An afternoon spent amongst the vines at the Derwent Valley's Meadowbank, where winemaking has been passed through the generations. Here we meet the entire family starting first with Sue and Gerald, then onto the next generation: their children Mardi and Henry alongside their respective partners Alex and Prue, and then of course, little Cecilia and Harry.
Photography by Will Braden.
How would you describe the growing Ellis family?
"One of the beautiful things from our perspective is that while Gerald and Sue started at Meadowbank running the farm as a business, it has over the past four decades also become home to their children, and now even grandchildren! This focuses decision-making, as we are all effectively working as stewards to one day pass the baton on. Being close, valuing sustainability and happiness, and caring for the land and one another, also helps."
Name a few of the family’s most precious memories that have occurred on your property?
"While Meadowbank has its share of stories as a sheep grazing property and pioneering vineyard in Tasmania, the most precious memories invariably revolve around family."
"The arrival of new generations at Meadowbank have been obvious highlights, along with the watershed moments in the family business such as making our first Meadowbank wine in 1980 or landing the Above and Beyond Seaplane on the Lake for the first time just this year."
"It is fair to say bush picnics, long lunches, swimming in the river, and the odd party with friends feature heavily throughout too."
How do you find working together? What is everyone’s strengths and what do they bring to the table?
"For Gerald and Sue the exciting thing here is seeing their children come back to the farm bringing their own unique skills and experiences. Shared values and sense of direction helps everyone contribute in their own way too."
"From Henry and Mardi’s perspective (and younger sister Grace, working as a physio in Queensland), the chance to continue the legacy established by their parents is an exciting challenge too."
Wine is often used to celebrate, and bring people together. What makes for a good wine?
"Exactly that, the capacity to bring people together."
"There are many technical aspects to what makes a good wine - quality of fruit being first and foremost - but wine becomes truly great in a personal sense when it is part of a shared story. That first pop of sparkling to celebrate, the sheer amazement at how fresh an old bottle of Riesling can be when discovered long lost in the cellar, or the elegance of Pinot enjoyed with friends around a fire - these things are why wine gets in people's blood."
What is unique about Derwent Valley wine?
"The French have the beautiful catch-all phrase, ‘terroir’, that is eloquently used to describe all of the variables that contribute to why a wine is as it is. But this betrays Gerald’s unique understanding developed over the past 43 years growing wine here at Meadowbank. "
"If you were to really press him, he would say wine depends on climate first and foremost. Meadowbank sits in the Upper Derwent Valley, relatively inland for a Tasmanian vineyard, averaging warmer days and cooler nights than vineyards closer to the coast. This has typically resulted in the fruit having a beautiful balance between ripeness and acidity, and a characteristic we refer to as ethereal."
Tell us a little about the seaplane you purchased, and about that next venture?
"Above and Beyond Tasmanian Seaplanes is our latest venture, bringing together Henry’s skill and experience as a commercial pilot with our collective pride in Tasmania. We live in a truly stunning place, and enjoy sharing it."
"As for future ventures, that's a secret!"