Growing up in the shadow of Mt Direction on the Tamar Valley’s eastern flank, Ricky Evan’s passion for his local surrounds is clearly evident. “My parents initially had a farm a little further up the road, but we moved to this particular spot when I was in my teens. I’ve grown up on the land and have always loved this area, it’s pretty special.”
With roots firmly entwined throughout the region, Ricky always knew where his heart lay. “It took a little while for me to work out exactly what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “After finishing school in Launceston, I then headed over to Adelaide to study winemaking. It quickly became my passion and my subsequent experience across South Australia, and then in Napa Valley and throughout Europe, gave me a great set of skills to bring back to Tassie. I returned here chasing opportunity and looking to make the most from our unique set of conditions.”
Ricky’s skills were put to good use and he quickly found success as a winemaker at Bay of Fires. “I’ve really enjoyed being back here and applying my knowledge and experience in my home state. What’s being produced in Tasmania is really exciting and I’m loving being a part of that. Pushing the boundaries within local regions is something I’m passionate about.”
“In 2013 I managed a small winery for someone in exchange for a couple of tonnes of pinot noir. It was a step that allowed me to begin my own project – fruit was so scarce at the time and also expensive, and still is. The name Two Tonne Tasmania reflects those first two tonnes of grapes, and also acts as a constant reminder of how my business started…it’s part of the story and that’s important to me. Things went from there and the following year I purchased another tonne, and then I looked at leasing a vineyard. It happened step by step.”
Two Tonne Tasmania now sees Ricky leasing three vineyards in the area. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but I just love it,” he grins. “I do all the viticulture and then the winemaking too. One of the vineyards was quite derelict when I took it over, so to be able to breathe new life into it has been particularly rewarding.” Indeed, it hasn’t taken long for Ricky to earn a reputation for producing small vintages of exciting Tasmanian wines that quickly become difficult to source once word gets out. A swag of industry accolades have also begun to accumulate on the shelves.
Ricky explains in a little more detail, “Vineyard condition throughout the year is crucial and my philosophy is really focused on growing wonderful fruit from healthy, balanced vineyards. My focus isn’t on how much wine I can make from each vineyard, I’m not worried about volumes, I am only interested in producing quality wine. This approach, along with precise harvest decisions, has definitely started to pay off. Little vineyards can sometimes be challenging in terms of scale, but their individual nature makes them special, and each parcel forms a piece of the puzzle.”
Aside from his practical energy, this young Tasmanian is striking a chord with his genuine investment in the benefits of small local parcels of fruit. “For me, what I love is sharing my knowledge of regional variation,” explains Ricky. “Tassie has so much to offer and I’m intrigued by the diversity of Pinot Noir that we can produce. The TMV Pinot is essentially a cross section of the valley and tells a real story about our local area, it’s a snapshot of the Tamar really. I produce many wines in small volumes…each parcel of fruit is unique.”
Ricky’s intriguing blends are a talking point that help him champion the narrative around sub-regionality. “I love talking to people about Tasmanian wines and the subtle differences across our state. I’ve invested a lot of time chatting with sommeliers about Tassie and hopefully that’s helping our industry as a whole,” he says. “I’m open minded and just love to explain to others what I do. Having those conversations with consumers, or with those within the industry, makes it a whole lot easier for people to understand what we have to offer.”
A converted tractor shed now serves as the Two Tonne home base. “It’s my little pinot shed,” laughs Ricky. We’ve added a few important things to it, three phase power for some decent equipment for instance, and a warm room for fermentation.”
A glass of Two Tonne pinot straight from one of Ricky’s barrels is a real treat. “My style is essentially light and fresh,” he readily explains. “I’m producing lighter styles by picking on the early side, but with flavour in mind. They are gently made, and spend a shortish time in oak. I am trying to find depth and elegance at the same time. It seems to be resonating well within the market, and ultimately it’s the market that is the best judge. I think this style is quite indicative of contemporary Tasmania.”
An afternoon with Ricky reveals a deep and purposeful thinker. One readily gets a sense of the time, knowledge and commitment invested by this motivated professional. Considering what he’s achieved to date he admits, “It’s been a lot of hard work and a challenge to maintain a work-life balance sometimes, but I love both the science and the lifestyle this provides. Now I’m at the point where I’ve been able to get a couple of others involved to help me manage the various sites and that’s making a real difference.”
Finding support in a few trusted friends, Ricky says he values those who are happy to call him out when required. “There’s a few palates that I trust and I really value that feedback. Everyone needs a sounding board every so often, and it’s important to be able to share your ideas with others who understand what your vision is. I’m always thinking and trying new innovative techniques…every now and again you need a voice of reason to put things in perspective.”
“Here in the Tamar we see an early season with bright and fresh fruit. Some of it is almost strawberry in its tones, but with a real depth. That’s something I really love making the most of. Each vintage is different and although this is an exhausting process, I love the opportunities that come with each new batch. The conceptual stage is rewarding to me. I spend a lot of time dreaming about what’s ahead and developing ideas for the following year. One vintage is just a snapshot in time, so there is always the opportunity to create something new.”
As he chases the last of the fading light in order to complete the afternoon’s pruning, Ricky motions toward the vines in front of him, “This is undoubtedly my favourite spot. I remember thinking as a kid that one day I wanted to do something up here. I knew I wanted to do something on the land, but didn’t want to be a ‘farmer’ as such. It took me a while to convince my folks of how serious I was about wine, but eventually they gave in and let me plant on this part of the property. I’m really grateful for that, it’s going to produce some wonderful wines.”
Perfectly perched to take in the sunset, it would be hard to find a better site for a cool climate vineyard. A gentle north facing slope extends towards the riverbank, and the rows of vines sprout easily from the rich fertile soils. “This is truly our own patch,” says Ricky proudly. “It’s our own site that I planned from scratch. It gives me security in terms of fruit for TTT, but also allows me to begin working on a new project, called Havilah. It’s a name that’s referenced in ancient times and describes a place rich in gold and treasure. For me, this reflects our resources in terms of wine in Tasmania. It’s a little quirky at the moment, just Pinot Noir and Rose right now, solely for the Tasmanian market. But there is more to come and this site will form a big part of that.”
Treat yourself to a drop today and experience the Two Tonne Tasmania difference. The current product range is available on Ricky’s website.