A message from Big Bob McLean

The time seems right to release a statement to confirm that these rumours of my death are true.

That dyin’ business was fuckin killin me anyway.

Wilma, Adam and Sarah were with me through the last slide, which in the end was a bigger deal for them than it was for me, the wonders of modern medicine being what they are.

Thanks to all the crew at the Angaston Hopital. You were great.

The vet told me this was happening months ago when my liver wore out, so we’ve all had plenty of time to get used to it.

It was a good 67 years. A long ride from Clare, through Peterborough and Hamley Bridge. School at Marist Brothers. Became an electrician. A bouncer at the Old Lion. The Redlegs Club.

It was pure arse that I met Syd Gramp and Tom Morrison who liked the cut of my cloth, and gave me a job at Orlando. Started at the bottom of the pile. I was the assistant to the assistant to the assistant. And on it went.

All those years at Orlando. Petaluma. St Hallett. Banksia. Building brand Barossa. And now the top of the story at the top of the hill.

People always said I was a PR person. I’m more of a communicator than anything. When I was running hot in the ’70s people wanted to know why I didn’t open my own PR thing or go into marketing. They said I’d kill it. But I’m not a marketer. I make things work but that’s not marketing, it’s problem solving, it’s communicating. I get everybody talking. I can get enemies to talk. I can set things up: I’m not a bad adjudicator. I’m a good chair because I listen. My version of chair is that you shut up and listen and make sure everyone gets a say, everyone gets a fair go.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve always set the rules even within corporations. I’ve always been able to back my decisions. One of my sayings is don’t rip anyone off. I’ve never done a deal yet that fucks anyone over, ever. It’s equal equal, win win.

I was never really a star at anything, but I participated in everything. That’s the secret. You don’t have to be a star. Just participate. My advice to everyone that will listen is to participate, learn teamwork and your natural leadership qualities will come out of that. You know the ones that you’re good at, and the ones you’re not good at.

With Wilma and the kids I’ve spent the last years of my life building our Barr Eden vineyard into an absolutely unique winemakers’ vineyard. Wilma selected the territory, Wilma bought this, I simply paid for it. Wilma is the total influence.

I want this vineyard on the mountain viewed forever as a winemaker’s vineyard. I planted it as bush vines so you can’t get a mechanical harvester into it. You can’t mechanically prune it. There’s no water. It’s all dry grown, got its own roots, all in the old original style. It’s all rocks. We get the best grapes up here in the cross flow winds. Barr Eden’s designed for the winemakers to come here – to look for quality – to perve on the quality and then fight for it.

Now I’ve cast off in Bessy the boat with a Barr Eden Shiraz Mataro Grenache to marvel about how quick it all was.

Tongue in cheek I even stopped being a winemaker, because I never was. I mean, I’m a dreamer, a story teller. I think about things, create and get it done.

There I go again, lapsing into the present tense. I sorta like that. I’ll leave the future with you.

Cheers, Bob.



The McLean family request privacy at this time.

Please contact Barbara Storey for all enquiries


+61 (0)409 668 461


This text is excerpted (by Philip White) from Bob’s last interview, which Milton Wordley recorded last week. Watch Barossa Dirt for details of the publication of the full text.  Photo by Milton Wordley


Click to view ‘Vale Bob McLean’: Image Gallery








  1. Forrie - April 9, 2015 5:39 pm

    Big Bob McLean – he was quite a guy. He is quite a guy. Can’t imagine any of us will forget him. He was kinda nice to be around. Forrie

    • jason.balk - April 11, 2015 10:29 am


  2. Tony Bowen - April 9, 2015 5:47 pm

    Such sad news, we’ve lost another Barossa ICON. Rest easy “Big Bob” up there with the other Icons we’ve lost

  3. Traci Ayris - April 9, 2015 5:52 pm

    Vale Bob….this world has lost yet another unique and passionate personality. I’m sure you’re making a mark already with glass in hand in the next one.

  4. Nicholas Grundel - April 9, 2015 6:44 pm

    You welcomed me to the Barossa with open arms when we first met.
    I will never forget your friendship and hospitality.
    I will never forget finding someone who loved Willie Nelson as much as me.
    I will never forget those days when popping in for a quick coffee turned into one quick drink, which turned into staying for dinner and you popping into the cellar and grabbing a bottle of something fantastic and drinking said fantastic bottle simply because it would taste better among friends.
    I will never forget my friend Bob.
    RIP Bob.

