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Tuesday 16 June 2015

Sailor Seeks Horse - an instant Tasmanian wine success story

Sailor Seeks Horse is a new name on the Tasmanian wine scene but the young couple behind the label has already enjoyed considerable success.

Paul and Gilli Lipscombe (he's English, she's a Queenslander) have worked at wineries in the Languedoc, Margaret River, Oregon and New Zealand and have day jobs at Home Hill, where they work both in the vineyards and as winemakers. 

They settled in the Huon Valley after a nationwide search for the region they felt would make the best pinot noir and bought a derelict vineyard at Cradoc, which had been planted in 2005 and then abandoned.

We looked all over Tasmania for the place to produce the best pinot noir and chardonnay; and we decided on the Huon,” they said. “Neither too dry nor too wet, too warm nor too cold and with two of the most-awarded vineyards in Tasmania (Elsewhere and Home Hill) nearby.

Within a few weeks of arriving, we stumbled upon a dilapidated north-east facing 6.5 hectare vineyard. Opportunity beckoned. Half the vines were dead, there were blackberry bushes above our heads and trees growing all the way through; not-so-perfect.

But it wouldn’t be satisfying if it wasn’t challenging. That was one of the reasons we decided to change our lives.”

The first release of Sailor Seeks Horse has attracted a lot of attention. It is being poured at high-end restaurants including Vue de Monde in Melbourne and the Bentley Bar in Sydney and is on sale at the highly respected Prince Wine Stores in both Sydney and Melbourne. 

An leading British wine writer Matthew Jukes has heard of the buzz surrounding the wine and asked for a sample; so international recognition could be on the way. 

The reaction to the release of the 2013 Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir has been both a relief and a vindication of the Lipscombes' hopes and dreams - which include planting more vines, and eventually a winery and house on their property.

When you make a wine you hope that people will enjoy it, so having it on so many top lists straight away has been extremely rewarding,” says Paul. 

The vineyard has beautiful views stretching to Huon River, and a good selection of clones, with young vines providing more options down the track. 

And what of the name? “There was a handwritten sign on the wall at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet, our local cafe. It said: 'Sailor Seeks Horse' and went on to explain that the author had sailed solo around the world and ridden across the US from coast to coast and back again…on a mule. He’d then decided he wanted to travel around Tasmania by horse but didn’t have one. So, was there anyone who would lend him one?”

Sailor Seeks Horse 2013 Pinot Noir can be sampled at the Dark Mofo festival, where Paul and Gilli will have a stand. Alternatively, go to But be quick. Only 400 cases were made although volumes will increase (and a chardonnay is on the way). 

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