23 May 2020. Words by YGOW.
Last Wednesday was a very sad day. A sad day for the wine industry, and an indescribably tragic day for the family and friends of Vaughn Dell, vigneron of Sinapius vineyard in Pipers Brook, Tasmania. Vaughn died of a suspected heart condition on the 20th of May 2020. He was 39.
Vaughn and his wife Linda Morice dove deep into the wine game at an early age, buying an existing 2.5-hectare vineyard in 2005. It wasn’t long before they began replanting underperforming blocks, as well as establishing new ones, with the area under vine increased to 4 hectares.
Theirs was a passion project like few others, with a vineyard-first philosophy that saw a wide variety of clones planted, often at very high density – up to 11,110 vines per hectare – and with fruiting wires set very low to the ground. It’s an overwhelmingly manual farming proposition, with fruit expression given priority over any consideration of convenience, and yields typically a frugal 500 grams per vine for the densest plantings.
The Sinapius vineyard has 14 clones of pinot noir, 11 clones of chardonnay, nine of riesling, four of gamay, three of pinot gris and one each of grüner veltliner, pinot blanc and gewürztraminer. It’s a detailed and intensely personal vineyard, and one small enough to be managed on a very personal, vine-by-vine level, which is the only way Vaughn and Linda would ever have it.
The Sinapius project was always a long-term one, with the planning and hard work seeing the wines on an ever-steepening upward trajectory. The investment in clones across varieties and density in plantings will reap rewards in the future that will be immensely important, not just for the estate wines, but also as a yardstick for other producers.
That Vaughn won’t be there alongside Linda and their two daughters to carry their dreams through is a tragedy. But ultimately it is a tragedy for family and friends – the untimely loss of a devoted family man who was both much loved and much admired.
We know that there is a tight community that will huddle around Linda, Esmé and Clementine, that will offer all they possibly can to support them emotionally and practically. But the vines need to be pruned, and the wines in tank and barrel from this year’s harvest need to be tended to. It’s a heartbreaking thought that these things can’t wait. But it would be even more heartbreaking for things to cease.
We can all help in a small way by supporting Vaughn and Linda’s business. Their wines are all for sale through their website, and more resources means more help, which means more time for the family, and it means there’s a better chance that the dream will continue. Vale, Vaughn.
“Wines produced by Vaughn Dell and Linda Morice from Sinapius have an intensity that transcends the norm…”
– Jancis Robinson MW
“As my 2016 (re)visit reinforced, Dell is very much a vigneron, not just a winemaker, so articulating soil, clone and aspect is the name of the game.”
– Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective
Order Sinapius wines here.