Bunches of luscious grapes hang low on the vine in the Granite Belt, luring discerning wine tasters. Embracing the Queensland town of Stanthorpe is a high altitude wine region, some of the highest in elevation in Australia. Within the cool climate and granite soil, akin to France's Southern Burgundy region, vineyards produce their award-winning wine varieties such as Pino Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Alternative varieties called Strange Birds offer new sensory delights. Designed to suit specific types of foods, alternative wines have increased in popularity. To fit the 'alternative' category a wine must represent less than one percent of the total bearing vines in Australia, abiding by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation specifications.
The Granite Belt vinters' expertise and innovations produce elegant wines of individuality. Wine tasting tours can be self-conducted or organised by a tour group such as Stanthorpe Tours, which is highly recommended. Let's go touring and tasting at some of over forty cellar doors waiting to be opened.
Ballandean Estate Wines
Aromas, flavours and heavenly wines are squeezed from the grapes at Ballandean Estate Wines. This is the peak of the wine making arts with the expertise of many years' experience. The science of grape growing and coaxing the best of their juices is fun to watch, but God is in the details for this Estate. They have the oldest working barrels in Queensland.
The cellar door's rustic looks are just the warm welcome the thirsty taster is searching for. The Viognier red wine combines a touch of spice with complexity, suitable for a seafood accompaniment. Sylvaner dessert wine goes wonderfully well with crème brulee or cheese platter. There are many exotic Strange Birds to sample. German beer aged to 150 is another source of pride.
Owner, Angelo Puglisi, was born with wine in his veins. The first cellar door established in the region in 1970, Ballandean Estate has a rich family history of winemaking inherited from Italy. In 1930, Salvatore Cardillo immigrated to the Stanthorpe area bringing a love of food and wine. Grapes planted produced red wine which was sold locally. Two generations later Angelo and Mary Puglisi began operations in 1968, replanting the vineyard with several varieties, some of the first planted in the region.
In the tranquil Glen Aplin grounds of this family-owned boutique winery, fun and foolery become the order of the day when the Jester arrives to amuse and educate visitors. Short theatrics are included in some of their functions.
The cellar door is akin to a medieval hall, designed for involvement from the audience. Sit-down tasting for large groups is a pleasure for the Jesters. Tours of the winery and vineyard include explanations on viticulture and oenology (wine making).
The idea for the name 'Jester Hill' came with the thought that 'only two fools would own a winery'. Wines are striking and flavoursome, receiving positive responses. Group and wedding functions popular, on the terrace, in the cellar door or on the landscaped grounds. High tea on the lawn or canapés around the barrels are memorable.
Granite Ridge Winery boasts a Cellar Door and Fergie's Hill Cottage. Boutique, unique and quality wines with an emphasis on Strange Birds such as Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Verdelho. A weekend stay will blow the cobwebs away.
A crisp morning on the Granite Belt. Image by graniteridgewines.com.au. Address: Sundown Rd, Ballandean. Ph: 07 4684 1263.
Wine is the music that fills your cup in this five-star winery. The barrel room group tastings are highly recommended. Wines include Wild Child Viognier, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng and Semillon.
Stanthorpe Tours will help you customise your tour and select the wineries you might enjoy best. Nothing is too much trouble. They will pick you up at your accommodation in the black mini-bus which is very comfortable and packed with extra goodies such as chocolates, cheese platter, local wine, champagne, juice and bottled water. Video clips and music create a happy atmosphere.
Image from mtstirlingolives.com.au/index.php/our-products/category/34-olive-oils
Mt Stirling Olives is a tasty and healthy stop. Over 3500 olive trees grow on the estate and there is a nursery where you can purchase your own olive tree. If you want to get away for the weekend, book into one of their charming rustic cabins. Collect your delicious breakfast hamper the next day before continuing your winery tours.
Stanthorpe Tours' Five Star Tour in the limousine bus takes you to the five-star wineries of the region. Other tours include the Barrels and Beers Tour, Wine and Cheese Delight Tour and the Strange Bird Sampler. See prices.
A two-course lunch at the wonderful Ballandean Estate or the Granite Belt Brewery is included in the cost of the tour. Meals are served promptly on arrival. Listen in to your guide's advice on tips to maximise pleasure at the wineries you will visit.
Given time you may even be able to visit extra sites that weren't already included in your tour. Great fun for a girls' day out, there is also karaoke or sing-alongs on the drive back to your hotel.
Take your partner for a romantic stroll through the vineyards and sip the last of the summer wine. To make a booking visit the website or call on mobile 0437 707 765.