I'm a freelance writer in Brisbane who is passionate about the food and wine scene in the Granite Belt, Queensland. I am writing a book of the people and food of Stanthorpe and plan to launch the publication in 2014.
Published June 27th 2014
Why should the kids have all the fun these school holidays?
Temperatures have dropped below zero for the school holidays on the Granite Belt. Head to Ballandean, south of Stanthorpe, for premium wineries, log fires and sumptuous dinners. So, who says school holiday fun can't be decadent and involve a glass of red or two?
With more than forty vineyards on the Granite Belt, cellar door punters can be overwhelmed at the choice of where to go. For a premium wine experience, this itinerary is based on the rankings in James Halliday's 2014 Wine Companion and features five, award-winning wineries based at Ballandean.
This suggested itinerary is based on starting from your accommodation (based at Ballandean if possible) at 10:30am and finishing by 4:30pm, with time allowed for a lunch stop. The order of wineries allows you to start at the outlying vineyards and finish in central Ballandean near your accommodation.
Symphony Hill won their first five-star rating from James Halliday in 2012 and maintained their rank in 2013. Winery owner, Ewen Macpherson, was voted one of the top 50 stars of the Australian Wine Industry by Wine Business Magazine. With 18 wines produced including alternative varieties, you are sure to find something you will love.
Logo for Symphony Hill Wines Credit: Symphony Hill Wines
2. Twisted Gum Eukey Road
Twisted Gum have only opened their cellar door in June/July 2013, since selling their vintages online for three years. Pride themselves on organic principles and mulch their vines to maintain moisture, rely on rainfall only. Six wines are available in their range.
Their cellar door is in a restored cottage and you'll love the log fire as a place to thaw out while you try their wines.
3. Ballandean Estate
Sundown Valley Road.
More than twenty wines in their range from quaffers to premium vintages for cellaring and fortified wines. Family-run business since the 1960s and make wines from vines more than 90 years old. This is also your lunch stop so combine your tasting with matching a wine to their menu of the award-winning The Barrel Room Café. They serve Merlo Coffee and use local produce and ingredients wherever possible.
Also, spend time in the Gourmet Food Gallery (to the right of the cellar door) to check out the range of local produce.
Wine trek: enjoying Ballandean Estate wines with Italian-inspired meals at The Barrel Room Cafe. Note the size of the barrels behind us.
4. Golden Grove
Sundown Valley Road (opposite Ballandean Estate)
Golden Grove was the outstanding performer for Halliday: named a Dark Horse for 2014, James Halliday selects 10 wineries of exceptional standard as Dark Horses, who have achieved a rank of 5 stars.
Golden Grove make 27 wines of single varietals, blends, and fortified wines using Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet, Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Black and White Muscat. Alternative grape varieties include, Barbera, Tempranillo, Mouvedre, Malbec, Durif, Vermentino and Nero d'Avola.
Highly recommended to try the alternative varieties made in the traditional Sicilian wine-making style.
Picking grapes at Golden Grove Estate Credit: Golden Grove Estate
5. Tobin Wines:
Corner of Ricca Lane and Sundown Valley Road: find the rock wall.
Four star winery for several years, Adrian Tobin has single block varieties of his Shiraz as well as single varietals. No blends.
Adrian Tobin speaks with so much passion for premium wine and his approach to winemaking. Often takes visitors on tours of his vineyard to show the care he has for his grapes and how vines are managed.
Great tasting notes are provided with Tobin Wine tastings and Adrian provides clear explanations of each variety's characteristics.
On the edge of our seats as Adrian Tobin describes the winemaking process