Tessa Brown | Vignerons Schmolzer & Brown

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2 minutes with Tessa Brown
Occupation: Winemaker/ Viticulturist
Business: Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown
Lives: Beechworth
Age: 39

www.vsandb.com.au (coming soon)

Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown are new players in the Australian wine industry. Tell us about it.
My partner Jeremy and I had talked about planting a vineyard since 2007. We found land in 2012 and are still in the trenches of establishment, though we’re starting to pay bills a little less late now. Planting a vineyard is far more expensive than you think, even with twenty years of experience. We've planted two hectares at the highest altitude with Chardonnay, Riesling, Nebbiolo and Shiraz.

Why did you want to start your own wine business?
For many of the reasons other people do – artistic freedom, the possibility of doing better financially. At age 33, I was coming up against discrimination: the presumption that I’d have kids soon and move out of wine production into sales and marketing. I fought it for a while but it became untenable, and the land came up at the right time.

How do your wines fit within the greater wine community of Beechworth?
We're a bit different to most Beechworth wine businesses. To balance out the money we sank into planting, we started making wine with purchased fruit, including some from the King and Alpine Valleys. Most Beechworth vignerons are 100% Beechworth fruit. Also, our style is more modern than is typical in Beechworth. We use less new oak and have less time in barrel before bottling, but we do observe other local techniques, like basket pressing, wild yeast, allowing malo to go through in Chardonnay. We fit in but in our own way.

What does a complex issue such as sustainability in the wine industry mean to you:
In the vineyard?
I have this one worked out the most. Grapes in Australia are an introduced species that we plant in a monoculture, on land stolen from First Nations People. Keeping that in mind helps keep things real. We have eighteen hectares of land on our farm, and only a maximum of four that we're likely to plant vines on. When the business can afford it, we plan to integrate a mix of crops, trees and animals to make nutrient cycling effective and functional.

It's a shame life is so short, because I have about 100 years of work to do to get our farm, Thorley, humming as a system. I also hope to get to a point where we start to pay the rent socially. I don't know what shape that will take, but we'll get input from Aboriginal people that leads us in the right direction. Financial, environmental and social sustainability is a lot of balls to keep in the air but it's worth trying for.

In the winery?
Winery operations are a shadow dance to the vineyard's growing season and although the work happens indoors it can’t be separated from the vineyard. We're using fewer cleaning chemicals now, but that means using more water and more power to generate heat, though water is not an issue where we are, with a 1100mm annual rainfall. When we eventually build the winery it will almost certainly be off the grid. Grape marc goes into compost which goes back to the vineyard, so the main waste challenges are packaging. Cardboard can be shredded and composted, but plastic is trickier. I'm interested to see if any leadership emerges with respect to Australia's recycling, other than shipping waste off to a developing country and giving ourselves a pat on the back.

In the bottle?
This is a thornier question. I don't see a short or even medium term solution to taking carbon miles out of our wines. Of course, I do support eating locally-produced food, but I need people in other cities to want to drink our wine. The bottles come from either France or the UAE, so the embodied energy is higher than local bottles, which are sadly less attractive than the imports.

What are your top five tips for someone wanting to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle?

  • ·Don't have more than two kids
  • Vote for policies that move away from fossil fuels
  • Live in smaller spaces and make do with less
  • Research what you consume (but that's hard to do this when you're working two jobs to keep the rent paid and clothes on the kids)
  • Respect that sustainability in Australia and other western nations is linked with class. It’s easier to live with a small footprint if you're well-off and well-educated. If you want to make sustainability possible for everyone, you also need to vote for policies that redistribute wealth

If we were to visit you in Beechworth, where should we eat and drink?
A glass of wine at the Cellar Door Wine Store is a must in the afternoons, followed by a meal at Provenance Restaurant if you're splurging, or The Ox and Hound for a warm, relaxed bistro affair.

Pick one of your wines and your favourite thing to eat with it.
My chef friend, Sally Wright from Tastetrekkers, made us a chestnut congee a few months back that totally blew my hair back. It's a humble dish, but warming and inventive all at once, and was great with a glass of our 2016 Brunnen Pinot Noir.

Follow Tessa and her life in wine on Instagram @vsandbwines

Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy

 

Lauren Bonkowski | Two Poles Apart

2 minutes with Lauren Bonkowski
Occupation: graphic designer/art director
Business: Two Poles Apart
Lives: Melbourne
Age: 31

http://twopolesapart.com/

When you were studying Communication Design at Uni, did you know that hospitality brands were going to be your niche?
In hindsight, this is probably where I was always going to end up. I distinctly remember sketching out a ridiculous sunken bar for my dream house at 14. And at 17 I started organising wildly overcomplicated “cocktail parties” ignoring the fact that everyone was perfectly content with grapefruit Cruisers at the time. I think my interest in design for hospitality was a subconscious marriage of the way my family expresses love- through food, with my love of art.

