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Milton Paradise Not Lost – Only Detoured

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There’s no doubt one of the joys of wine-tasting is sharing a good bottle bought at the vineyard cellar door. For owner-operators, the feeling is mutual. Direct sales to visitors at the cellar door cut out agents and distributors and help maximise company profits. Then there are other benefits, like opportunities for value-adding and the […]

There’s no doubt one of the joys of wine-tasting is sharing a good bottle bought at the vineyard cellar door.

For owner-operators, the feeling is mutual. Direct sales to visitors at the cellar door cut out agents and distributors and help maximise company profits.

Then there are other benefits, like opportunities for value-adding and the creation of a loyal customer base that will continue to support the business via repeat visits and online sales.

Milton Vineyard’s Michael Dunbabin. Image courtesy Mark Smith.

“It’s just not happening at the moment,” says Milton Vineyard‘s Michael Dunbabin.

“This part of the east coast has become a bit of a ghost town following the temporary closure of the Tasman Highway near Orford last month. We know it’s important for safety reasons but it’s staggering to think it’s going to take seven weeks to stabilise some rock formations at Paradise Gorge and carry out road repairs.

“That’s especially frustrating at this time of the year because the majority of our visitors come up from Hobart rather than south from Launceston and the northeast. The road closure has had quite an effect on our business. Not many people are prepared to travel via detours through the Wielangta or Lake Leake Roads.”

As someone who has had decades of farming experience on Tasmania’s east coast, Dunbabin says he is naturally predisposed to being adaptive and resilient in running a successful family business. The unexpected closure of Milton’s cellar door during a significant part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic certainly created some distress, but it didn’t take long for Dunbabin and his wife Kerry to regain their equilibrium.

“We were able to work pretty effectively at boosting our online wine sales,” he explains.

“People have really taken that on board. But it’s a bit difficult to do much more in this current situation. We can’t afford to hammer our wine club members for any further sales. They’ve been really good to us in the past as it is.”

To add insult to injury, Dunbabin says Milton’s cellar door operation does not qualify for the state government assistance package that has been made available to small businesses affected by the recent road closure.

“Grants are only available to businesses located south of the Lake Leake Road,” Dunbabin says.

“We’re about three kilometres north of the highway intersection.”

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Periodic trips to town for farm or vineyard-related goods or services have also been made more arduous, Dunbabin admits. But he’s prepared to take that in his stride.

“For really critical stuff, we’d normally have to look at going to Launceston or Hobart for help,” he says.

“They’re either one-and-a-half or two hours away under normal circumstances, so you’ve always got to work with that in mind anyway. Probably a lot of the rest of regional Australia would love to be one-and-a-half hours away from a major city or regional centre.”

Out on the 1800ha historic property and 24ha vineyard, Dunbabin says he has already been able to implement a range of alternative management strategies to facilitate smooth running of key operations.

“We started pruning about three weeks earlier than normal this year, just to make sure we’ve got the job done by the time spring arrives,” he adds.

“It’s not ideal but it’s working well. There are fewer backpackers about this year, so we’ve been relying mostly on locals. We’re about two-thirds of the way through our pruning.

“There’s always a risk of frost damage to new shoots and buds when you prune early. Fortunately, our vineyard is set up with frost protection, so in theory we should be OK.”

Pruning underway at Milton. Image supplied.

Once Milton’s 100,000-plus vines are pruned and tied down for another new season to begin, Dunbabin will turn his attentions to adding 2ha of new plantings before year’s end.

“We’re going to add some more Chardonnay,” he says.

“Last year, we planted a couple more hectares of Pinot Noir. Our wine sales have been really strong in recent years. Milton Pinot Noir and Shiraz wines have been going really well and we made more sparkling wine than usual this past vintage.

“We really needed it. We’ve been churning through a fair bit of it lately, especially our Laura Sparkling Rosé.”

Dunbabin should expect a little more churn in weeks to come. Returning cellar door guests will have something to celebrate when the Tasman Highway re-opens in mid-July. It may not be paradise, but this is one of the best vineyard cellar doors on Tasmania’s east coast.


Real Review

It’s been five years since leading wine critics Huon Hooke and Bob Campbell MW joined forces with Sydney-based wine technology company Corkscore to establish The Real Review, Australasia’s largest digital wine platform.