  5. Marie Linke - April 9, 2015 7:04 pm

    Thanks for the good times, Bob. I will always remember them fondly and smile. Sincere condolences to Wilma, Adam, Sarah and all of your family and friends.
    The Barossa Ranges will never be the same. Your words of wisdom are sincere. You told me that, some time ago. Let’s hope people take your advice because the world would be a better place. RIP, Bob.

  6. David Dunstan - April 9, 2015 7:54 pm

    Farewell Bob, the best PR man I ever met.

  7. Rachel Standish - April 9, 2015 8:07 pm

    You’ve left an amazing legacy and beautiful family.
    RIP Bob.
    A wise man at rest.
    Love to Wilma, Sarah and Adam.

  8. Murray Paterson - April 9, 2015 8:31 pm

    Ave atque Fale Bob.

    I guess you’re not going to tip me out of a canoe again – well, not until I catch up. Many good meals, many good wines, many long laughs, life will be too quite now.

    Thanks for the company cobber.

    My thoughts and support to Wilma, ta Adam and to Sarah.

  9. Richard Young - April 9, 2015 8:51 pm

    Vale Bob. You epitomised everything good about the Barossa.

  10. Cathy Howard - April 9, 2015 8:53 pm

    I’m crying as I write this, as while reading what Bob has written, I hear his voice, and I can clearly see him standing there in front of me saying this. He certainly was a huge inspiration for me working with him at St Hallett, and he will leave a big hole in the SA wine industry, and I feel his loss for the wine industry as a whole having known him and worked with him. Sincere condolences to Wilma, Adam and Sarah, your husband and Dad was a very special person, and I am the better for having known him. Such a sad loss. RIP Bob, I’ll miss you – Cathy Howard (nee Spratt)

  11. Bill Spurr - April 9, 2015 9:12 pm

    Vale Big Bob-an absolute icon of the wine and tourism industries

  12. Ben Mockler - April 9, 2015 9:12 pm

    Bob, I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance at the Wedding of your beautiful daughter Sarah to my oldest and best mate Matt Bell. At first I was in awe of your immense size (me being on the vertically challenge side of the human gene pool) after that I was just impressed by your generous and gregarious presence. I could have sat with you all day and night, delighted with your comic wit and natural charisma, but alas you were working the crowd-as only you could do! I love a man who has the courage to speak his mind (or write it down for others to share). In your life and in your death you can be assured that I am proud to have spent “one” full weekend of my life with you. Unfortunately I can empathise with your son and daughter in losing their father. I sadly sympathise with them now on their loss. Lucky Wilma is such a strong character (as you intimate in your blessed soliloquy). Peace to the McLeans!!! And God bless you Big Bobby Dazzler!! I enjoyed you immensely!!!! You big barrel of the finest!!!

  13. Christopher Hayes - April 9, 2015 10:13 pm

    Ah Bob,
    Those “too many years” – forcing me to drink Pol and Orlando Riesling, then that Petaluma stuff, then depositing pallets of St Halletts in my shop in Sydney so you could show it off to any and all, the restaurant under the hills in Angaston – the mecca for all wine travellers, and the gorgeous Barr-Eden that lorded it over the valley below – all seem now far too few.
    You made life richer …

  14. barry Salter - April 9, 2015 10:17 pm

    Big bob,

    Had the pleasure of working with you and having fun. You have made an everlasting impression on the Barossa and wine and tourism in Australia.
    You made hospitality a way of life.
    Menglers Hill and the Barossa will never be quite the same without you.
    My condolences to Wilma, Sarah and Adam and all my friends in the Barossa. Cheers
    Barry Salter

  15. Mel matheson - April 9, 2015 10:40 pm

    Even with tears of sorrow of your passing, there are tears for those fond memories. Your guidance and laughter will not be forgotten, and you will always remain in our hearts.

  16. Dan Eggleton - April 9, 2015 10:56 pm

    Bob, A pleasure to have been introduced to you by my mentor Bruce Thiele…just couldn’t abide by the love for the Redlegs! A great storyteller and educator and a ready ear for a young bloke in the industry. Wilma, Sarah and Adam our thoughts are with you at this time. Dan, Tarnya and the kids Eggleton.

