distinctive meaning – it refers to a social derelict, a “nobody,” which is how they felt trying to start up a winemaking operation in the Barossa with no family history and no connections. The choice of this name and its unique brown paper bag label serve as a quirky reminder of their unconventional journey.