The Granite Belt Diaries July 2022

This year, because I messed up an AirBnB booking we only spent 6 nights on The Granite Belt so I missed catching up with several wineries I really wanted to visit and at least one I haven’t visited in many years. Those were in order Casley Mt Hutton Winery, Jester Hill Wines and Savina Lane Wines. Hopefully my builder, who hasn’t even started yet as we try to negotiate the endless misinformation of my insurer, will have finished before the years end and I can visit The Granite Belt again in 2022.

Update: I’ve just found a short window and will be travelling to The Granite Belt again for three nights at the end of July. These diaries may be added to after that trip.

What Grape is The Granite Belt Signature Variety?

Some local wine makers are keen on the idea of The Granite Belt having a signature grape variety. For example The Baroossa has Shiraz and Coonawarra has Cabernet Sauvignon (but don’t tell that to WA!). The idea certainly has merit but what variety and how to pursue it and market it so it has a strong association with The Granite Belt? It would have to be something new not yet established elsewhere. The one variety I can think of is Albariño as it isn’t strongly associated with anywhere else in Australia and it shows a lot of early promise on The Granite Belt. So perhaps the marketing gurus could work their magic with this promising variety before another GI ‘owns it’. Regardless Chardonnay will likely remain king of the white varieties on The Granite Belt for the foreseeable future and Verdelho, Fiano and Vermentino have probably already become so widespread they are no longer contenders. However, and instead of musing on what could be, what about considering what is?

Quite a few years ago now two local wine makers Peter McGlashan and Jim Barnes developed the local promotion concept of Strangebird. Strangebirds are grape varieties which are less encountered and eligibility is that any Strangebird variety must account for less than 1% of the annual crush in Australia. Peter and Jim, even back then, could see the experimentation and willingness to embrace new varieties and processes by local wine makers and wineries. Today you can follow the ‘Strangebird Trail’ and sample many less encountered varieties. However Strangebird only introduces you to a small amount of the variety on The Granite Belt. Alternative varieties have been something that has interested growers and producers on The Granite Belt for decades. The pioneering Costanzo and Puglisi families at Golden Grove Estate and Ballandean Estate respectively had a keen interest in introducing new grape varieties to the region. In 2012 Mike Hayes won a Churchill Fellowship which allowed him to travel to many European wine regions and study in excess of 600 varieties. Mike has been a champion of introducing alternative varieties to The Granite Belt. The current summation of the collective efforts of local growers and producers is worth considering in the following context.

According to Wine Australia in 2020 The Granite Belt, although a large GI in area, having a total area of 1,158 Km2 has only 358 Hectares of vineyards and an annual crush of 396 tonnes. Compare that with The Barossa GI which is 578 Km2 but has 11,609 Hectares of vineyards and annual crush of 50,902 tonnes. So The Granite Belt has 3% of the planted vine area of The Barossa and has an annual crush of only 0.8 percent of The Barossa yet in this comparatively tiny planted area and resultant tiny crush the following varieties are planted:
*Note some of these are new vines and we won’t be seeing any wines for a few years, also there may be some inaccuracies in the figures of Wine Australia but the overall comparative picture is unlikely to be affected.

White ..

Albariño
Ansonica
Baroque (aka Barroque)
Chardonnay
Chenin Blanc
Colombard
Cortese
Fiano
Garganega
Gewürztraminer
Gros Manseng
Gruner Veltliner
Malvasia
Marsanne
Moscato Giallo (Yellow Muscat)
Pecorino
Pinot Blanco
Pinot Gris
Roussanne
Sauvignon Blanc
Semillon
Sylvaner
Verdelho
Vermentino
Viognier

Red ..

Aglianico
Barbera
Black Muscat
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Carménère
Colorino
Durif
Gamay
Graciano
Grenache
Jacquez
Lagrein
Malbec
Maturana Tinta (aka Castets)
Mencía
Merlot
Montepulciano
Mourvèdre
Nebbiolo
Nero D’Avola
Petit Verdot
Pinot Noir (at least 4 clones, possibly 6)
Pinotage
Prieto Picudo
Refosco Del Punduncola Rosso
Ruby Cabernet
Sagrantino
Sangiovese
Saperavi
Shiraz
Tannat
Tempranillo
Zinfandel

So it’s possible and I merely present the as yet untested by myself proposition that The Granite Belt could be the GI that has the densest plantings of different varieties per hectare of planted vines in Australia. If this is true then it may be that a more accurate description of the signature variety of The Granite Belt is actually variety itself. It is my experience that people can visit this region and by tasting at just a few cellar doors experience a huge variety of wine grapes, blends, and wine making styles – certainly variety is thriving on The Granite Belt.