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Since its launch in late 2016, The Real Review has built up a large consumer following. It receives more than one million users per year, making it the wine media organisation with the greatest reach in Australia and New Zealand. By comparison, the James Halliday-derived Wine Companion website receives 600,000 unique visits per annum.

Next month sees The Real Review hold new consumer tasting events in Melbourne and Sydney to showcase wines from 30 of its Top Wineries of Australia 2021.

Melbourne tasting venue. Image supplied.

Melbourne’s Longrain and Longsong will host that city’s events on July 10, while Sydney’s heritage-listed Campbell’s Stores and Harbourfront Seafood Restaurant will host its events on July 17.

Each day will comprise three tasting sessions, a masterclass and a lunch presented by principal wine writer Huon Hooke, featuring more than 30 Top Wineries of Australia.

Hooke announced The Real Review Top Wineries of Australia 2021 back on June 4.

Tasmania’s Pooley Wines is ranked Number 9 on that list of industry luminaries. Victorian producer Yarra Yering has pride of place at Number 1.

Fellow Coal River Valley wine producer Tolpuddle Vineyard is the only other Tasmanian inclusion on The Real Review’s select list. It was named thirteenth in order of merit.

Pooley Wines was named Number 13 on the 2020 list, while Tolpuddle Vineyard was ranked 44th.

Melbourne and Sydney event ticketing includes a number of bonus offers.

Better be quick. Numbers are limited to 100 guests per session for the winery tasting, 60 for the lunch and up to 30 for the masterclass in each city.

Hobart’s Mark Smith wrote his first weekly wine column back in 1994. Now more than 1700 features and 25 years later, he continues to chart the successes of Tasmania’s small scale, cool climate wine industry with regular contributions to some of Australia’s leading industry publications.

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Mark gives you his honest opinions about the best wines available right now from Tasmania’s wine makers.


2018 Milton Laura Tasmania $40

Bottle-fermented sparkling Rosé is the flavour of the month across Australia at the moment, and Milton Vineyard between Swansea and Cranbrook certainly has one of the most popular versions on the East Coast. Now three years of age, this 2018 wine is surprising fresh and youthful, presenting engaging pale salmon pink hues on pouring. It’s driven by its predominantly Pinot Noir makeup, so there’s some very attractive – albeit subtle – red berry and strawberry character on the palate. Importantly, the wine is refreshingly dry in aperitif fashion. Not especially complex but nicely made by contract winemakers Derwent Estate.

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2020 Pooley Pinot Grigio $36

When Pooley Wines was first established in the late 1980s, Riesling was the sole occupant of the company’s white wine portfolio. Today, there’s Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, not to mention Matilda sparkling wine. Grigio may have been late to the party, but it’s a real crowd-pleaser nonetheless. The 2020 is a lovely dry white with lively acidity and good flavour. Fresh and juicy in the mouth, the variety’s pear and baked apple characters are underpinned by a hint of kitchen spice some subtle stone fruit character. Match it to a good spicy vegetarian pizza or pasta dish.

2019 Handpicked Collection Chardonnay Tasmania $50

When Sydney’s DMG Fine Wine purchased two vineyards in the Tamar Valley three years ago, few neighbours could have predicted the company would have organic ambitions. It may surprise some to see the premium producer now well on its way to having them realised. That bodes well for the valley. Handpicked’s inaugural release from the excellent 2019 vintage will win DMG many new fans. It’s an elegant, well-balanced Chardonnay that plays to Tasmania’s strengths. Citrus, green apple and white nectarine notes are supported by fine natural acidity and subtle oak. Nice wine. Gold medal, Hobart 2020.


2019 Puddleduck Lucky Duck Pinot Noir $38

No cellar door journey around Tasmania would be complete without a visit to Jackie and Darren Brown’s wonderful Puddleduck Vineyard in the Coal River Valley. Located on the road between Cambridge and Richmond, the dry, sunny site is well-suited to producing flavoursome, fruit-driven Pinot Noir. Lucky Duck is an early drinker and this 2019 is a ripper. Twelve clonal selections contribute to its intense, beautifully fragrant fruit, while cherry, plum and spice characters stand front and centre in the wine. The tannins are fine; the acidity user-friendly. Everything here is simply ducky. Delicious.



Source: Tasmanian Times

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