It's a neat allotment on the edge of the Hobart CBD, like many others you might find along the city's western shore.
The gardeners here go quietly about their business, tending manicured lawns dotted with specimen trees in an idyllic workspace, largely hidden from view.
But, barely 100 metres from the Tasman Highway and its drab tarmac lies Australia's only vineyard with vice-regal roots.
Welcome to Government House Tasmania.
"This is a beautiful spot for a vineyard," manager of the estate gardens Tara Edmondson says.
"It's a really nice little sun catchment. Although it's quite close to the river, the hedges and large trees around its perimeter offer some wind protection. We're already getting good yields from our vines. As they mature, fruit quality gets better and better every year."
Edmondson speaks from experience. She's worked on the historic site since 2004. For the past seven years, the busy horticulturist has witnessed a raft of changes taking place on the 15ha property.
Today, 0.5ha of netted vines occupy land that was once the domain of golfing governors.
"Many previous governors have left something behind on the estate as part of their legacy," Edmondson explains.
"Our rose garden is much admired by visitors to Government House. It was established to mark the tenure of Sir Stanley Burbury. A driving range and putting green were popular with former governors Sir Phillip Bennett and William Cox. But they were never used during Peter Underwood's time here. It was his decision to develop the vineyard."
Sadly, the former Chief Justice died while in vice-regal office in July 2014. When present Governor of Tasmania Kate Warner was sworn in five months later, the passionate gardener set about bringing Underwood's plans to fruition.
Her Excellency needed little encouragement to work her bit of vine magic. Formerly President of the Alcorso Foundation, she enjoys a long personal association with the family of Tasmanian wine pioneer, the late Claudio Alcorso.
Following extensive site preparations, the first grape vines were planted in late August 2015. Former head gardener Steve Percival made the call regarding which varieties should be included.
Nowadays, staff member Michael Hetherington manages the vineyard, along with periodic help from his six fellow gardeners.
"We have slightly more Riesling than anything else," Edmondson says.
"Next comes Cabernet Sauvignon, with a small amount of Merlot being grown closest to the river. Merlot isn't all that common in southern Tasmania, so it's experimental to some extent. But it's doing really well. We produced a nice Cabernet Merlot from our first harvest in 2018."
The heavy loam characteristic of the site is chock-a-block full of small and medium-sized ironstone rocks, creating challenges for workers unlucky enough to be posthole-digging. The soil, meanwhile, drains readily and is quick to respond to the warmth of spring and summer sunshine.
Average annual rainfall, according to 180-year-old records kept next door by the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, is a modest 573mm.
Commuters travelling to the city via the Tasman Bridge may catch glimpses of the vines under nets, from early February until the last bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon are handpicked by staff during April or May.
The resulting Government House Tasmania wines are made by leading contract winemakers, Tasmanian Vintners, at their Cambridge winery.
"Some people might think it's a bit of a luxury having a vineyard," Edmondson adds.
"It's really about the back story of promoting Tasmania and Tasmanian produce. We've produced foodstuff here as far back as the 1850s when this present Government House was built. The wines are used at official functions.
"Guests in the ballroom can look out over the estate, see the vineyard and then try the wines. It's a great conversation starter, allowing us to talk about the Tasmanian wine industry more generally. We do much the same with the food prepared by executive chef, Ainstie Wagner."
"Around 630 events were held in the year before the global pandemic hit, over 200 of them inside the house," manager of public access, Malcolm McWilliams notes.
"Our production spaces are all visited regularly by school students and members of the public. So there's also an educational purpose attached to the vineyard and gardens. And it's more than just paddock to plate experiences.
"We're a showcase of Tasmanian lifestyle, of what's possible for people to be able to do in their own daily lives."
Visit www.govhouse.tas.gov.au to book all tours of the house and grounds.
PICK OF THE CROP
2018 Government House Tasmania Riesling $N/A
This remarkably pale and youthful Riesling bears the hallmarks of perfectly ripened fruit from the excellent growing season of 2017-2018.
Below average rainfall and daytime temperatures well above normal promoted superb intensity of aroma and flavour prior to harvest.
Three years on, the wine is wonderfully vibrant and refreshing, with juicy lemon/citrus characters and crisp natural acidity that is likely to ensure a long cellar life.
This is a fine example of Tasmanian Riesling, eminently suited to seafood canapes and fresh oysters.
2019 Ghost Rock Estate Chardonnay $34
The cool maritime climate of Northdown, outside Devonport, is well suited to producing premium Chardonnay for both sparkling and table wines. The 2019 harvest provided winemaker Justin Arnold with his fifth vintage on the 31ha vineyard and this smart barrel-fermented white reveals great understanding of site and season. It's a refined, very elegant expression of the variety.
French oak maturation has been neatly tailored to its white nectarine and melon fruit. Extended time on lees has imparted a lovely smooth texture to the wine. Fine Tasmanian acidity is well balanced and user-friendly. Great price a bonus.
2017 Cape Bernier Pinot Noir $45
Cape Bernier was named Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year in 2010. A decade later, the picturesque Bream Creek property continues to produce the goods in the hands of current owners Andrew and Jenny Sinclair.
Recently sold out at the vineyard, this impressive medium-bodied Pinot Noir can still be found lurking in many a restaurant cellar. It demands close attention.
The wine's generous black cherry and plum fruit is intensely concentrated, making it a worthy partner for rare beef and venison dishes.
Top notch French oak and fine ripe tannins drive a long and very satisfying finish. Dressed to impress.
- Examiner columnist Mark Smith wrote his first weekly Tasmanian wine column 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