Born into a grape growing family in Red Cliffs, near Mildura in Northern Victoria, Don Lewis spent the weekends of his teenage years pruning, picking and doing tractor work, whilst his mates were off having fun.
When he finally "escaped", he swore never to get involved in vineyards again. But, despite all attempts, Don found himself in 1973 accepting the position of Assistant Winemaker to Colin Preece at Mitchelton winery. It was in his blood.
18 years and many wine show awards later, Don won the 1991 Jimmy Watson Trophy for his Mitchelton 1990 Print Shiraz, cementing his name in Australian wine industry history.
After 32 years of producing multi-award winning wines at Mitchelton, in 2004 Don moved into a consultancy position, enabling him to pursue his own interests. Known for being innovative, open and experimental, Don's role at Mitchelton included several years involvement with a joint venture in Spain making wines from Tempranillo and Albarino. It was here Don's interest in European varietals was sparked and so, alongside colleague Narelle King, in 2006 began the creation of Tar & Roses.
"Tar & Roses has enabled me to learn in a very hands on way about a few more unusual varieties. As winemaker at Mitchelton we always had the challenge of getting the best out of different varieties. Mitchelton vineyard had 35 different varieties when first planted in the early 70's and we had a go at making most into individual wines to find out what would do best in this soil in this part of Victoria.
This intrigue about what to do to get the best possible varietal expression has stayed with me, and the challenge of creating a brand which has such exciting potential is irresistible."
A childhood spent in Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth followed by university in both Adelaide and Sydney, gave Narelle at an early age, an open mindedness and passion for travel that set a perfect foundation for a successful career in the wine industry.
Whilst travelling in South America after university, Narelle met a young Australian winemaker who had just completed vintage in Argentina and who lived in France. This lifestyle and the wine business appealed to her greatly, so on returning to Australia, Narelle promptly enrolled in a Winemaking Degree at Charles Sturt University and has never looked back.
With previous qualifications as a Chartered Accountant, key accounts experience for a major spirits company and her extensive travel history, Narelle was offered a position at Mitchelton winery, involving accountancy and some cellar work. It was here Narelle met Don Lewis and both a strong friendship and great working relationship was forged.
"Maybe it's a leftover of the accounting side within me but to me it's the little things that make the difference. The care and continued maintenance of the wines during maturation, the constant monitoring of temperature and acid levels during ferment plus the use of quality fruit at the outset combine to ensure a quality wine result. I'm not into set and forget.
Tar & Roses to me is my opportunity to be, to a large degree, the master of my own destiny and express these grape varieties in a way that most appeals to me. I want the concept and the wines to be beautiful and appealing. The varieties lack a sense of commerciality as the market place struggles to understand the varieties and the wines. They're not easy wines to sell, they're different and I have always been attracted to things that are out of the norm."