Making a fresh start with a new business initiative poses all manner of risks.
But when Ricky Evans and Chanel Parratt chose late April last year for the launch of their new Havilah wine bar, the Launceston couple didn't figure that a state-wide lockdown and fears of a global pandemic would soon pose the biggest challenges of all.
"We had to wait until the beginning of July before we could finally open the doors," Evans says of the thriving city venture, now occupying the site of the old Fresh café in upper Charles Street.
"After a shaky start, things are going really well now. As newcomers in the business, we don't really know what things were like before COVID-19 came along. We're just glad to have established a steady base that we can work from. There's certainly been a lot of underlying stress over the past six or eight months."
Working under pressure is something that comes naturally to the Tamar Valley winemaker. As the owner and operator of Two Tonne Tasmania, Evans has spent his entire career responding to challenges imposed by changing seasons and the careful scheduling of essential winery processes.
As a former journalist and copywriter, Brisbane-born Parratt is similarly accustomed to giving her best under pressure.
She made Tasmania her home in mid-2018. That's when the Sydney-based marketer left her job at eBay to participate in the creative development of Tourism Tasmania's highly successful Come Down For Air campaign.
Like many new arrivals to the state, Parratt is continually awestruck by the unique qualities of Tasmania's food, wine and laid-back lifestyle.
"Ricky and I are really passionate about Tasmania," she says.
"Havilah is not just about showcasing the great wine and food we produce here in the state. It's about putting that into context with other parts of Australia and with the rest of the world. Havilah stocks close to 100 Tasmanian, mainland and overseas wines.
"Part of Sunday's trading is given over to cellar door tastings of Ricky's Havilah and Two Tonne Tasmania wines. They're featured against a backdrop of quality-driven, seasonal local produce and foods with an international flavour."
Evans says his overseas experiences as a winemaker in Europe and North America have only served to heighten his appreciation of Tasmania's pristine natural environment and its capacity to produce world-class wines. Equally important, he believes its various fished and farmed produce is of similar stature, hence the small but carefully curated menus the couple design together with Havilah chef David Cox.
"I've spent a lot of time working away from home, but I'm always excited about coming back," Evans explains.
"The best wines I see coming out of Tasmania have a genuine purity running through them. That's first and foremost what I'm trying to create in the wines I make here myself. Freshness and vibrancy are their cornerstones.
"I also want people to understand they're special characters that help make our wines unique. We're genuinely cool climate here in Tasmania. We're affected in so many ways by the ocean and by our close proximity to it. You see it in our wines. The vines we grow here aren't stressed out by their environment or by the weather. They're just doing their thing quite naturally, just cruising along, a bit like Tasmania itself really."
Eminently aware that the word 'unique' is in danger of becoming hackneyed through continual misuse, Evans says it's the striking but subtle differences he finds between various winegrowing districts and individual vineyards that underpin his small-scale Two Tonne Tasmania project.
"I put a lot of time and effort into sourcing small, discrete parcels of fruit from which I can make more complete and complex wines," he says.
In creating Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir wines for his highly successful flagship brand, Evans not only sources fruit from the 4ha East Tamar site he owns and operates at Swan Bay, he casts his net more widely to include vineyards located at Relbia and Waverley, as well as from the West Tamar, the East Coast and parts of southern Tasmania.
"Tasmania's vineyards are incredibly diverse," Evans notes.
"Part of my role as a winemaker is to communicate that. I like to spend a lot of time in vineyards picking out the bits that are going to shine in particular ways. The idea is to blend these components together to make something more complex and interesting; something capable of evolving into really nice wines over time."
Time when a global pandemic is finally consigned to our history books.
PICK OF THE CROP
2019 Craigow White Blend $35
Craigow in the Coal River Valley was first planted by the Edwards family back in 1987. Significant vine age and the site's bright, sunny aspect contribute considerable generosity to the vineyard's wines.
This release sees Riesling and Gewrztraminer becoming odd bedfellows with Chardonnay grown on the Cambridge property.
Odd but the wine is certainly rich in aroma and flavour. Spicy floral notes drive the nose, while the palate offers potent lychee, lime and ginger marmalade characters in abundance.
This may be Tassie's answer to the Gentil wine style made popular in Alsace. It's not subtle but it's satisfying nevertheless.
2019 Dog & Wolf Chardonnay $50
Skilfully crafted by Two Tonne Tasmania's Ricky Evans, this is a wonderfully chic and elegant Tamar Valley Chardonnay, sourced from vineyards near Hillwood and at Waverley, east of Launceston.
The two sites contribute complementary characters. Low-yielding Waverley fruit provides significant cut and thrust to the wine.
Chardonnay from the mature Three Wishes Vineyard makes up 80 percent of the blend.
Careful oak maturation in a variety of formats has shaped the wine beautifully, while extended time on yeast lees add texture and weight to the nuanced flavours of citrus, white nectarine and oatmeal that build in the glass over time. Lovely.
2019 Merriworth Traditions Pinot Noir $46
Located at Tea Tree in the Coal River Valley, Merriworth takes its name from the 3ha vineyard's street address.
Planted in 2000 by Hobart architect John Skinner, it was formerly known as Third Child.
Merriworth's neat portfolio of Estate wines are made under contract by Pooley Wines, while co-owner Mark McNamara takes the vineyard's limited release Traditions wines under his own wings. And boy don't they fly...
This is an excellent young Pinot, displaying vibrant red cherry fruit with nary a hint of eucalypt that can occasionally compromise the expression of clear varietal characters in the valley. A stylish keeper.
- 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