  17. John Hardesty - April 10, 2015 2:24 am

    Thanks for the message Bob, so many great memories, so much great food, all that fun under the tress eating whatever was fresh and discussing all the things that are possible. Oh, and thanks for trusting me to jump in the Stag and encouraging me to put my foot all the way to the floor…I suppose a metaphor for life.

    All the best, you’ll be missed.


  18. Tim Clarke - April 10, 2015 3:08 am

    I had heard you well ill but I really hoped to see you one more time to enjoy stories, wine and laughter with you. We first met over 20 years ago in the glory days of St Hallett, when you drove ‘Old Block’ to help save the old vines and the soul of of the Barossa. Host extraordinary, myth-maker, man true always to the things important, go easy Bob.
    Tim & Lynette

  19. Stephen Knight - April 10, 2015 10:25 am

    Fond memories of you at Len Evan’s Bulletin Place restaurant always clutching a cold bottle of Pol. Will miss you – so sad

  20. Phil Taylor - April 10, 2015 10:33 am

    Hey Bob,
    Last drinks mate.
    Farewell to you my friend, a true larrikin and a very fine gentleman.
    Loved doing business with you.

  21. Lyndey Milan - April 10, 2015 11:30 am

    Dearest Bob,
    I’ll still always smile when I think of you. Larger than life, full of fun but with a soft heart. We have known each other so many years and drunk quite a lot of Barossa shiraz over that time. so that is what I will do tonight. Open a bottle of the best and toast you and your friendship with so many. Wilma, you’ll always by my Sis – and love to Sarah and Adam too. There is no rhyme or reason to when our closest are taken from us. RIP.

  22. Lyndey Milan - April 10, 2015 11:31 am

    Dearest Bob,
    I’ll still always smile when I think of you. Larger than life, full of fun but with a soft heart. We have known each other so many years and drunk quite a lot of Barossa shiraz over that time. so that is what I will do tonight. Open a bottle of the best and toast you and your friendship with so many. Wilma, you’ll always by my Sis – and love to Sarah and Adam too. There is no rhyme or reason to when our closest are taken from us. RIP.

  23. Ged - April 10, 2015 11:48 am

    Bye Bob and LOL you came into my life smashed my Motor bike and wrecked my car in one hit got up and said Ohh fuck I didn’t care you were having so much fun and material rubbish can be replaced after that it just got better and time rolled past quickly , the burnt sausages and black chicken and flaming barbecue were always perfect after a dozen glasses of red and a lot of arguments about nothing , Catch you next time around Im sure after all the Hoo haa calms down a lot will remember you as just a great man with a calm heart Bye Ged

  24. Stewart ( Scruffy ) van Raalte - April 10, 2015 11:57 am

    Bye bye Bob, I still treasure the pic on my Perth office wall with you on your knees and your knees on your shoes, and as you said when it was presented to me…”Scruff I wanted to get down to your size” How fortunate was I to know you.

  25. Angela Reddin - April 10, 2015 4:43 pm

    Cheerio Bob. You were always double gifted, in size, greatness of heart, hospitality, generosity, and that eye for detail, timing and wit that would turn a mundane story into belly holding guffaws of laughter. Your personality would flood a room or any gathering with a delicious trepidation as to what you would say or do next. You leave a rift in humanity that even vacuum dosent dare to invade. My sympathies to your family. If your friends feel such a loss than I cannot imagine how they are grieving. Bye Bye Sherrif.

  26. Bob Lott - April 10, 2015 5:06 pm

    From the early Bouncer days through the fun days with our Irish Setters, then lunching at the Fox Creek Cottage in the Adelaide Hills, to the Vintage Festival Balls the various winery relationships to the castle on the hill always a true honorable friend – a wonderful caring man, but that all people could know the joy and love emanating from such a treasure. Those of us who knew and loved Bob shared these emotions with him – we and the world are the better for having this giant of a man in our lives. To Wilma and the kids Sarah and Adam you, like me, can be comforted by the fact that Bob was part of our lives having left this earth at such a young age he gave all with whom he came in contact as much as anyone could. I loved him deeply Bob Lott

  27. Dom Coppola -Jetthaircutters - April 10, 2015 5:06 pm

    Ciao Bob, we will miss your visits that provided fun , noise, laughter, and wonderful insights into the world in general.
    You enjoyed your Willie Nelson cd on the way to the salon, I hope there is one playing on a loop with the occasional wine tasting.
    Having known you for over 20 years, I will miss your last minute calls for a haircut.
    Condolences to the entire family.
    Cheers Bob.

