Rosy-cheeked, wiry-haired farm boy Patrick Sullivan is doing some incredible things in his little patch of rural Victoria. “Tumblestone Farm,” established 2010 and located in the Strezleki Ranges in West Gippsland, features 69 hectares of close-spacing vineyards nestled amongst an acacia forest. Out of this oasis in Baw Baw Shire comes a set of thrilling, energetic and electric small-batch wines from one forward-thinking farmer. Don’t be fooled however, Patrick Sullivan’s wines are much more complex and intriguing than the pretty little labels would suggest.
From his self-proclaimed “nomadic” youth, it seems Pat was destined to become a winemaker. Whilst tending to vines in rural Victoria at age 12 on a school summer camp excursion, Pat’s fascination with the grape growing aspect of wine-making was born. One summer job after another (and a brief consideration of paediatric medicine), Pat found himself in London as a twenty something year old working at fine wine retailer, Selfridge’s. Thrown into the chaotic but rewarding world of fine wines, he became transfixed by the idea of producing his own. As such, he made the trip back home to Australia and picked up a degree in viticulture. That’s not all however, as Patrick Sullivan’s resume also reads “buyer for Les Caves de Pyrene,” and “winemaker for the Thousand Candles project at Old Killara Park in the Yarra,” a project through which he honed his own craft with wine-world royalty, Bill Downie and Stuart Proud. And it’s no little secret he’s even collaborated on the wine list for your favourite Melbourne natural wine bar, Embla.
Proudly saying things like “winemaking takes one week of the year, grape growing the other fifty-one,” Pat has firmly cemented his place in the Australian wine world as grape-grower rather than grape-presser. His land comprises basalt volcanic soils over sandstone, and the methods through which he farms his land are all organic and biological. Think compost teas, think wild yeasts, think fermentation in all natural vessels. His wine making process is entirely intuitive, as Pat describes it in rather blasé terms: “For me wine making is simple, chuck the grapes in a fermenter and check if they smell ok. It’s all sensory.” Adding little to no sulphur at bottling, his wines are completely untouched and unfiltered. The result? Boutique, highly sought-after wines that are honest and intriguing. Wines made without any shortcuts and a whole lot of love.
Thinking and tasting in pictures, Pat describes his wines as situated in the space between the sky and the ground. If a white is bright like the morning sun, associated with the ethereal and acid-hues, and a red is all tannic and earthy, Pat’s voluptuous wines exist in the tantalising in-between. The perfect example of this is his 2019 Patrick Sullivan Haggis - a blend of direct pressed red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) and skin contact whites (Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc). An orange rosé that is genre redefining. Then there’s the 2018 Patrick Sullivan Millstream Chardonnay a very lean yet tense expression of the grape we’re all so familiar with. Pat himself describes his wines as “inspired by emotion, a moment in time, a sense of place.” We think he’s spot on. His wines capture the true zeitgeist of our modern society: sometimes chaotic but always melodic.
Article by: Ceren Guler