Rolling Stone AU/NZ spent a morning on Bruny Island with singer-songwriter Maddy Jane at her family’s winery and were overwhelmed by her and her mum, Bernice’s, warmth and hospitality.
Known for her distinctive style of indie pop/rock and captivating and honest melodies, you might not know that Maddy is a fifth generation Bruny Islander with plenty to share about her stunning island home.
As we drove past honey-hued open pastures towards the winery, we stopped at Cloudy Bay and walked along the deserted stretch of beach and dipped our toes in the ice-cold ocean. We made many stops along the way, devouring the freshest local oysters and tasting sweet honey.
We were told by Maddy that Bruny Island Cheese Co. was a great place to stop for delicious cheese and cold craft beer, on our way to the winery. Greeted by owner Nick Haddow upon arrival, he offered us a delicious platter of artisanal cheese and a tasting paddle of their house-brewed craft beer. Nick and his team pride themselves on making iconic local cheeses with a strong sense of place. For Nick, it’s never been about replicating cheeses from other parts of the world. Bruny Island Cheese Co. has set the standard for many aspiring and new cheese makers in Australia, including being the only legally recognised raw milk cheese producer.
In 2016, Nick started his own organically operated, rare-breed dairy farm in the Huon Valley. “That was an amazing step forward for us in terms of providing our cheese with a level of integrity, quality, flavour and control over everything from the soil through to the cheesemaking and maturation process,” says Nick.
Nick beams as he tells me that the Off Season in Tasmania is the best time of year. “That period between autumn and spring, there’s a sense that you’ve got the place a bit more to yourself,” he says. “If you’re going to come to Tassie in the middle of winter, rug up. Go for a walk on a beach by yourself. Breathe in that air that is the purest in the world. Go for a drive or walk through the wilderness areas of western Tasmania; it’s fantastic. Embrace our produce. Sit before a fire with a glass of Tasmanian whisky or pinot noir, and eat some of our incredible seafood, lamb, or beef. It’s a really special experience.”
Nick and his team are so hospitable, and we feel like we could stay all day, but we are eager to meet Maddy at her family winery. Be sure to check out Bruny Island Cheese Co.’s unique Off Season experiences: a tour of their Huon Valley dairy farm, and a cheese and beer tasting on the island.
As we make our way, we see signs for the Neck Game Reserve, which we have been told is an important area for native wildlife and a must-visit whilst on Bruny. We stop at the reserve and climb the stairs to a panoramic viewing platform. Looking out, we are in awe of the surrounding beauty. Be sure to come at dusk to see short-tailed shearwaters and little penguins returning to their burrows. You will see the little penguins making their way up the beach in tight groups, and the shearwaters gliding in from the sea.
We arrive at Bruny Island Premium Wines where we are greeted by Maddy and her mum – it’s smiles and hugs all round. They tell me about Maddy’s grandfather who they fondly call “the instigator” because he propagated and planted the first 1500 vines on the property. The vineyard now boasts 6000 pinot noir and chardonnay vines. The wines are made using traditional methods, including hand-picking and gentle pressing, which helps to preserve the delicate flavours and aromas of the grapes.
Visitors to the winery can enjoy a tasting of the wines in the cellar door, which offers panoramic views of the vineyard and surrounding countryside. For the month of June, the winery will be offering ‘winter warmer’ specials each weekend. There will be some wonderful local produce on the menu, such as local wallaby shanks, a selection of meats and seafood from Bruny Island Smokehouse and oysters from the Cloudy Bay lagoon. “The lagoon has five tidal movements per day making it some of the purest water in the world and this is reflected in the quality of the oysters,” says Bernice. Come in and warm up with a wholesome bowl of hot seafood chowder, while you sip on some house-brewed mulled wine.
As I sit with Maddy, we sip on a refreshing, crisp apple cider made by her mum and I ask her about her music. She tells me, “It’s truthful and lyrical; it’s very Australiana. My exposure to music growing up was sitting around the fire at my local pub, listening to Aussie rock. So, that Australiana style will always be a part of me. I think honesty comes from being Tasmanian.”
The island is a place of refuge for Maddy, where she can reconnect with the land and her family. “Coming home is always a reflective time for me. It’s a quiet little island, especially at this time of year in the Off Season. For me, Tassie in the wintertime is the real Tasmania. It’s raw and wild; the cold is unapologetic. It’s always a humbling experience. Winter is when you experience Tasmania at its wildest, darkest and most free. It’s when I’m at my most creative; I do a lot of songwriting in the wintertime,” she says.
When asked about her favourite spots on the island, Maddy says, “Jetty Beach campsite, near the lighthouse, is just beautiful. I also love Mount Mangana; it’s a very special place. Places like Mount Mangana are sacred, and it’s important to remember that Bruny Island has a deep Aboriginal history. When you come to Bruny, many ways exist to connect with indigenous history.”
Come to Bruny Island this Off Season to experience the best that Tassie has to offer.
This article is produced by Rolling Stone in partnership with Tourism Tasmania. Explore more wild, weird and wonderful experiences during Tasmania’s Off Season.