Happy birthday Len

My dad loved a birthday party – his own, that is. He would invite squads of pals to the Hunter for a weekend of games, feasts, singing, and of course, wine. They were joyous times indeed. This year he would have turned 90, so it would have been a doozy. Another celebration missed since he left us for the Cellar In The Sky in 2006.

He should also be celebrating another big milestone this year, the 20th anniversary of the Len Evans Tutorial, the very special wine school he created back in 2001.

In the mid 1950s a very young Leonard Paul Evans left his home in a sleepy seaside Suffolk town and jumped on a ship from England to New Zealand. He wanted to become a professional golfer and reckoned he had more of a chance of making it big in a country with a much smaller population. Always a cunning one, my dad. He had but a few shillings in his pocket and worked off his free passage cutting timber for the NZ Forestry Commission round Nelson. Jump forward 50 years and we find him across the ditch in the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, the granddaddy of the Australian wine industry, presiding over what is regarded by many as the world’s best wine school. There was of course a lot of action in between: jackaroo, glass washer, stock controller, F&B manager, hotelier, restaurateur, wine writer, TV personality, public speaker, philanthropist, wine producer, chateau owner. It was a colourful life indeed. w

Tucked in amongst all these adventures was a long career as a wine judge. He started judging in the 1960s when the wine industry was still in its infancy, and continued until 2000, having been the long-term Chief Judge of a great many wine shows in Australia and abroad.

A mentor for quality

An integral part of wine show judging is mentorship, teaching the next generation of wine professionals about quality: what it looks like and how to achieve it. He loved this part of the job, and over the years expanded the wine show education program with dinners and master classes designed to expose young judges to great wines well beyond the reach of most, often sourced from his own cellar. Australia’s leading show judges were always keen to support the Chair and regularly joined in.

When Len retired from show judging in 2000, he knew he would miss the opportunity to share wine and wisdom with the next raft of up-and-comers. So he hatched a plan. He would put together a fabulous week of wine education for a carefully selected group of wine scholars (as he called them), a mini-wine school featuring a series of intense workshops, master classes and dinners. He would host it at Tower Lodge, his boutique hotel in the centre of Pokolbin.

Read more in the Summer issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here. 

Sally Evans marks the 90th birthday of her father, wine legend Len Evans,
and what should have been the 20th year of the Len Evans Tutorial.