This post is about wine-tasting in the Granite Belt region of Queensland. I’m not sure what you were expecting but suggest you might need to go and wash your mind out with soap.
We arrived in Stanthorpe having driven from Toowoomba. We stopped on the way at Queen Mary Falls which is about 30km outside of Warwick and well worth a stop. There’s a nice café which is part of a caravan park and an adjacent free to use BBQ area. We shared a sandwich and chips – great value and watched the parrots being fed by children. They were really tame and would land on your hand for food. Unusually, it appeared that when people weren’t there to entertain the parrots, they occupied themselves by knitting jumpers for the trees.
We headed off on the 2 km walk that looped down to the bottom of the falls and back up again. There were stunning views and it was a good example of how its worth taking a couple of hours out of your itinerary to check out things you weren’t expecting to along the way. Serendipity is not only a fantastic word, it is a fantastic concept.
We thought we’d have to double back to Warwick to continue on our way but the GPS suggested otherwise. We did end up on some pretty ropy unsealed roads but it helped cut off a corner to arrive at Stanthorpe by mid afternoon. Following a stop at Summit Estate wines to purchase a beverage or two for the evening, we made our way to our destination, Alure. The description of this accommodation was going to be part of this post but we were so blown away that it deserved a post of its own. You therefore need to read; The day we thought we’d died and gone to heaven’, if you want to find out about it.
The next day we’d booked in for a bespoke tour of wineries with Wine Discovery Tours. Jane had bought me this for my Christmas present and we’d really designed the holiday around it. Pete, the owner operator of the company arrived at 9.30 a.m. in his luxury Land Rover Discovery and we headed off. The first two stops weren’t wine related; Suttons Apple Farm and Stanthorpe Cheese. Suttons produce a huge range of apple products including juice and alcoholic cider but also pies, preserves and syrups. We sampled the juice and cider but only purchased a selection of juices. Back in our youth before alcopops were invented, cider was the traditional way you were introduced to alcohol. Unfortunately, therefore, we both have some unpleasant memories which we still can’t shake, and it’s fair to say that cider is not our favourite beverage.
Stanthorpe Cheese were also very generous with their samples, and we didn’t take much convincing to make a purchase. Luckily, Pete had a fridge in his car to keep it cool throughout the day. Both Suttons and Stanthorpe cheese had cafes where you could try more of their produce, but for us, wine beckoned.
Throughout the day we visited a number of Cellar Doors. These included; Ballandean Estate, Heritage Wines and Symphony Hill Wines. All of the people we met were incredibly friendly and generous with their knowledge and samples of their produce. We also stopped for a great Italian lunch at the Barrel room at Ballandean Estate. However, three wineries really stood out for us; Savina Lane Wines, Tobin Wines and Golden Grove Estate.
Savina Lane has grown vines for over 40 years but fairly recently its been taken over by Brad and Cheryl who have revitalized the vineyard. They’ve built a fantastic new cellar door with magnificent views over their vines. To store their wines they’ve blasted into the granite to build an underground cellar. Apparently they were told the project would take two weeks but it ended up taking six. We were met by Cheryl who took us down to the vines as ‘bud burst was occurring and new buds had arrived over night. We then returned to the comfortable cellar door to taste their full range of top class wines. As you might expect, we left with more purchases for the back of Pete’s Land Rover, and also, membership of Savina Lane’s inner circle club.
First stop after lunch was Tobin’s wines. Adrian Tobin hosted us and he was a fascinating and passionate advocate for great quality wines. His philosophy mirrored the old world concept of terroir, at the core of which is that you need to get the fruit right to produce great wine. His wine wasn’t cheap but when you understand that for some reserve wines he prunes the vines back to only have four bunches on a vine to concentrate the quality, you understand the price point a bit more. His service was also impeccable, giving us a clean glass for every sample. He explained that he gets many people running out of the door when they see the prices but he tries to encourage them to at least taste the wine, with no obligation, as he’s truly passionate about sharing his love of the grape. He left us with a sobering truism. Q: How do you make $1 million dollars in a boutique winery? A: Start with $10 million. For our part we couldn’t resist splashing out on some of his truly fantastic wine and a membership of his club which provides great savings for the members. We were very tempted to purchase a bottle of his $100 reserve Tempranillo but just didn’t think we’d have the willpower to do it justice and leave it at least 5 years before drinking. However after sleeping on it, we couldn’t resist so returned the next day to buy a bottle. We’d forgotten that by joining the club we got 25% discount so that softened the financial blow a bit.
Just down the road from Adrian Tobin was Golden Grove Estate. We’d sampled some of their wines at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers but were particularly keen to try some of their reserve varieties. Their reserve Mourvedre has won many accolades including a sought after 97pt rating from influential critic James Halliday. Once again, we were blown away by the generosity and friendliness of the staff at Golden Grove, and you’ve guessed it, added to our growing collection. Golden Grove was also another fine example of the beautiful scenery provided by the vineyards.
After finishing our tour Pete dropped us back to Alure with a complimentary bottle of bubbles and a cheese platter. We can’t recommend Wine Discovery Tours highly enough. Pete was engaging throughout the day, sharing his extensive knowledge of the region and its wineries. He was also the perfect gentleman, carrying our purchases to the car and securing them safely. A truly great experience. In case you’re wondering, no spitting occurred.