Waterton Hall Wines is ticking all the boxes when it comes to the state’s growing demand for unique tourist destinations.
For the first time, the family-run Rowella vineyard is offering a pop-up cellar door experience, following the complete restoration of an onsite convict-built barn, that forms part of the historic 1850s estate.
Throughout January and for the first weekend of February, the cellar door will offer visitors the chance to sample and buy wine straight from the source of one of Tasmania’s most historic destinations.
Vineyard owner Susan Shannon said the idea was part of a long-term plan to build on the vineyard’s visitor profile.
“This is a completely new idea for Waterton Hall,” she said.
“We are just so excited to be able to offer this experience to visitors for the first time and to combine both the remarkable history of this site and also the incredible wine that is produced here.”
Waterton Hall Wines has been owned by Mrs Shannon and her husband David Shannon, in partnership with her brother John Carter and his wife Belinda Evans, since 2014.
The previous owners of one of Tasmania’s biggest cattle properties in Marrawah in the state’s North-West, Mrs Shannon said the family was looking for a “new challenge” when they sold the 2809-hectare farm to Cape Brim Beef in 2014.
“We have been in the agriculture business really our whole working lives,” she said.
“We were able to take that [Marrawah] property from where it was, to where it needed to be over 10 years.
“That had been a fantastic agriculture business for us and we wanted to find another interesting business with a real depth of challenge for us in Northern Tasmania, which we love.
“Waterton Hall Wines fit the bill for us.”
Owned by the Catholic Church between 1949 and 1996, the convict-built farmhouse was used as a girls’ school, a shelter for homeless boys, and later, a retreat.
Vines were first planted on the site in the early 1990s and in the past two years the vineyard has expanded to a commercial size of 10 hectares.
Producing shiraz, riesling and viognier through Winemaking Tasmania and most recently planting chardonnay and pinot noir, Mr Shannon said the family had been working hard on bringing the estate’s remarkable past to the forefront.
“We wanted to focus on something that had part of the Tasmanian history to it – that we could be part of and appreciate – but also something that was very much part of current agriculture and tourism in Tasmania,” he said.
“We wanted to move from being purely beef producers, to having more of an involvement in agriculture and tourism.”
“The vineyard at Waterton Hall was just a fabulous opportunity that we just happened to chance upon at the right time and it’s worked out fabulously for us.
“The last two years have been about developing and expanding the infrastructure and getting it to the state where we need it to be. Going forward that is our focus.
“Producing super premium wines and having a fabulous location as well.”
Tasmania has seen a 59 per cent rise in international visitors during the past three years, according to the most recent Tourism Research Australia survey.
The fastest growth in the country, this included 106,000 visitors to sites in Northern Tasmania alone.
Mr Shannon said the family had seen firsthand how quickly the state’s wine and tourism culture had grown – something they hoped to keep up with.
“Even in the two years we have been here, there has been quite a rapid transformation in the tourism that happens in the Tamar Valley,” he said.
“We’ve got to know all the other wineries that participate in the Tamar wine route, and they keep telling us all the time about how many more people are coming.
“One the things we decided when we bought the property was that we wanted to restore the significant convict-built buildings that are here.
“When we finished the restoration, we realised it was such a special space and we knew we had to make the most of it.”
Friday marked the vineyard’s first pop-up cellar door day.
Mrs Shannon said they hoped the extended summer weekends would provided a sense of how viable a more permanent cellar door would be moving forward.
Between their growing list of wine production as well as the important history of the site, she said Waterton offered visitors something “uniquely Tasmanian”.
“We are not in a position to offer a full-time cellar door yet, but we hope to be,” she said.
“There are some big ideas in Tasmania about premium food and wine and we think we can tick those boxes.
“The next one is the convict trail and we know that that’s something we have that people from all over want to come and see and learn more about.
“We want to tap into that and share our story and we see ourselves very much as part of the community.
“A community of people in our region who want to create excellent wine in an excellent place, from excellent produce.”
The pop-up cellar doors will be held at Waterton Hall Wines every weekend in January and the first weekend in February, from Friday to Monday, 11am to 4pm.