Settled into one of The Canberra Wine House’s comfy leather couches with a local shiraz, Brysson Leeson takes me back to where it all began.
A Bachelor of Business at an agricultural college in Orange wasn’t advertised as the place to spark interest in wine, however, a friend’s passion for a good drop quickly wore off on her at the age of 21.
It seems in life we are often presented our best opportunities when least looking for them. This was the case for Brysson Leeson, founder and manager of The Canberra Wine House.
From university, she pursued wine work, undertaking a vintage in Canberra with Hardy’s Wines. One vintage turned to three - using off-seasons to travel the globe - and with a wealth of wine knowledge, Brysson moved into a sales rep role with Penfolds.
At the time, Canberra wines weren’t on most connoisseurs lips, but Brysson enjoyed making connections around the region’s community. One of these connections led to a conversation with Eden Road Wines’ Nick Spencer and a 2011 start as Sales and Marketing Manager of Eden Road in Murrumbateman.
Since then, Brysson grew her family with two young boys, Max and Archie, and left the wine industry, taking a job in Events Management with The Tradies.
But just as it seemed wine was leaving Brysson’s professional realm, The Tradies CEO, Rob Docker, approached her with an opportunity.
The Tradies had already changed their wine list to 100% local drops, and Docker was looking for something different to fill an empty space in The Dickson Tradies.
“When Rob came to me with this idea, I just couldn’t believe my luck,” says Brysson. “I just thought this was absolutely perfect.”
“We stuck our heads together and decided that a wine bar would be a really good idea,” she says. “We knew that at that time no other wine bar in Canberra sold 100-percent local wines.”
And so in late 2015, an intimate setting, filled with Canberra’s top wines commenced - and since then, locals and tourists can’t get enough of it.
“We always wanted it to be a nice, intimate atmosphere that was away from the club atmosphere and was something a little bit different,” says Brysson. “We are trying to break down that barrier of the wine snob. I think people feel they have to know about wine to be drinking it, and you don’t - you just need to know whether you like it or not.”
“I love when people come in and they’re so particular about the type of wine they like to drink,” she tell me. “Then you get them to try something else and you’ve opened up a whole new experience to them. They walk away saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I liked chardonnays or pinot gris, I only ever drank sav blancs.”
The Canberra Wine House embraces wine enthusiasts and first-timers alike. It’s a place that celebrates educating customers in a casual setting, enticing them to taste the region’s rapidly growing successes.
“When we are speaking to customers we don’t tell them what the wine tastes like because everybody’s opinion is different and we don’t want you to feel that this is what you should be noticing or tasting,” says Brysson. “We talk about the producers, the history of the wine, and the variety, then allow you to look at it yourself in a comfortable surrounding and take what you can from it.”
With table service and the ability to approach the bar, customers often find themselves talking wines and the Canberra region while tasting it.
“Here it’s more about the experience and you do get to know the staff. There’s more one-on-one time,” says Brysson. “We find that people sit here for hours.”
Visit Brysson and her staff at The Canberra Wine House Wednesday through Saturday.
Wednesdays and Thursdays 4pm to 9pm
Fridays and Saturdays 3pm to 10pm