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Granite Belt Wineries

Wine expert Stuart Robinson aka The Vinsomniac shares his essential tips for visiting the Granite Belt wineries.

A mere two and half hours from Brisbane, perhaps three if you make the essential stop at the Bakery at Aratula for one of their fine pies - lies the Granite Belt wine region.

The Granite Belt is Queensland’s principal wine producing region. Running some 40 kilometres in a North to South direction, approximating the townships of Thulimbah to Wyberba, the region skirts the New South Wales border in places, and indeed the New England Highway that runs the length of the region is one of the principal inland routes that connects the two great states of Queensland and New South Wales.

The wineries you visit may well be dictated by their proximity to your chosen accommodation. The following cellar doors represent a small handful of those in the region and serve as an excellent introduction to the region, the style of wines produced and its rugged terrain. Cellar Doors are listed in the order you might visit them, if travelling in a North-South direction.


Ridgemill Estate

Ridgmeill Estate started life as Emerald Hill in 1998, owned by two Spaniards who planted some of the grape varieties with which Ridgemill now excels. Acquired by Martin Cooper in 2005, renamed as Ridgemill Estate, the estate is in the area known as Severnlea. 

The gradual incline up which you will drive on your way to the cellar door, will pass the principal estate plantings on your left, with the on-site accommodation to your right. Looking like an an architect’s plaything, the cellar door is welcoming with a large central tasting bench - where manager Jill Merritt looks after guests. Ridgemill produces varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho. For something a little different try the Jacquez - a spicy red wine made from a grape whose origins are of the Eastern United States; the skin-contact ‘orange’ wine fermented in clay amphorae; and the WYP Chardonnay - a variety for which Ridgmeill and winemaker Peter McGlashan are becoming increasingly renowned.

Also in the area: On your way to Ridgemill Estate you will likely have passed the Brass Monkey Brewery - a nano-brewery producing small batches of traditional styled beers, a worthy stop for those who prefer their fermented beverages in another form. Other wineries in the area you may wish to visit are Lucas Estate and Moonrise Estate.


Savina Lane

The vines at Savina Lane have a history dating some 40 years, but the history of the winery of that name is somewhat more recent, dating back to 2012 and its acquisition by Brad and Cheryl Hutchings. The Cellar Door at Savina Lane is a work in progress, scheduled for opening around Easter 2015.

The winery produces a focussed range of varieties, choosing to special in producing wines with a Mediterranean bent. Travelling along the driveway, a thoroughfare that snakes its way around the property, before the vines present themselves with the magnificent cellar door perched on a hill ahead. Continue the drive up to the cellar door for an amazing vista back across the vineyard. Whites produced are Fiano - a variety of Sicilian origin and Viognier - a magnificent example of a variety that has its origins in France’s Northern Rhone region. The reds to ensure you taste - and add to your cellar at home - are the Graciano and Tempranillo. Both are red varieties of Spanish origin, the examples produced at Savina Lane amongst the best produced in Australia.

Also in the area: Kominos Wines and Severn Brae Estate can also be found in the Glen Aplin area of the Granite Belt.


Twisted Gum

The property that now houses the Cellar Door at Twisted Gum was originally located some 250KMs away on the banks of the Logan River before being transported to the Granite Belt in 2012 by owners Tim and Michelle Coelli. The Twisted Gum estate was originally part of neighbouring Hidden Creek before sub-division in 2007. The wines being produced are the result of the love and input from Michelle - with a degree in Rural Science and a passion for low input, sustainable agriculture - and Tim, an Adjunct Professor of Economics.

Winemaking duties are currently led by Andy Williams, with key wines produced being the Chardonnay - a fresh and crisp example carrying flavours of stone fruit; a white blend that is perfect for those sultry summer nights in the South-East. Reds produced are an excellent cool climate Shiraz and the Cabernet from 2012 is one of the best examples in the region, a wine that will age beautifully - as long as you have the patience to keep your hands off it that is.

Also in the area: take the time to visit neighbouring Hidden Creek, before heading back across the highway to the Ballandean township and the wineries clustered there.


Ballandean Estate

Ballandean has one of the longest histories with respect to grape growing and winemaking in the area. The current custodians, the Puglisi family, themselves have links to the region dating back to the 1940s, a visit to the winery a must to taste your way through the extensive range of varieties produced.

Pull up at the cellar door, making your way through the entrance to the tasting counter where, more likely than not you’ll be met by one of the two Puglisi sisters involved in the running of the business, Leanne and Robyn. There’s bound to be something for everyone amongst the range of wines produced, but for something removed from the ordinary, try the Saperavi - from a grape variety that has its origins in Georgia, in the former Soviet Union. Likewise the Malbec, originally of French origin, is finding a home for itself on the Granite Belt, the Ballandean Estate being a particularly good example.

Also in the area: take time for lunch at the Barrel Room Cafe - run by husband and wife chef team, Bobby and Matt - that adjoins the Ballandean Estate cellar door. Golden Grove Estate and Tobin (see below) can also be found in the Ballandean area. 


Tobin Wines

Pulling up to the Tobin Cellar Door provides a glimpse into the former life of owner/winemaker Adrian Tobin. Tobin funds his winemaking ‘hobby’ through an international firm he owns, Urban Art Projects - an organisation that provides art and sculptures to corporations and government alike.

Tobin describes himself thus: “I am an artisan and the wine is an art form” and further talks about growing, as opposed to making, wine. That quality, focused and determined approach shows in the meticulous care shown to the vines and wines, and their inherent nature. They say that you can tell a lot about a winemaker by his wines.

Try the Tobin Merlot, a serious attempt at a variety that is all too often abused in Australia, not so at Tobin. The best examples offer savoury, gamey notes and possess a depth that is all too often missing in many examples. Likewise the Semillon is an example that ranks alongside some of the best that the world famous Hunter Valley produces. The Granite Belt is its own region, but can rightly stand alongside  some of the best in Australia.

The Granite Belt possesses a raw beauty, its granite strewn landscape giving it an other-worldly appearance. It’s a shame that many don’t often know about the best of it, reach out, explore - safe and happy travels. 

Stuart Robinson is a wine blogger at The Vinsomniac, a website dedicated to reviewing and exploring Australian wine. Stuart also runs a side project, Swirl Sniff Spit a monthly wine tasting group in Brisbane.

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Image credit: Ridgemill Escape, Savina Lane, Twisted Gum, News, alluxia
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