  28. Karin Seja - April 10, 2015 5:33 pm

    Tears Flow, words don’t. Thanks for 35 years of you … and your famous cuddle.

  29. Merin & Rob - April 10, 2015 5:43 pm

    Such fond memories of a weekend in a wonderful old boat on the Murray with a most gracious host and wonderful story teller named Bob a few years ago. We hope you are traveling the same river, in your old girl with all your favourite reds. A special man who will be greatly missed and spoken of forever.

  30. Rowan KENT - April 10, 2015 8:09 pm

    I dont even know this guy Bob but came across his message when i was looking about on the internet following one of my passions in life… wine..i was blown away by his message and there are so many components of it that really resonate with what i feel and think… Cheers to you bob… i’ve written down some of your phrases and will use them in the most positive way
    Cheers Rowan

  31. Gareth - April 11, 2015 2:33 am

    What a sad, sad state of affairs…

    I remember running around after school in your garden nearly 40 years ago in Stirling with Adam and Sarah and the English Setters when I was all of 8 or 9, and you’d come home and be full of stories. I always looked up to you – and I still do. The help you offered with my business, the friendship and hospitality you shared so selflessly, and the wisdom you imparted (sometimes accidentally) made a huge impact on my life, and I couldn’t be more appreciative. My two young boys ask regularly if we can go and help Big Bob pick his grapes – you made an impression on them after only two brief encounters.

    You were larger than life mate.

    It was so nice seeing you and Wilma a couple of weeks ago, but I cried as I drove out of your gate, as I am crying now.

    Wherever you are now, stand at the end of the row, look out over the vines, and know that you did more, helped more, listened more and were loved more than you could ever have imagined. Nelson Mandela said “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

    You lived your passion, you played big, you inspired people, and you’ve left a hole that can never be filled.

    Cheers to you Bob. Rest in peace my friend..

  32. thecableguy - April 11, 2015 9:04 am

    R I P Bob. A true gentleman that treated all as equal. Was larger than life, and never too busy to stop for lunch. Only knew him fleetingly, but made a big impression that will never be forgotten. Condolences to his loving family.

  33. Phil Nash - April 11, 2015 11:30 am

    A great mate and true friend. I’m off to see the Mighty Greenvale Jets, who you were a proud member of. I’ll let you know the scores as I always do. Someone I always looked up to and now I’m looking up more often. Nashy

  34. Peter Walker - April 11, 2015 9:55 pm

    So long Bob. A true Barossa Baron. I’ll never ever forget your kindness & hospitality when visiting the Barossa in 2003 and having you as my “guide”. A remarkable, informative and memorable trip. I’ll be opening some St Hallett Old Block to toast you. The wine industry has lost a good man.

  35. martin hofmeyr - April 12, 2015 5:34 pm

    Truly amazing bloke. So happy I got to meet him and spend time together on a few occasions. You will be missed big guy

  36. Sue Marquis - April 12, 2015 7:07 pm

    Bob you were my first introduction to a true Auzzie on your first trip to Canada with St Halletts. We shopped for a brass bell for your wooden boat, visited the Maritime Museum. Had beers in Granville Island. You made me fall in love with the wines of Barossa and if all the Auzzies were like you I hoped they would keep sending them over to market. You will be truly missed. Such a great spirit, and love of laughter You are so many things and too small a box to fit into. I shall raise a glass to you my friend, you are and will be dearly missed.<3

  37. Michael Selge - April 12, 2015 10:11 pm

    It’s with Sadness that tonight I read about Bobs passing.
    I had the pleasure of meeting Bob and Wilma at their place during the filming of John Faust last year at the winery. After the final days shooting there, we wrapped and I shared a few glasses of Red and chatted to him. A great story teller and so down to Earth. The next bottle of Red I open I will have a toast to Bob. Condolences to Wilma and the family.

  38. Richard Warland - April 13, 2015 6:41 pm

    Big Bob. We crossed paths so many times…but wasn’t that the way the industry was? From John Clements’ office in ’75 to Wahroonga in the ’80s to Cellarmasters in the noughties. A great wine man taken before your time. I hope I will see Wilma again.