Tell us about some of the brands you have worked with?
I’m very lucky that my job allows me to work remotely for clients across Australia. There’s been Pirate Life in SA, Starward Whisky, Maidenii Vermouth, & Melbourne Moonshine here in VIC, Lost Palms Brewery in QLD, Sullivans Cove Distillery & Boekamp Brewery in Tassie, West Winds Gin in WA and a stack of great venues across the country. 

How do you work with hospitality businesses to create their identity?
The biggest part of my job is to help clients break down and vocalise what their often non-visual brain wants. I’ve realised if I skip this part at the beginning, projects take triple the time to finish. When everyone is on the same page aesthetically and thematically I start actually nutting out designs. My job is to create a distinctive visual language that expresses brands’ personalities in an appealing and relevant way.

What's your favourite part of your work?
There are a lot of favourites, but in a very geeky way today I’ve been quite contentedly searching for that perfect font for more hours than I care to admit. One with a character that fits the personality of the brand. Packaging relies on really solid font choices.

You are one-quarter of the Marionette team, can you give us the low down on this fab range of liqueurs?
Consumers are loving Australian Gins and Whiskies, but the liqueur world is still completely dominated by European players. Our aim is to make the most out of Australian produce (which is some of the best in the world) to create local alternatives. We launched with a Dry Cassis (blackcurrants from Richard in Tassie) and an Orange Curacao (thanks to Glenn in Mildura) and we’re gradually picking up steam with 3 more products to come this year. Eternally grateful to the bar community for being so incredibly receptive to and supportive of us. It’s been quite the year! 

Worksmith sounds like the best co-working space ever, what's it all about?
I’ve done the rounds when it comes to co-working spaces and this one is pretty &*#()@ great. At most shared spaces everyone makes attempts to be friendly but when it comes down to it often everyone ends up in their own little stress bubble. At Worksmith I’m surrounded by people in the same world facing the same challenges, and more importantly genuinely celebrating each other's successes. It’s a natural community which is why I think it’s such a great place to be.

See more of Lauren’s work with hospitality brands on Instagram @twopolesapart

Worksmith is a co-working space for the food and beverage industry located on Smith St in Collingwood, check them out on Instagram @worksmith.io

 

 

 

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Ella Mittas | Ela Melbourne

2 minutes with Ella Mittas
...
words by Ali Webb
Occupation: chef
Age: 26
Lives: Melbourne

The Greek side of my family all really love food. I’ve been surrounded by it since I was a child. Everyone in my family cooks a lot; we have dinner together once a week with my grandparents, cousins and parents.

I studied Creative Writing and finished my degree doing journalistic work for a range of magazines but I wasn’t writing about anything that I really cared about. I was bored and I have way too much energy to be bored, so my dad suggested I do a cooking course to burn some energy.

That’s when I became obsessed with cooking. I’m a very obsessive person and I am known to put all of my energy into the one thing. When I started cooking, I was consumed by it.

Family and the feeling of generosity is the baseline to my cooking. It creates an atmosphere. My family love watching me cook, helping to create this warm and inviting environment.

My dad was the main cook in my family. In a Greek family it is traditional for the men to do all the barbeque meats and the women to do all the salads and vegetables. But my dad, he has always done all the cooking and he loves it. He really researches his food. Since I was little we have been going to the market every Saturday, looking out for exciting ingredients.

It’s harder to be a chef when you are female. A kitchen is a space I’ve never really felt comfortable in, which is why I work for myself now. It’s a very competitive industry and it can be hard to get a compliment on your cooking. I’m a very sensitive person and I believe that aggression and cooking beautiful food just doesn’t match. Cooking comes from the soul and the best part about it is you get to be really creative.

I have just finished a month-long pop up at Gertrude Street Enoteca, where my cooking career actually started. I worked alongside the renowned Tansy Good and it was all women in the kitchen. We changed dishes everyday which made the work fun and physical and also challenging.

My style is a mixture of old and new school. I cook a lot of traditional Greek food, but it’s not based on technique. All of my food is really easy to cook. I haven’t had a great deal of training, just small stints in kitchens where I have worked a year with someone and then six months with someone else. Not the traditional four years under the same roof as a lot of chefs do.

