From the tasting team

Bellebonne and Evenfall Wines team up on cellar door and restaurant

By Dave Brookes

23 Apr, 2024

Tasting Team member Dave Brookes visits the newest (and coolest) cellar door collaboration in Tassie. There's now a central location to taste Bellebonne sparkling and Evenfall wines – Dave speaks to Evenfall's Richard Winspear and Ben Gourlay, along with Bellebonne's Natalie Fryar. 

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The River Tamar cuts a thick-shouldered, serpentine route as it makes its way from Low Head down to Launceston, before it splits into the North and South Esk Rivers around the consistently excellent Stillwater restaurant and Cataract Gorge.

I’ve driven that riverside route many times, both east and west banks of the Tamar, but it’s not often that I’ll notice these shifts in the river's path. Such is the human condition, you know, eyes on the road, podcast on, pouring information into my noggin without actually taking in what is going on around me.

But I find myself standing at the top of the Evenfall vineyard with Bellebonne winemaker Natalie Fryar, peering down at the sweeping bend of the River Tamar as it tilts towards Dilston and wondering why I haven’t noticed it before.

It’s a beautifully situated vineyard site this. Vines lean towards the river on a number of different aspects catching the sun. It’s also the site of the recently opened Bellebonne at Evenfall cellar door and restaurant (that should make it on everyone's northern Tasmania bucket-list).

Evenfall & Bellebonne cellar door and restaurantThe Bellebonne at Evenfall cellar door and restaurant in Legana.

The site was originally planted in the mid-70s as Elmslie Wines and is now in the hands of Richard Winspear, owner of ‘Berried in Tas’ and business partner Ben Gourlay.

“I suppose the vineyard found us,” says Richard. “There was never a conscious decision that we wanted to invest in a vineyard or get into the wine business. I stumbled across the property online a couple of years after returning from Hong Kong to run our berry business.

“Walking around the estate I was taken back by its beauty and amazing views – it had a peacefulness to it. Given its historical significance, being one of the oldest vineyards in Tasmania, I was surprised it was on the market.

“I called one of my oldest friends and business partners, Ben Gourlay; he flew down and a few months later we owned a vineyard and were picking grapes in March of 2022, which would become our first vintage.”

Gun winemaker Liam McElhinney came onboard to steer the wines to bottle with the inaugural releases impressing with their transparency and pure, fine lines.

Natalie FryarBellebonne's Natalie Fryar.

“Liam and I got on well from the outset. He taught me a lot about where Tasmanian cool-climate wine was at the time and where he thought it was heading. Secondly, and very fortuitously, I met Natalie Fryar of Bellebonne. Nat was looking for a home for Bellebonne and we had a reasonably large winery on site.

“We couldn’t believe our luck. We owned this beautiful vineyard with some of the oldest plantings in the state and had an opportunity to work with two of Australia’s best winemakers. Natalie put me in touch with Paul Henry to help produce a name and brand concept. Paul’s creativity is only matched by his extensive knowledge of all things wine and to this day remains a crucial member of the team.

“Many months later the Evenfall brand was born. And in December of 2023 we opened the gates to the estate for people to enjoy the newly renovated restaurant, cellar door and our inaugural 2022 vintages.”

Paul Henry adds: “I like Richard’s account of how the site kind of chose us, rather than the other way around. Obviously, we were aware of the site’s history and provenance – being of significance to both the Tamar and Tasmania in terms of early plantings – but it really was a ‘time and a place’ thing.

“The heart of Evenfall goes beyond the potential to make great wines. It really rests on the co-located collaboration of Natalie Fryar and Bellebonne, as well as the winemaking chops and ambition of Liam. Having such experience and expertise at hand is beyond compare in terms of an advantage, particularly in terms of an informed and unshakeable belief in the ongoing potential of Tasmania’s fine wine contribution.”

Dave BrookesDave Brookes.

“I’m so happy and proud that not only has Bellebonne finally got its own permanent winery but also, in partnership with Evenfall, our own cellar door,” says Natalie. “When I look from the cellar door across the Tamar River I’m looking at the geography that shapes the vineyards that grow Bellebonne. I love that both Mount Direction and Mount Arthur are standing sentinel over those vineyards... and I look at them everyday.”

It’s a special site indeed. Next-door neighbour and wonderful producer in his own right, Matthias Utzinger, looks after the vineyard, and the Bellebonne at Evenfall cellar door and restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday. Chef Tom Kirby is serving up some amazing food from the finest Tasmanian produce.

Great food, two of Tasmania’s most exciting producers and a killer view? It’s a pretty easy decision.

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Image credit: Monika Kulon and Bellebonne.