Time to taste the rewards of six years of toil

THE Tamar Valley’s newest wine label, Eversley Vines, will soon release its first vintage and owners Matthew and Shelley Grant will happily toast to that. It’s been a six-year journey, which began after the couple returned from a year-long road trip around Australia with their three young boys.

They had not long purchased a 9ha property on a ridge at Legana – its stunning views of the Tamar River and the valley beyond easily reeling them in to a lifestyle that meant more room to raise their family while providing some calm and counter-balance to their stressful jobs.

Matt is a career firefighter with the Tasmania Fire Service and Shelley a Clinical Nurse Consultant at the Launceston General Hospital. Somehow, while working full-time shift work and juggling their growing family, they built a small dwelling and shed and decided that the north-facing land would lend itself beautifully to a vineyard. “At that time the shed was wrapped in sisalation with no cladding, we were on generator power and sleeping in our camper trailer inside the garage with just basic amenities,” Matt recalled. “We decided that if we were going to dive right in, we needed to do it properly so as well as drawing on the knowledge of family, we returned to formal education which filled some of the gaps.”

Eversley Vines vineyard was finally established in October 2018, with 4000 certified pinot noir and chardonnay grapevine cuttings planted on 1.5ha hectares family home. Other than an expert for soil testing, a contractor anchoring the strainer assemblies and Shelley’s brother-in-law surveying the land, the family did it all themselves and since then have worked as a team to maintain, prune and pick the grapes (plus some extra help from enthusiastic friends and family at picking time). “Our aim has always been to create a vineyard using sustainable practices,” Matt said. “Organic-based fertilisers, cover cropping in the rows, solar power, hand-picking and pruning and the use of sheep for weed control and fertilisation – and we could not be any prouder of the quality of fruit being produced.”

The Grant’s first harvest in 2021 produced a sparkling rosé, which will remain on lees for a further 12 months. Their 2022 vintage includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a soon-to-be-released Rosé with a beautifully designed label continuing the legacy of the Eversley name, best known in recent years for its association with cherries. “The family have been in the orcharding business since the early 1900s, growing apples, pears and cherries in Tasmania’s south,” Shelley explained.

“Sadly ‘Eversley House’, all the family’s possessions and some of the orchard were destroyed in the Black Tuesday bushfires that ravaged the Channel in 1967. “Unable to recover, my grandparents moved north to Kayena where they established a new cherry orchard branding it Eversley Cherries. “Eversley Cherries was carried forward by my Uncle Peter, best known for Eversley Cherries, Legana, until his retirement from the industry in 2016.”

Now the family fruit-growing tradition continues for a fourth generation, another door opening in viticulture just as the cherry farm gate has closed. “The way we have done things might be a bit slower because we’ve done it as we can afford it, rather than looking for a quick process of planting more mature vines or buying in grapes to get an income straight away,” Matt said. “But to us it was important to achieve this in our own time, fitting in the farm work around our careers and family life.

“When it was time to harvest this year we all fell ill with Covid and had to rely on the help of others, and manage some tricky isolation protocols, to get the job done and we couldn’t be more grateful for how everyone worked together to make sure our grapes made it to the winemaker.”

With the Eversley Vines social media sites about to go live and the bottles of Rosé soon to be labelled, the Grants are pinching themselves that they are fulfilling their dream – including finally moving into a “proper” house that has been built beside their former dwelling, earmarked for vineyard stay accommodation prior to its future transformation into a cellar door.

“I think the notion of having a vineyard is quite romantic, but in reality it is a lot of work,” Shelley admitted. “For us, that labour is a release from working on the front line and dealing with people at their worst. It’s a real escape and a chance to reset each week – we need that. “Here in the vineyard our kids, our visitors and helpers are happy and healthy and we get to create an amazing day for them.

On harvest days we love the chatter and laughter among the vines. “We also love that we have produced a quality wine and we can’t wait to see what people think of it!”