Kel’s maternal family are the successful Furphy builders and engineers, whilst his father’s side came from a long history of successful farming. Kel graduated from Glenormiston Agricultural College in Victoria’s Western district with a diploma of farm management and agriculture studies. The original intention was to work his family farm. Destiny had another plan, so after spending a few short months on the farm with his father after graduating it soon became apparent that the land wasn’t big enough to sustain both of them.
Kel sought some contracting work with a mate; this adventure took them to Esperance WA. Here they bought a fencing plant and Kels first business venture was borne. It was hard work, but a successful business. After two years of intensive laboring and still filled with a need to travel Kel booked a ticket to London. He was in search of an enterprise that could be “value added, or that had add ons, rather than straight farming”.
It was 1974, Kel spent the next couple of years travelling, returning to Australia to work when he ran out of money and then returning overseas for more adventure. The journey ultimately led Kel to a vineyard and winery in Alsace in the North of France. It was here that Kel found his ‘value added enterprise’. One dewy morning while picking grapes in the early sun Kel realized ‘I could do this for the rest of my life’. From then he couldn’t wait to get back to Australia to build his dream.
Returning to Australia Kel worked in construction for some time to finance his new venture. Working first as a laborer in Melbourne and then as a stonemason in Daylesford. Kel bought land in Daylesford and built his own house, which he promptly sold when he had saved enough to move to South Australia to study winemaking at Roseworthy College.
Excelling in viticulture, Kel also had the foresight to study marketing. Being aware that he needed to know how to sell his wine as well. Kel’s studies in soils and the climates in Australia narrowed his preferred vineyard locations back to Victoria.
Bright became the location of choice for Kel and his young family. Still wanting to learn more about winemaking Kel took on a job as a contract wine maker in Mildura. This was an invaluable learning experience prior to starting his own winery. Whilst contracting, Kel bought land in Mildura and built another home for his family on the river. He used the land to grow fruit and vegetables for additional income and propagated grapes that would eventually become his vineyard in Bright.
Throughout the time in Mildura Kel made several trips to Bright looking for ideal land for his winery. In 1987 Kel found the land he wanted, returned to Mildura to put the family home on the market and with the help of his children began planting the vineyard and building the winery in Bright.
They were tough beginnings, with little money, rough terrain, and infertile and acidic soils. It took some time to viticulturally correct the soil.
These tentative beginnings were rewarded with the early vintages of Shiraz and Cabernet winning 6 gold medals and two trophies for best varietal red and best red of the show in Victoria. It was a real high point for the winery.
The ensuing years threw further challenges Boynton’s way, with increasing bank interest rates to a high of 20%, floods, hail storms and frosts threatened the vineyards very survival.
Bouncing back, a business partner came on board in 2001, a fantastic development in the Boynton’s journey. Kel’s new partner had a vineyard in Euston (between Balranald and Mildura); together they have developed a new label from the grapes grown there. It was rewarding for Kel to work with grapes from his old stomping ground. The winery had also undergone a complete re-fit during the partnership.
Mother nature wielded her force once more in 2003 threatening to take it all away again with devastating bushfires to the area. If it’s one thing that Kel has learnt on his journey so far, it’s how to meet a challenge head on and triumph.
In 2006, Kel was delighted when his wife Janelle purchased back the 50% owned by investors. It was a huge task but after almost two years of negotiations, valuations and 15 funding submissions they achieved their goal to once again have the winery 100% in the Boynton name.
Today Kel is still involved in all aspects of the daily running of Boynton’s Wines. From pruning the vines, to the science that is winemaking, planning new buildings (in stone of course), new restaurant that will become an integral part of the winery experience, through to brewing new beer, Kel is across it all. It’s a burgeoning family business firmly on track for a bright future.
So as you hold your glass of Boynton’s up to the setting sun and catch the light dancing in the glass, like the mischievous twinkle in Kels’ adventurous eye… know that there is quite a history in its making, there is blood, sweat, determination, passion and fertile dreams in each bottle.
As the vines continue to grow and twist on their runners, so to do the dreams for Boynton’s in Kel's mind. Kel Boynton is a builder and he will continue to build Boynton’s, it’s wines and it’s FEATHERTOP label.
Drop by and say hello to this charismatic and charming larrikin, don’t let his humility fool you, his plans for the family winery are still, as always grand. Boynton’s is not just a boutique winery in Bright; it’s a success story and an adventure still in the making.