When Jeremy Dineen moved north to take up his appointment as winemaker/manager of Josef Chromy's latest Tamar Valley wine venture, neither realised they were about to enter into a close working relationship that would grow and prosper for the next 15 years.
Chromy was 74 at the time, on the cusp of winding down his entrepreneurial exploits many presumed.
Meanwhile, in mid-2005, Dineen was a gun winemaker from the Coal River Valley, keen to make his mark in his first significant leadership role. Industry insiders like Frogmore Creek's Andrew Hood believed Dineen would work wonders with the fruit his new boss was producing from his 60ha Glenwood Vineyard at Relbia. The young bloke would probably stay a while, then move to another ambitious project.
But you don't corral self-confessed workaholics like Chromy and Dineen. You just step back and admire their shared capacity for getting a job done well.
The past fortnight brought an end to that mutually beneficial arrangement, one that spanned almost three-quarters of Dineen's working life. On December 22, he resigned from his position at Josef Chromy Wines.
"(I intend)... to focus more on my own winemaking and consulting and hopefully spend some more time with my family," he explained.
Vintage 2021 will see Dineen in a new winery workspace, currently being developed at Cambridge by winemaking peers James Broinowski and Peter Dredge.
Dineen's separation from the company is both amicable and timely.
You don't have to travel far beyond the suburbs to notice new vineyards and vineyard expansions are bursting into life all over Tasmania. The state's cool climate wine industry is rapidly developing national and international reputations for its superb grape and wine quality.
Talented professionals like Dineen are sorely needed to provide new players with sound advice and the kinds of modern, food-friendly products that consumers will want to embrace in their daily lives.
"There's a world of difference between growing grapes and growing a commercial wine business," Dineen says.
"The industry has come a long way since I worked my first vintage at Hood Wines 20 years ago. Back then, there weren't that many professional grape growers and winemakers here. It was almost a cottage industry. That situation has changed markedly. But there are still many Tasmanian wine companies that are under done in terms of their sales and distribution.
"I believe I'm well equipped to be able to provide wine producers with a link to what buyers are actually looking for in today's wine market.
"Steering the growth of Josef Chromy Wines following the purchase of the vineyard in 2004 has been an amazing experience. I will be eternally grateful to Joe for the opportunity and the trust he placed in me. I believe I am leaving the business in a very strong position, with some great wines, strong brands and some exciting plans for the next phase of its growth and development."
Dineen says an announcement will be made shortly regarding the appointment of a new general manager.
Nowadays part-owner of Haddow & Dineen, a wine company he founded in April 2018 with Bruny Island cheesemaker Nick Haddow, the departing general manager leaves behind a significant legacy. Australia's best known and most authoritative wine guide, the Halliday Wine Companion, ranks Josef Chromy Wines among the top 3.6 percent of the country's wineries, 'truly the best of the best,' according to the industry doyen.
The company attained its coveted '5 red stars' rating back in 2013.
More importantly for a start-up, Dineen made sure Josef Chromy Wines hit the ground running as the recipient of numerous wine show awards. Indeed, his first sparkling wine, from the challenging 2004 vintage, won the Trophy for Best Sparkling at the 2007 Rutherglen Wine Show and repeated the feat only months later at the Royal Hobart Wine Show.
Two years on, the company won the Trophy for Best Wine of Competition at the 2009 Sydney International Wine Competition with its 2007 Josef Chromy Botrytis Riesling. It was - and remains - the first sweet wine ever to win the coveted Sydney award.
Surprisingly, such accolades mean little to the self-effacing Dineen.
"I've never thought that much about them," he muses.
"As a winemaker, I reckon the best feedback is the kind you get when you hear someone has decided to buy another bottle of your wine. That's a real measure of quality - someone thinking your wine is so good they're willing to part with their own money in order to enjoy it."
- Mark Smith wrote his first weekly Tasmanian wine column back in 1994. He continues to chart the successes of the state's small scale, cool climate wine industry with contributions to some of Australia's leading industry publications.