Our Heritage

Five generations past and Irrewarra and the Calvert family roots are deeply embedded in the Colac area as their legacy continues to grow.

The Calvert family acknowledges that the land at Irrewarra was taken from the Gulidjan-Kolakngat tribe in the name of the British Crown and no compensation was paid. We recognise the then traditional owners of the Irrewarra land.

1842 — John and Jane Calvert
Scotsman John Calvert purchases a tract of land near Colac, Victoria, and names it Irrewarra, a local Indigenous word meaning ‘long spear throw’. Within three years, John and Jane had established a homestead, stables and woolshed for their thriving Merino sheep farm.

1880 — Irrewarra Station Divided
Irrewarra was divided into four properties for the second generation of Calverts – Irrewarra, Dreeite, Gnarwyn, Warrowie. John II receives Irrewarra and builds Irrewarra House. Here he and his wife, Margaret Chirnside, grow wheat, grapes, grazes sheep and cattle and run five share-farm dairies.

1920s - World War I
Following World War I, parts of the original Irrewarra Estate are sold to the government and redistributed as soldier settlements to returned servicemen. The 1842 homestead and the five share-farmed dairies form some of the soldier settlement farms.

1992 - A Seed is Sown
With a passion for food and wine, fifth generation John Calvert, and Bronwynne Roberts leave their legal jobs in Melbourne to travel to Burgundy, France to do a vintage. It is here that the two lawyers develop a deep appreciation for fine wine and bread.

1995 — The Start of the Starter
John and Bronwynne’s son, Jack, is born and whilst at home they started a sourdough starter in their kitchen using a recipe from the Natural Tucker Bread Book. Two simple ingredients – flour and water – mixed in a bowl and left to ferment for three days. It is during this time their sourdough journey began. In 1998 their daughter Georgina is born and they continue teaching themselves how to bake bread at home with their now established sourdough starter culture that still endures today.

2000 — A New Millenium, a New Career
On New Year’s Day 1999, John and Bronwynne asked themselves: what if we moved to the county and turned our passion for sourdough bread into a business? By January 1, 2000 they had refurbished the stables at Irrewarra and started supplying hand-cut, hand-moulded, naturally fermented sourdough loaves to a small number of retailers along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

2001 — Establishing Irrewarra Vineyard
Inspired by their vintage in Burgundy, John and Bronwynne plant a 10-acre vineyard of chardonnay and pinot noir on their property, to produce fine, cool climate wines from unirrigated vines. In 2015, after many unexpected years of drought, the first bottles of Irrewarra wines were released, made by By Farr Winery.

2003-10 — Irrewarra Café
The award-winning Irrewarra Sourdough Café is established in Geelong, proving popular with locals and tourists alike. A signature development from the café is a popular granola, which is introduced into the core Irrewarra range. Anzac biscuits and Panforté followed suit.

2012 — Artisan Granola Prevails
Taken to court by cereal giant Sanitarium over the use of the word ‘granola’, John and Bronwynne successfully defend their case. The reputation of Irrewarra granola as Australia’s best artisan granola continues to grow.

2018 — The New Bakery
With production now having outgrown the stables bakery and Colac bakery, a large purpose-built bakery is established at Irrewarra, designed in the Australian woolshed vernacular. The 2000m² production facility enabled further expansion for the Irrewarra brand.

2021 — Doongara Rewilding
A 100-acre historic site property is purchased in nearby Cressy, situated along the Woady Yaloak River. A significant environmental regeneration effort begins: the Irrewarra-Doongara Rewilding Project, restoring the Red Gum lined river banks, billabongs and native grasslands, and eventual creation of a native bird sanctuary.

2022 — Thwaites Bakery, Colac
John and Bronwynne acquire the former Thwaites Bakery site in Colac’s main street, with a vision to expand their biscuit production and open a local retail bakery. A Colac institution, Thwaites Bakery had been baking bread for over 100 years.

2023 — Irrewarra Murray Street
The production of Irrewarra's biscuit line begins at Irrewarra Murray Street, previously Thwaites Bakery. The award-winning biscuits are also now housed in custom recyclable 'bag-in-box' packets.