When you meet Jonny Hughes and discover he's worked in some of the world's most celebrated wine regions, you'd expect him to be involved in a cutting-edge wine business somewhere on the planet.
But a business in a region of Australia that produces barely one per cent of the country's wine grapes? That might seem a pretty modest outcome for a bloke who would probably be making wine in Barolo right now had it not been for strict laws governing Italian work and residency.
Of course, it's not how big you are in the wine world that counts. It's how good you are. And Tasmania is good - really good - when it comes to producing classic, cool climate wines.
That's not just a compelling argument, Hughes reckons. It's true. Jonny and his brother Matt have been producing award-winning wines in southern Tasmania since 2016. The pair began their joint family venture with the planting of Mewstone Vineyard back in 2011.
Today, the picturesque site overlooking the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island comprises 3.6ha of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah (aka Shiraz).
Mewstone hit the ground running. In 2018, Jonny Hughes was named Best New Act in the Young Gun of Wine Awards. The annual nationwide competition acknowledges the skills and creativity of the country's leading young winemakers.
Months later, highly respected author and critic James Halliday AO announced Mewstone as Australia's Best New Winery in his top-selling Halliday Wine Companion. In 2019, Hughes became Gourmet Traveller WINE's Young Winemaker of the Year.
Two years on, the former Ulverstone schoolboy is about to celebrate another significant achievement - the opening of Mewstone's new cellar door at Flowerpot, south of Hobart. That takes place on Friday October 29, amid the inaugural Spring in the Vines Festival being conducted by Wine South Tasmania.
The festival runs from Tuesday October 26 until Sunday October 31.
Wine South is a collective marketing group representing wine producers from the Huon Valley/Channel/Bruny Island, Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, Tasman Peninsula and Southern Midlands.
This year's festival will be more than just another vineyard open weekend, says Wine South president Keira O'Brien.
"Our website lists a diverse mix of 35 industry participants, some of whom are negociant producers that don't have a vineyard, winery or cellar door of their own," she explains.
"They'll be partnering a range of licensed venues. In addition to our cornerstone open vineyard weekend, there will be various other wine-related experiences. These will include bar takeovers, gourmet dinners and special producer-initiated activities such as vineyard feasts, barrel tastings, vineyard walks, and live music performances."
A ticketed launch event ($85) will take place on Thursday October 28 (5pm-7pm) at The Lounge by Frogmore Creek. That's in the Hobart CBD.
Wines and canapes showcasing the extraordinary quality of southern Tasmanian produce will offer an exclusive preview of what's on offer during Spring in the Vines.
For wine producers in the Huon Valley and D'Entrecasteaux Channel, the festival will provide a welcome tonic. Many are still dealing with the after-effects of the prolonged bushfire activity south of Hobart during the summer of 2018-2019. Vineyards there lost their entire 2019 vintage due to smoke-tainted wine grapes.
"We're looking forward to welcoming visitors to Mewstone's new cellar door," says Matt Hughes.
"It's been a long time coming. The finished product reflects a real team effort."
Indeed it does, adds Lucy Harris, creative director of 2H Pty Ltd.
Harris and her husband Ross were responsible for bringing to fruition plans created by the Hobart firms of Preston Lane Architects and JSA Consulting Engineers. The couple set exacting standards for the project.
"The interior design concept is based upon notions of sophisticated minimalism," she says.
"We wanted clean lines, fine detailing and a limited palette of construction materials. The idea is to keep the interior stylish but minimalist, so that visitors can focus on the wine and those incredible views of the vineyard with the Channel beyond."
The facility's service area and six-metre tasting bar are a joy to behold, thanks to the superb craftsmanship of Turnbull Joinery and the creative output of Matt Prince Design and Laura McCusker Furniture.
Let's hope those judging this year's Housing Industry Association awards all agree. Mewstone features among the nominees selected for best small commercial project and best commercial joinery. Winners will be announced on November 6.
In the meantime, there are wines to be poured and views to drink in. The fun starts October 29. Thereafter, the Mewstone tasting room will be open from Thursday to Sunday, 11am-4:30pm.
PICK OF THE CROP
2019 Kate Hill Riesling $33
Kate Hill is a dab hand at making top notch Riesling. Indeed, her first vintage in Tasmania - 2008 - won a gold medal and trophy at the 2009 Tasmanian Wine Show.
A small amount of oak in this 2019 represents a departure from those wines of a decade ago, enhancing palate texture and introducing a subtle butterscotch complexity to flavour.
But the overriding impression is that this is a wine showing lovely intensity and deliciousness that is typically Riesling - crisp and limey, with the merest smidgen of bottle age emerging.
Ideally, partner with trout caught in the nearby Huon River.
2020 Kinvarra Estate Chardonnay $N/A
Mention 'Chardonnay' and 'Derwent Valley' in the same sentence and it's not long before talk turns to the remarkable successes enjoyed by Stefano Lubiana, Derwent Estate and Meadowbank.
This part of southern Tasmania is a great place for Chardonnay and don't the Sillifant family know it too?
They grow a swag of Chardonnay for Accolade Wines on their Kinvarra Estate, near Plenty.
Meanwhile, winemaker Jonny Hughes has fashioned a delightful, barrel-fermented drop for local consumption.
It's a real smoothie - lightly oaked, showing white nectarine/citrus flavour, good acidity and some attractive leesy notes.
Due for release. Check it out.
2020 Mania Tamar Valley Pinot Noir $35
After discovering the joys of Tamar Valley Pinot Noir two decades ago as winemaker at Rosevears Estate, Jim Chatto really shows his familiarity with the region with this latest release under the Mania label.
It's quite different in style from that produced from Chatto's own Huon Valley site and vive la differénce. Not long in bottle, it's a very accessible wine already.
Juicy red cherry aromas practically leap from the glass.
Fruit richness and elegance then emerge in the same mouthful, thanks to astute fruit selection and sympathetic winemaking.
Queue up Pinot fans, your mania will be sated here.
- 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