By Mark Smith: tasmaniantimes.com/2020/02/all-aboard-for-wine-weekends
Tasmania’s cool climate wine industry may be small but one of its strengths is that many of its key players have a high degree of public accessibility.
Drop by all but the largest of the State’s vineyard cellar doors and the chances are the hands that offer your tasting sample also grew the grapes and made the wine as well. Spend time with a grower or a maker and you will discover more about wine than you could ever learn from an online video or consumer wine publication.
And with a number of public events taking place in the State during the next month, there’s no time like the present to embark on a journey of Tasmanian wine enlightenment.
On February 29 and March 1, vineyards in southern and eastern Tasmania will hold their annual Open Vineyards Weekend. First held two decades ago, this event sees producers in a variety of locations pouring special wines for cellar door visitors. Foremost among them will be vineyards in the Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, Huon Valley/D’Entrecasteaux Channel and along Tasmania’s East Coast.
For little-known producers like Quiet Mutiny’s Greer Carland, the Open Vineyards Weekend is an important, one-off event. Many taking part are sole operators, or are small-scale, family-owned businesses. Similarly, many do not have the wherewithal to build and run a financially viable vineyard cellar door alongside equally challenging winegrowing, winemaking and wine marketing activities. They’re also likely to have very limited wine production, ruling them out of conventional cellar door sales conducted over 52 weeks of the year.
“The weekend will be a fantastic opportunity to get out and about and discover the first-class wines we produce here in Tasmania,” Carland explains.
A former contract winemaker who began making wines in her own business only four years ago, Carland was named among Australia’s top Young Guns of Wine in 2019. She says pruning vines and driving a tractor were all part of growing up at Laurel Bank. The 3.5ha Derwent Valley vineyard was established in 1986 by her parents Laurel and Kerry Carland. Next weekend will see the University of Adelaide oenology graduate pouring Quiet Mutiny wines alongside her father at the family’s picturesque property overlooking Granton, 20km north of Hobart.
“There are quite a few producers like Mum and Dad who are only opening their doors for this one event this year,” Carland continues.
“Many will offer back vintages and limited release wines that you just don’t normally get to try and buy. Others will be providing food and music, or offering special guided tours of their vineyards.”
While there’s no doubting Laurel Bank and Quiet Mutiny have largely travelled under the radar since inception, both have enviable track records for wine quality. When Kerry Carland entered the Royal Hobart Wine Show for the first time back in 1995, his nine-year-old vineyard operation came away with the Trophy for Most Successful Tasmanian Exhibitor. Almost a quarter of a century later, the industry veteran was still winning gold at the 2019 Tasmanian Wine Show, thanks to the skill and creative talents of his daughter Greer.
Kerry Carland says Greer took over the family winemaking reins in 2016 after leaving her position of senior winemaker at Winemaking Tasmania, now Tasmanian Vintners. Laurel Bank enjoyed almost immediate show success, winning two gold medals with that year’s Riesling wine.
Quiet Mutiny, meanwhile, hit the ground running. Its first wines sold out in three months. In 2019, Quiet Mutiny’s 2018 Venus Rising Pinot Noir swept all before it in the National Cool Climate Wine Show, winning gold and the event’s Champion Pinot Noir Trophy. Only last month, the same wine struck gold again, at the 2020 Tasmanian Wine Show.
The self-described ‘mutineer winemaker’ says Quiet Mutiny was inspired by Australia’s first female pirate, Charlotte Badger. Badger was a convicted housebreaker who led an audacious and successful convict mutiny in northern Tasmania in 1806. After setting sail for new horizons aboard the Venus, she later became one of the first European women to settle in New Zealand.
“Going my own way after 20 years of paid winemaking employment is a bold and rebellious response to sensible decision-making, but I’m willing to give it a go,” Carland muses.
Fortune favours the brave, and you’ll find plenty more plucky operators on the Open Vineyards Weekend. For details, including location, opening hours and special attractions offered by each participating wine producer, see openvineyards.wine or facebook.com/openvineyards.