  39. Carmine De Ieso - April 16, 2015 11:35 am

    Hey Big BOB ! 🙁 – just because i got one on you , re “Exchanging a bottle for bottle of Port” & you got the 100ml! 🙂 & I your 750ml ! it was just a BASH thing!
    You never said goodby to myself & all the De Ieso Famiglia ! that loved your Persona at “The DRUMMINOR RESTAURANT” – you just filled the place , with laughter, Frivolity & hounoured our Cellar with your best Wine Creations –
    missing you – arrivederci & Cheers for your contribution to LIFE.
    Carmine, Uncle Vic & Chef Jo.

  40. Ged - April 17, 2015 12:30 am

    Its unusually quiet isn’t it , the sounds in the hills now must be so different Its the 16th and life has moved on but rest assured that legacy is being thought of and minds that didn’t always listen will be thinking about what you said , a friend of yours said to me just the other day you’re in a good place and I shared a moment with you again, so many others will too im sure , funny some things we talked of never go away and as we often said don’t worry its not always what we achieve while alive in life but rather what you leave for minds to absorb, yours , the genius of friendship and good times impossible to duplicate for so many that shared a short time with you. When all forgot you after the boom yea sure as the hell you laughed and got upset so often , but rather than bitch and complain you gave up big bessy that hurt but a little vine yard lies quietly remembering your thundering foot steps that walked upon it so often, I heard so often when you were down say fuck it Im not finished yet, that passion to prove something is growing now and you cant stop it , if your looking down on it all be proud of what was left a reminder of true passion for a wine industry you loved and played in so well , combined with that your friendships that you looked after regardless, I think you will live on nicely for a long time yet in the hearts and minds that shared your moments and who so often drowned in your enthusiasm and the loud passion you sometimes tried to keep quiet, That Thundering voice a memory of you now will be heard in the eerie quietness ,how ironic is life , wind blows through your little vineyard, I think that silence will be golden and fruit will be good BOB , you might be softly heard now and as those gully winds howl through canes left there by you a person who had passion and no conditions with friends . A legacy ? you had to be different yours wont be silent. Vale Bob Ok I missed that one , Ill listen for it in years to come. Ged

  41. david foster - April 22, 2015 11:07 am

    The wine industry has lost a large part of its heart & soul. A very large part. In the 70s when the bean counters starting exerting way too much influence, you epitomised the human side of an industry that was built on the backs of hardworking, fun-loving, dedicated people who could see great wines before profits. It is fitting testament that you not only survived the predators, but returned to your roots at Barr Eden. Your philosophies on life and getting on with others are a lesson to us all. I have no doubt St Peter has now been fully converted to Barossa reds!

  42. Davie Laird from Ireland - April 22, 2015 5:27 pm

    Bob was a larger than life person with a huge generosity of spirit – he will be sadly missed by all those that knew him. I visited him from Ireland every year over the past 10 years and have many warm memories of wandering round Barr Eden drinking his wonderful wines and listening to his reminiscences. He was a wonderful person, friend and raconteur and the world will be a sadder place without him. Take care old friend and I’m sending you lots of love from across the Big Pond.

  43. Ged - April 26, 2015 2:16 pm

    Youre still making me smile and imagine they installed a fire for you to warm that enormous soul , quiet and as subtle as an atom bomb and very clever and a lot of fun is how we will remember you

  44. Ged - May 7, 2015 8:22 am

    Hello Big Bob , wow almost a month and a lot of long lunches past , things have settled back into a dull roar and the big guy with the funny walk and loud voice no doubt cant be forgotten easily , you had that impact on so many , when they didn’t realize the change you brought to there normality so often

  45. John McLean - July 25, 2015 5:42 am

    I learned today that Bob has left us. How I missed it is a shock to me and stunned me to the core when I pulled up YouTube to play a local wine waiter in Stafford UK your interview on Shiraz…. Your elemental force will always live in my memory , your passion , your enthusiasm and your love of that little grape. I am proud to have known you and saddened you have gone. Live long and prosper in the vineyards of the netherworld and save a big glass of Shiraz for me big man.

  46. Ged And Tanya - July 3, 2016 10:55 pm

    Well Bob all is silent , you leave quite a legacy each time I share a red with a friend , same memories only one small change , all the boys aren’t sitting alone any more LOL It will be a while before I forget such a good man Cheers Bob


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