John Horrocks, the young English explorer, was one of the first to establish vines in the Clare Valley - he also has the misfortune to be remembered as the explorer who was accidentally shot by his camel! Hope Farm, at Penwortham, was his first pioneering Clare Valley venture, established in 1840.
The green oasis-like quality of the valley impressed and attracted the early pioneers who came from England, Ireland and Poland; the first agricultural ventures were wheat growing and sheep - the Hawker family settled at "Bungaree" in 1839 and their direct descendants still live and farm there today.
As the Burra mines developed and wheat farming spread north, Clare grew as a hub and service centre for the region. Wine or beer included in the scale of wages for agricultural workers in the district from an early date. This need for "harvest wine" was a stimulus for winemaking in the region.
Waves of settlers drawn to the area included an influx of Irish Catholics who gave the region "Armagh"; Polish immigrants settled in the valley at the head of Hill River which then became Polish Hill River and German Catholics founded the Sevenhill College and Winery.
By 1860 land use around Clare was changing from wheat growing to vineyards and orchard and within a couple of years the landscape was dotted with vines. Many of these table/drying varieties but wine grapes also began to take hold.
As well as the producers of harvest wine, the Jesuit priests at Sevenhill were amongst the pioneering winemakers in the district. At first they made only sacramental wines but as early as 1858 some of the wines they fermented and stored in casks and vats made from Mintaro slate may have been sold. Their proud heritage continues to this day. Wendouree winery, which was founded as a hobby in 1895, also survives in almost traditional form.
Today the Valley is home to numerous wineries, most of which are small and produce only bottled wine. It continues to be a premium wine region and tourist destination with a reputation for beautiful vistas and excellent wines.