I was in Istanbul for twelve months and then Israel for six weeks, working in kitchens. I’m very persistent and if there’s a place where I want to work, I simply contact them and if I don’t hear back, I contact them again. I asked Annie Smithers for a job for two years until she finally gave me one! If you are passionate enough and try hard enough, people will have you come and work for them. Kitchens have such a high turnover, there’s always work.

I learnt so much in Istanbul, it was hard but so worth it. In Israel I worked with the owner of Miznon in Telaviv. It was incredibly inspiring. I really admire the work of Annie Smithers, Yotam Ottolenghi – whom I worked with for a short period - and Olia Hercules, who is a food writer and chef.  She studied international relations before becoming a chef and her recipes are so well researched that I admire the way she does her whole job. She cooks but she cares so much about it.

If I were to cook one dish for my closest friends it would be Fava –  yellow split peas with onions, carrots, capers and pickled onions. It’s something I always have on the menu – it’s so simple and tasty! It’s total comfort food.

What’s Next? I’m going to focus on events and collaborations. I’d like to collaborate with an artist or work with foraging. I want to do a few research projects and put on events. I love information and finding out as much as possible about something, anything. I won’t be sitting still, that’s for sure!

You can find out about Ella’s next project on Instagram @ellamittas @ela_melbourne

Our interviewer Ali Webb is a publicist, copywriter, content creator and excellent human, you can find her @houseofwebb

 

 Photo by Lazlo Evenhuis

Photo by Lazlo Evenhuis

Victoria Sharples | The Wine Station

2 minutes with Victoria Sharples
Occupation: Senior Wine Judge/Owner (& Buyer) The Wine Station/Consultant
Lives: Melbourne, Australia

Victoria Sharples, career spans over two decades, having had a myriad of roles in the international wine industry. First and foremost she works as a Senior Wine Judge to the International Wine Challenge (IWC). She owns the well respected wine distribution company, The Wine Station (www.thewinestation.com.au) exporting cool climate Victorian wines to United Kingdom, and importing Spanish and French wines into Australia. Currently she is about to embark on a new challenge as Head of Wine Operations at St John Restaurant Group. Recently Victoria visited me in San Sebastian and we discussed her career over a few glasses of albarino at Zelai Txiti.  http://www.restaurantezelaitxiki.com/es/

How many candles were on your last cake? 
There was no cake!

What led you to a career in wine?
I was studying for a PhD which drove me to drink, literally! So an interest in wine was initiated and I cut my teeth at the Melbourne Supper Club and cultivated my interest further in London.

Tell us about your career as an Senior Wine Judge and where has it taken you so far?
Over a decade ago I was invited to judge at the International Wine Challenge in London, and from there my career has seen me travelling internationally three times a year to Europe and the UK and throughout Australia.  As a Senior Judge I have exposure to a significant range of styles and qualities of wines from hundreds of regions across the globe every year. It offers insight into emerging wine regions as well as providing an invaluable snap shot of vintage style and variations of key regions; whether it is 2014 Bordeaux, 2017 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir or vintage Champagne. 

As a judge I am surrounded by some of the world’s leading judges, winemakers, journalists; all the various people that make the European wine industry what it is today. One of my interests and something that I am pursuing closely, which my role as a Judge has shown me, is the breadth of fault assessment of wines. For almost a decade I have been given tremendous insights into the level of faults through the IWC.

Why did you create, The Wine Station, your own wine distribution company, importing and exporting?
Two reasons. Firstly having spent seven years working in the most dynamic wine market in the world in the 2000s, I returned home in the hope of continuing working in the wine industry but I was continuously turned down for roles because although I had a wealth of knowledge, I didn’t have a marketing degree. And secondly, I saw that there was a massive opportunity to bring interesting, smaller producers from Spain and France to Australia. And as they say the rest is history. I continued to grow the business and follow my other passion, Victorian small producers, and The Wine Station has enabled me to support these producers something that is usually missing with larger distribution companies.  I love finding new wines and spirits and bringing them into both international and Australian markets.

What do you think the wine world will be talking about next?
Probably the most pressing matters is the affect of climate change on vineyards & varietals planted. BUT If you want to talk more about trends, the popularity of extended skin contact wines, with little or no sulfur. Obviously this is the current trend in both Melbourne and London. But I believe (and hope) there will be a shift back to more traditional styles. We know that some customers will be curious or more likely encouraged by enthusiastic wine staff to try the latest funkiest style; I have seen first hand that the confronting nature of these styles wines results in a downturn in sales, with customers actually just wanting a good glass of wine that they can enjoy rather than something that is a trend & not always particularly delicious.  It is easy for wine professionals to become carried away with what’s new and different for different’s sake, rather than the audience for whom they are selecting.

