Tass and Eliza: The Perfect Blend
Describing the Gyenes Coulls family is much like describing the perfect glass of bubbles: balanced, exciting, effervescent and even a little unexpected. They’re the ones you always want to have at a dinner party, and always leave you wanting more.
Incidentally, this is exactly how you would describe the wines they create for their family label, Lansdowne Wine, too. The vineyard, sitting in the Forreston Valley of the Adelaide Hills has been producing wine since 2002, but the brand has exploded in the last few years thanks to the couple’s unique approach of combining design with approachable – and affordable – damn good wine.
But Lansdowne is more than a vineyard, it’s also the family home. Recently moving back to their home state of South Australia, Tass and Eliza are focussed on the future: both for their children and the business. Here, the couple talk to us about wine, design, adapting to change, and the concept of home.
Who is in your family?
Tass Gyenes, Graphic Designer and Eliza Coulls, Event Manager, both owners of Lansdowne wine, and their children Archie, 5 (a Bey Blade master and future Star Wars fanatic) and Minnie, 3 (a UNO natural, comedian, break-dancer.)
On creating the family business…
“When you’ve been living interstate and constantly moving for so long you tend to forget where home even is. But after you move once it gets easier and easier to keep doing it. We have a running joke that we are just doing laps because we have come full circle. Adelaide – Melbourne – Sydney – Adelaide – Melbourne… and finally back to Adelaide again. But through all of this, Lansdowne has given us a sense of home and somewhere to always come back to. It’s given us a reason (other than family) to always come home and stay connected to SA – which helps when you’ve lived away for 20 years.
So, why wine then? Well, we love drinking it… maybe too much! I’ve been working in event management for over 15 years and love a party. To me it’s always about sharing, friends and family coming together and having a good time. I always want our household to be full of life, food and wine. My parents bought the vineyard and home in 2002. They had some wines that had been made by the previous owner but the label was so daggy.
It inspired us to create our own label one day, and at the time my parents and I were considering contacting Mash Design in Adelaide to create our label (which, incidentally a company that Tass co-founded years ago). I guess it was fate that years later Tass and I happened to get together and our love of beautiful packaging and design along with great affordable wine drove us to create Lansdowne.
Our first label was called 1160. Each bottle was individually numbered and you had the option of choosing which number you wanted (a logistical and printing nightmare at the time). But, the design was recognised both in packaging awards and so many design blogs internationally that it really gave us the confidence to keep approaching the business from a design perspective. We knew that we had great wine, we just wanted to package it and market it differently to what was being released in Australian at the time. We wanted a wine that really jumped from the shelf bridging the gap between quality wine and great design.
On finding home…
When we had a family everything changed. We are now 100% focused on creating and supporting our family for a better future. For us, that means focussing on our environmental footprint and building something sustainable for our family.
It was always on the cards to come back to Adelaide, I think we just weren’t ready earlier. We were always successful in our other careers and it was hard to turn down opportunities. Working for David Jones managing some of the biggest media fashion events in the country was very exciting, and was hard to give up. However, now that we have kids, we realised that we needed to really think about what we were building and their future. Lansdowne is about that. It’s a legacy and a business that we hope can create a conscious company that is sustainable, ethical and gives back.
Our aim is to become B Corporation certified as soon as possible. We are not getting any younger, and realised that the big smoke corporate life is not all where it’s at, and we believe our best life is grown and lived slowly… just like the grapes on our land. We believe that everything we put into our backyard can be seen in the glass, and we aim to reflect our small estate with care and integrity.
Archie and Minnie love Lansdowne. Minnie is always the one in gumboots out in the mud in the backyard digging for dinosaur bones, but Archie has an amazing sense of smell – he’ll make a great sommelier one day! They laugh about Grandpa constantly picking grapes… and more grapes… and more grapes (he basically lives out in the vineyard). And when I asked them what they love most about it… they also said picking the grapes (a close second is riding in the tractor because they’re allowed to beep the horn).
On our family…
“We just like to have fun, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Eliza is the most patient and definitely the level-headed one. I (try) to be the funny one, but am definitely outdone by Minnie. And Archie likes the rules, and is quite content to play by himself but can have a blast with his sister (when she plays by the rules… which isn’t very often). We have lots of small little rituals: swimming on Saturdays, sushi dates, and we generally try to have a game of UNO every day. The hardest part of the game is getting Minnie to actually hold her cards!
We’re a creative family, which I love, and I was definitely brought up with creativity around me. Archie is amazing at drawing, too. On any given day walking into our house you might find butchers paper rolled over the table with pencils for drawing, paper aeroplanes being meticulously made by Archie, some attempt at healthy baking being made (especially sweets… we all have a sweet tooth) or perhaps even a fort being made out of the couch cushions (Mum is not a fan of this one).
I think like most parents, the rewards are in the small things: drawing a picture, doing something we didn’t ask of them (but have 500 million times before), hugs and kisses, what and how they express themselves, recalling what it was like to be their age, and seeing the tiniest little glimmer of yourselves in them. I think what makes us unique is that we find home wherever we are – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, the vineyard – they’re all equally “home”. I guess that’s the thing: it’s about the people and the four of us not the place.”
“How the kids take on change is inspiring. We have moved three states since they were born and each time they adapt and slide straight into their new lives. Both Minnie and Archie are so friendly and confident; I just love their innocence. It’s so great watching them at the park when they are trying to make new friends. They have the best tactic: just follow someone like a shadow until they give up and talk to them. It’s very funny to watch. They know everyone in Croydon (the suburb where we live) and the neighbourhood definitely knew when we had returned from VIC recently, which I guess already makes it feel like home.”
Our favourite The Goat
“We enjoy the old school bars of soap – so creamy!”