Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Roadmap to Explore the Granite Belt Wine Country in 48 hours


The Granite Belt Wine Country
The Granite Belt wine region is located in Queensland, Australia, and is famous for producing cool climate wines and emerging grape varieties, “Strange Birds”. This region is the highest wine region (ranging from 800 to 1200 meters above sea level) in Australia. With its unique terroir, longer growing season and deep granitic gravels, this region consistently produces wines of elegance and complexity. The region also has absolute freedom to grow any grapes that make sense to the owners, their customers, and their land. I have visited this amazing wine region two days ago with the #WBC19 crew and wanted to share my great experience right away. Here comes the "roadmap" that you can use to book and arrange everything you need for a memorable 48-hour wine excursion. Be ready for fantastic wines, great food, and proud wine people!


AIR TRAVEL & TRANSPORTATION
The Granite Belt wine region is approximately 2 ½ hours drive from the Brisbane Airport (BNE). If you have a designated driver or share driving among friends and family, renting a car is an option. The safest bet is to hire a wine tour specialist such as Filippos Tours, which knows Stanthorpe (the heart of Granite Belt) inside out. Burt, our driver and tour guide, has deep local knowledge of the wineries and can help plan how many wineries you can visit, given the time you have.

ACCOMMODATION
While there are quite a few motel options in the area, staying at the Granite Belt Motel, which is located in Stanthorpe, would be a great idea. Most of the rooms are recently renovated and have nice décor. Delicious breakfast can be prepared by the motel owner Lou. Some of the wineries also offer accommodation right at their location if you prefer to be more cozy with a particular winery.


WINES
Theresa from Heritage Estate walks us through her wines
Heritage Estate Wine, a 5-star 2020 Halliday* Wine Companion, has produced award-winning wines since 2004. Try their 2019 Fiano, which is a lusciously fruity and textured white wine. In addition to the impressive wines, pre-book with Theresa and Robert to sit around the 160 years old leather-topped rosewood table and have a grand dining experience. 
* James Halliday is a well-known Australian wine writer and critic, winemaker, and senior wine competition judge. Think Robert Parker in the US.
Brad from Savina Lane is pouring Graciano for tasting
Savina Lane is known for producing premium hand-crafted wines from single vineyard hand-picked fruit. Contact the owner Brad or Cheryl, to see if their Cellar Door is open. They are running out of current wine releases for walk-in customers. If you have the opportunity, try their 2015 Graciano, which has red cherry aromas and hints of dark chocolate and white pepper.
Michael from Jester Hill talks about his beautiful Rose
Jester Hill Wines is a French Provincial style vineyard, cellar door, and cafe in the Granite Belt. It has a long list of top-notched wines, ranging from the unique Sparkling Rousanne (methode traditionale) to tannic Petit Verdot. Michael, the owner of the winery, is known as the man who does everything in the vineyard and winery by himself. Ann, another owner, serves to-die-for hors d'oeuvre and platters to accompany your wine tasting experience in their out-/indoor cafe.
Ballandean Estate Wines, the oldest winery in Granite Belt, has been producing fine wines since 1932. Having the bloodline of an Italian family, Leeanne truly embraces the Italian tradition while optimizing the freedom given by Granite Belt to produce emerging varieties. Try 2016 ‘Messing About’ Saperavi, a variety that’s originated in Georgia. It’s a full-bodied, ink-purple red wine that would go well with beef steaks or lamb chops. Try also the home-made pasta in tomato sauce with a glass of Chardonnay or Shiraz in their Barrel Café.
Raymond from Golen Grove starts with the Whites
Golden Grove Estate has been awarded by the Australian Society of Viticulture & Oenology (ASVO) as the 2019 Winery of the year, including Winemaker and viticulturalist of the year. Raymond, the winemaker, has produced a full spectrum of wines that suit every taste. Out of the sparklers, whites, and reds, the 2018 Durif is a true stand-out. It’s tannic but elegant, a perfect red wine for game meats.
Twisted Gum Wines believes in sustainability and no irrigation
Twisted Gum Wines produces single-vineyard non-irrigated wines. Its owner Michelle is fully aware of the impacts (e.g., global warming) from the climate changes and aligns their vinicultural strategy to deal with them. Since the region is currently experiencing drought and unusual heat for the season, Michelle believes the vines that are trained to grow with a water source in the deeper soil will survive these climate impacts. Try 2019 Chardonnay that’s fresh and un-oaked, allowing wine lovers to taste the fruit.
Hidden Creek Wines are seeking a niche

Hidden Creek serves some alternative varieties such as Tempranillo Verdelho and Viognier, which are “Strangebirds” for the region. Andy, the owner, believes in making wines with a ‘niche’ that consumers will remember it uniquely from a producer. Try their 2018 Viognier, which is stone-fruit, textured, and has a hint of ginger. Leanne, another owner, also brews great expresso in winery's café.

Carefully done pairing between food and wines at QCWT
Queensland College of Wine Tourism is a joint venture between the University of Southern Queensland and the Department of Education, Training and Employment. The College grows its own grapes and produces wines under its brand, Banca Ridge. The wines are made from fruit largely grown in the surrounding Stanthorpe State High School and QCWT vineyards, and many of our wines are locally produced alternative varieties. Try their 2017 Methode Traditionelle Sparkling with a charcuterie board before a sit-down dinner at their Varia Restaurant. The 4-course dinner we had was carefully paired with wines to showcase the food.

Sirromet, O'Reilly's and Ocean View Wines are served at the #WBC19 lunch
Sirromet Wines, which is located at Mt Cotton Brisbane, is the largest cellar dollar that showcases wines from the Granite Belt wine region. Mike Hayes, the Director of Viticulture and Chief Winemaker, has 39 years of wine-making experience and is the ASVO’s winemaker of the year of 2017. A wine geek detail that was shared by Mike was the Paulsen 1103, which is a grape that can fight extreme drought and heat, may have a great future in the Granite Belt area. Try Sirromet's Sparkling Shiraz, which goes perfectly well with a buffet that features salmon, mussel, and cured meats. O'Reilly and Ocean View wines were also served at the #wbc19 lunch at Sirromet.


ROCK
For keen outdoorsy, climb up to the Pyramid in the Girraween National Park for a breath-taking view if you can. On your path to the top or even on the less challenging paths in the park, you’ll see massive granite outcrops, large angular tors, and precariously balanced boulders.

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