Given the the industry changed since you started? What do you see as the key changes? Give me two.
Price. Simple as that. When I established The Wine Station in 2007, trade customers were willing to pay $20 LUC for a wine to pour by the glass (& charge $15). Now customers are hesitant to spend more than $12 a bottle (& still charge $15 for the glass). 

Also, everyone who likes wine thinks they can write a wine list - that it is easy, but actually its more than just about hype and label or using one or two suppliers and letting them direct the list, a good list is about balance and matching the cuisine & occasion & that means tasting the wines with the dishes which sadly does not happen as often as it could.

Here we are at Zelai Txiti, we’ve ordered Lubina (Sea bass), what are you matching it with from your Victorian cool climate wine company?
Great fresh fish! Keeping things local I have selected the Terras Gauda O Rosal. This is also a wine I am proud to have introduced to the Australian market nearly 10 years ago.  Looking at a Victorian alternative I would be drinking Anthony Brain’s Livewire Jolt Sauvignon Blanc from Geelong. This is a fume style and has wonderful texture while maintaining lovely brightness.  Like many in the trade, I tend to avoid sauvignon blanc but this is just a wonderful, easy delicious wine that brings a smile to my face!  Good wines need not be expensive!!

You can follow Victoria on Instagram @thewinestation

Hannah Green | Etta

2 minutes with Hannah Green
Occupation: restaurateur and sommelier
Restaurant: Etta
Age: 30
Lives: Melbourne

 www.ettadining.com.au

You have opened Etta this week, with partners Hayden McMillan and Dominique Fourie McMillan, tell us what the restaurant is all about?
We ultimately wanted to create a place for the neighbourhood to use as they saw fit. You can come in, have a really beautiful glass of wine at the bar, or you can have a beer from the tap, or you can come and experience dinner in the dining room.

The way we have structured the menu is pretty much the way we like to eat. Lots of the things to share with really beautiful proteins. At the moment, the flounder is gorgeous and what I want to eat for dinner every day. In saying this if you come in and don’t know what to choose from, you can trust us completely and let us feed you.

We have all worked in the industry for a while, with careers across a pretty wide range of restaurants and we just wanted a place where you can come and feel totally comfortable with every aspect. The food, the room, the service and the beverage offering.

What has been the biggest challenge in opening a restaurant?
I would have to say the actual build. I know everyone told us that it would be hard, but it was REALLY hard! Definitely a massive life lesson! I think it was the fact that it is an area that we had no experience in what so ever and you had to trust the people around you who you engaged to do the works. And like anything in the world, there are people who are amazing at their job and there are people who may not be. I think the biggest lesson I learnt was to trust my gut.

What led you to a career in hospitality? Have you always wanted to open your own place?
I kind of fell into it. I was in Perth having a year off from going to uni and took on a traineeship at really terrible pub, but realised I really enjoyed it and wanted to get more serious about it, so I moved to Melbourne. I pestered and pestered Jayden at 312 to give me a job and he finally gave in and the rest is history really. Here I am 11 years later.

I think opening my own place was something I always wanted. I grew up in a family business with my dad and uncles running a motor and smash repairs business. Although I did see the hard work that they put in, it was something that we always talked about and the personal satisfaction you get out of it being yours. I’m so lucky to have had them as constant guiding hand over this process.

You are leading the wine program at Etta, what can we expect to see on the list?
We have a pretty small list at Etta, well small in comparison to what I have worked with in the past. So this means that everything has to be there for a reason. Style, varietal, price point but above all it has to be delicious. I guess it is a mix of artisan domestic and international producers, with a few interesting numbers in there too.

We are working with quite a few local winemakers.  We actually have a wine that we have made with Dom Valentine from Valentine wine which I’m pretty excited about. It is a blanc de blanc from the Yarra that has been ageing on lees for 6 years (which is pretty rare for a local sparkling) and then we have played around the dosage levels.

Melbourne restaurants that you frequent (when you're not at Etta)?
Great question! I think Rockpool has been up there for me for years! Simply because you can go and have a burger in the bar and a beautiful glass of wine or the full shabang. I love Tipo 00 and French Saloon. I often start at Kirks and head either upstairs or just down the road.

Merricote is also up for me. They only problem is now I’m open the same days at them!!! There are so many that I could go on for ages, although Embla, Town Mouse, IDES are also. Brae is still hands down the best meal I’ve had in this country and I love what Dan, Jules and the gang are doing out there.

You can follow what Hannah and the team are doing at Etta on Instagram @etta_dining