We managed to catch Peter Lehmann winemaker Tim Dolan for a few minutes ahead of our Masters Apprentices event at The Barossa Cellar on May 2, to dig a little into his life and what ten-year-old ‘Squid’ would think of him now…
Tell us about your mentor and how they influenced you and assisted your career development. What quote from them have you always remembered?
Peter Scholz is my godfather (not that I am religious) so, from a young age I had an immense respect for him as I knew that if Peter did become my guardian I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him (for those that don’t know him, he is physically very intimidating and has one of the loudest voices ever).
Peter was instrumental in giving me a leg up in landing a 12 month contract at Lehmanns in 2011. After a year-long “induction”, I was given a full-time role and have remained at PLW since then.
“You make your own luck” – Andrew Wigan often said this quote, but Scholzy really exemplified what it meant. I was very keen to follow in both Peter and Andrew’s footsteps with making sure that luck generally doesn’t just land at your feet – hard work, dedication and determination over a long period of time brings “luck”.
What methodology did they teach you that has stuck with you? Did you always want to be a chef/ winemaker?
Learning from Peter is like having unlimited access to Wikipedia. His knowledge of winemaking, Peter Lehmann (the man and company) and the Barossa is genuinely unrivalled. So, while many could potentially see Peter as “stuck in his ways” after 40-odd vintages at PL’s, he is open and embracing of new and interesting trials we have going on in the winery. This however is always with the mindset of ensuring that the PL “house style” is a slow evolution, not a complete revolution from one year to the next.
Did you study something else first?
No, I was happy enough to just get the four years of Oenology out of the way!
What would 10-year-old you think of where you are now?
Ten year old Squid could often be found at Saltrams winery helping Dad, with aspirations to be a world-class boogie boarder and winemaker on the side. The boogie board career never took off, but I still think ten year old me would be mildly impressed with my efforts in the proceeding 25 years.
Was there a pivotal moment in your life/career that led you to where you are now? What big leap did you take? What opportunity did you say yes to?
After graduating in 2009, finding a winemaking job in any capacity was incredibly challenging. The GFC really put the brakes on wineries hiring new people, let alone fresh graduates with minimal experience.
I tried very hard not to let this get me down, even though at times it was frustrating and morale-crushing. Eventually, after multiple north/south vintages I landed the gig at Lehmanns in 2011 to cover for a 12 maternity leave role. I relished the opportunity to put my degree and skills in the cellar to use as a winemaker & be part of an incredible team.
Don’t be humble – if you’ve won awards/accolades/scored great reviews – tell us about them!
Over the years, Lehmanns has enjoyed its fair share of awards and accolades. These awards have always been celebrated as a collective, each winemaker & viticulturist plays an important role in every wine we make, so we genuinely celebrate as a team. Picking up three trophies for our red wines at the 2020 Barossa Wine Show was the celebration of nearly a decade of getting our red wines to a level where we were happy with both the flavour and quality, and knew they would be in the running on a wine show level.
On an individual level, winning the Len Evans Dux in 2018 was a pretty special moment. As the saying goes though “you make your own luck”, I have no shame in saying I worked extremely hard as a peasant associate judge for many years before finally cracking it! I am now enjoying the fruits of that labour as a senior judge and panel chair on regional and capital city shows around Australia.
Share your vision for Barossa’s culinary future. What do you hope to see?
Collaboration between local winemakers and chefs is a fundamental part of continuing to see the Barossa grow and thrive. Over recent years, the food culture has exploded in the Barossa which has been incredible for locals and tourists alike – the abundance of quality restaurants and cafes which cater for a diverse range of styles and budgets is awesome, I just hope that winemakers continue to support these venues & their amazing chefs in whatever capacity they can.
You can catch Tim as part of the winemaking team at Masters Apprentices, a Tasting Australia event Sunday 2 May 2021.
Yesterday’s apprentices > Today’s mentors > Tomorrow’s masters.
5 courses + 10 wines delivered through the eyes of 6 chefs + 10 winemakers destined to make their mark, leading the next generation of Barosssa food and wine.
Tickets $155pp – tastingaustralia.com.au