PHIL Dolan doubted himself every day for five years.
Dornfelder vines had never been grown before in Australia - let alone North-West Tasmania - and few backed his 2008 crop to produce anything resembling a ``proper red''.
``Most people just told me it wouldn't work,'' Mr Dolan said. ``They said I'd be better off just putting more pinot in, and not waste my time.''
But from the first sniff of Dornfelder, he knew he'd nailed it.
``I remember pouring it for the first time and realising that it had worked,'' he said. ``The colour was stunning, I couldn't believe it. I was going to rename it `oh wow' because that's what people said when they saw it come out of the bottle.''
Mr Dolan is the first person in Australia to produce a German Dornfelder wine, a horticultural gamble that won his White Rock vineyard a gold medal and Best Other Red trophy at the International Cool Climate Wine Show in Melbourne this month.
The Kimberley grower and manager of Lake Barrington Vineyard said he knew little of the German-engineered grape before planting it, except that the Europeans worshipped it as a thicker alternative to the pale and light-blooded pinot noir.
``Tasmania had a similar situation to Germany, we've got world-class pinot noir, but not a lot of other reds,'' he said. ``I'd get mainlanders and tourists coming in to the cellar door at Lake Barrington, and they'd turn their nose up at the pinot and ask if we'd have any `good' reds.''
Mr Dolan said he sourced the Dornfelder vines from the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee in South Australia in 2008, and was surprised to find that no one else in the country had tried growing it.
``I guess that's the thing - we really don't know how many other varieties we could grow in Tasmania, because we don't have the generational knowledge of, say, the French,'' he said.
``The Dornfelder was just planting the right vine in the right place, it was an experiment that might only ever work one time out of 100.
``But I think it shows there is still a lot to be discovered. Remember that pinot gris used to be seen as an alternative wine.''
Mr Dolan said Frogmore Creek winemaker Alain Rousseau was integral to the first vintage of Dornfelder - which produced 58 cases and was launched at the Taste of Harvest in Devonport last September.
Mr Dolan said he had already sold 1100 Dornfelder cuttings to nurseries this year, while he knew of other growers in the Huon and Coal River valleys who were now looking to plant it.
``For the longest while I wondered if I was wasting my time,'' he said. ``I put all these vines in, I knew I'd have something different, but the taste . . .
``It was a hell of a buzz, to get it back after five years and see that it'd turned out OK.''