Originally called "Houmoed", the 50 hectare farm just outside the picturesque little town of Wellington, was bought by "Kelpie" Barns shortly after his return from active service in North Africa and Italy. Unable to settle down to a nine-to-five routine in the city, Kelpie and his wife, ballet dancer Yvonne Blake, decided to go farming! The wrench from sophisticated urban life to hectic rural chores on a run-down farm was character-building to say the least. Kelpie was a prize-winning amateur photographer and champion ballroom dancer, while Yvonne's ballet career was set to take off after pre-war seasons in London and Paris with a company of emigré Russian dancers, the Ballet Russe.
The early years demanded a very steep learning curve, a component of which involved Kelpie in watching very carefully what his neighbouring farmers were doing from season to season! A mixed farming operation involving a couple of cows, a semi-domesticated goat prone to chasing the three young children through the house, fruit trees of all kinds and some neglected vineyards, was slowly streamlined to concentrate on export apricots and plums, new vine cultivars, and guavas. Yvonne's reputation as a dancer had followed her into the country and she was badgered into starting what was to grow into a very successful ballet practice in Wellington and Paarl – the income from which played no small part in contributing to the farm's ultimate viability.
In the late sixties Kelpie started to graft vines on a small scale – the start of what was to grow into one of the Cape's leading "stokkies" nurseries, Micha Nursery. Around this time the bordering farm of Eventide was also purchased. The name "Micha", by the way, is to be traced back to Yvonne's time with the Ballet Russe in Paris. It is a corruption of the Russian version of "Michael" and is pronounced "Meesha".
Kelpie and Yvonne's three children, as is the way of children, had tended to grow up. René and Sandra studied at UCT where they were to meet their future husbands, while John, after a study trip to California, joined his father on the farm.
Father-and-son farming operations are always "interesting" as old and new ideas gradually coalesce into something different. John's vision centred around vine cultivation, and his energy and attention to detail were to stand him in good stead as he gradually took over the running of the farm and the expansion of Micha Nursery. When Kelpie and Yvonne eventually retired to George in 1987, the second generation had taken over – John and his wife, Elizabeth.
Fruit trees gradually gave way to new vineyards, and large areas were set aside for the nursery operations. Grapes were delivered to one of the local co-ops but John always harboured a secret desire to make his own wine. However, the ambition had to lie dormant for many years as the pressures of running a successful nursery operation and extensive vineyards consumed the time. The third generation was gradually maturing, however, in the shape of three sons: Andrew, Gareth and Shaun. Sandra and her husband also returned to the farm in the mid-nineties to help with the administrative side of the operations. Andrew, his schooling behind him, joined the team in 1996 and having been inspired by Aunt Sandra's hilarious attempts to make wine in her garage (John egging her on!) he decided to try his hand. With some very primitive equipment, a lot of passion, and much teasing from the family, he surprised all by producing a very drinkable Cabernet – the die was cast!
A brand new cellar, containing state-of-the-art equipment, was constructed and ready for the 2000 vintage. The thrust of the recently named MISCHA ESTATE (the "S" introduced to distinguish the Wine Estate from the Vine Nursery) is the production of quality, classical reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Production will always be limited, as will the range, in order to concentrate on the high quality that is the aim. Winemaker Andrew's stained T-shirt, baggy shorts, pony-tail and disarmingly casual manner, belie the fact that this is a young man with a mission - to put Mischa Wine Estate "on the map".
With Andrew’s mission to put Mischa on the map he has entered many wine competitions and won Veritas gold (Mischa Shiraz 2000) Fairbairn Gold,Four stars in UK Decanter magazine, SA Wine Magazine and Platter’s Wine Guide.
A new barrel cellar was built beginning of 2004 for the maturation of the wines and was completed end of May 2004. With John wanting to retire, he gradually gave over to his sons Andrew (Winery) and Gareth (Vines Nursery). With this "take over" the son’s decided to change both the Winery ‘s trading name and the nursery’s name to MISCHA WINES CC and MISCHA PREMIER VINES CC.