Bridestowe Ridge Vineyard might be small but it's a winner

In between picking their second harvest and releasing their first in spring, Bridestowe Ridge Vineyard has been named Tasmania’s best small vineyard.

The two hectare vineyard at Lilydale North won the award in the Roberts Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year competition, which is run by the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania.

Owners Harry Rigney and Susan Denny bought the property nine years ago with a view to establishing a vineyard and have spent the time in between studying viticulture at TasTAFE, planting out 6000 pinot noir and chardonnay vines and increasing sustainability at the property.

The couple took part in a Wine Tasmania sustainability program that looked as all aspects of running a vineyard, including managing visitors, disease prevention, pests, tractor compaction and vine health, but also included entry into the Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year awards, Mr Rigney said.

“We found we could get personal feedback to improve our sustainability by entering the awards,” Mr Rigney said.

“The reason [we entered] was to get the feedback, but [winning] wasn’t in the plan. You can’t buy that feedback,” he said.

Industry support has been integral to the young vineyard’s success.

“I can’t express how much valuable assistance we’ve had from industry,” Mr Rigney said.

The vineyard’s name references the original lavender farm that Ms Denny’s grandparents established nearby in the 1920s, from which her parents, Tim and Joan Denny, established the Nabowla lavender fields 40 years later.

“Bridestowe Ridge Vineyard overlooks the site where Susan’s grandparents established the original lavender estate,” Mr Rigney said.

“The property had been a dairy for 80 years. Susan grew up 400m away and she remembers coming here and getting milk,” he said.

The judging panel comprised industry representative Fred Peacock, Paul Smart from Wine Tasmania, Frank Walker for the RAST and 2016 Vineyard of the Year, Alex Van Driel of Tea Tree Clover Hill Vineyard.

Judges noted the vineyard was operated within three lots to optimise effective irrigation on the site’s steep slope.

“Pasture silage has been used very effectively as an under vine mulch on the sloping site and has further aided weed control. This unique approach is significantly enhancing soil health and sets Bridestowe Ridge apart from contemporary boutique vineyards,” the judges said.

Judges were also impressed with the Bridestowe Ridge Vineyard business plan setting out long-term goals and the strategies by which they will be achieved.