Beyond the above and also including some of the varieties in the above list the Queensland College of Wine and Tourism has planted the following varieties in it’s experimental block:

Xarello, Cinsault, Montepulciano, Graciano, Lagrein, Arneis, Malvesia Blanc, Auxerrois, Pignoletto, Tinta Cao, Aglianico, Canadian Muscat, Tinta Barroca, Carignan, Monduese, Souzao, Dolcetto, Harsveleveu, Gewurztraminer, Durif, Carmenere.

Some Recent News

Granite Belt Wine Centre

The Granite Belt may have a Granite Belt Wine Centre within 18 months. John Searle has purchased the old Anglican Church at Ballandean and his son Lachlan intends to manage it by establishing The Granite Belt Wine Centre when he finishes his current commitments in around 18 months.

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This offers the potential for all Granite Belt visitors to taste and purchase all the wines from across the GI in one location, personally I believe that would be a very visitor friendly development for the region and hopefully all the local producers will support the concept.

Ravens Croft Wines Under New Ownership

Mark Ravenscroft has had the travel urge for a few years now and it just won’t quieten down. So Mark decided the only way he could quell that beast is to sell and jump on a number of planes. Nick and Caitlin bought Mark’s picturesque vineyard and winery in November last year.

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Mark (left) will remain actively involved for the next three years as a wine making mentor for Nick and Caitlin (right). I met Nick on Saturday 18th June this year but didn’t have the privilege of meeting Caitlin as she was heavily pregnant and also had the flu … bub should have arrived by now! Nick explained that they want to continue with Mark’s pedigree so Mark’s excellent wines: Pinotage; The Waagee; Tempranillo; Reserve Chardonnay; Pinot Grigio etc will remain but they want to also add some new wines to the range one of which currently is a skin contact Fiano and they will also introduce a Pet Nat. New labels have been designed. Nick told me the vineyard plantings will also be significantly expanded. I look forward to being able to consume new wines from the winery and I’m sure Mark’s tutelage will produce excellent wine makers in Nick and Caitlin – I do welcome them to The Granite Belt and wish them long and great success and immense enjoyment! The new website is here: Ravenscroft Vineyard and Instagram is here: Ravenscroft Vineyard Instagram.

Closure of Rosemary Hill Vineyard

Duncan and Dinie Ferrier who developed the Rosemary Hill Orchard and Vineyard have decided to plough the vineyard in and plant more fruit trees. This will be a significant loss for some Granite Belt wineries who used the high quality fruit grown at Rosemary Hill. Perhaps this is another unwelcome causality of the extreme drought followed by the extreme wet. There are many local growers though who will be able to fill most of the void.

Closure of The BarrelRoom Restaurant in Ballandean Estate

One of the best restaurants on The Granite Belt will have closed by the time you read this. The space has been repurposed as The Granite Belts first wine lounge so at 9AM Friday 15th July The Ballandean Wine Lounge opened and it will be open from 9 to 5 every day. Graeme Haynes is the inaugural Wine Lounge Manager he will be overseeing the matching of wines with platters and the Ballandean Estate staff are very keen to offer their stories and wine knowledge with all visitors. Apparently even Mary Puglisi has become re-invigorated (as if she was ever de-invigorated!) by the new venture and you may just encounter her there as well. I certainly look forward to visiting. The announcement is on instagram here.

Opening of Marley’s Little Kitchen

Matt and Bobbi Wells who ran The BarrelRoom Restaurant have begun a new venture, which includes an interim restaurant Marley’s Little Kitchen (MLK) in Stanthorpe on the same side of Maryland Street as O’Mara’s Hotel and just a little more toward the bridge.Marley's Little Kitchen MLK subtitled ‘a taste of things to come’ is a road to a much larger restaurant which will be located near Aldi and shall include a Wine Bar at the front, a Restaurant behind the Wine Bar, and a Pizza bar towards the back. The contents may change of course but whatever the outcome we can all look forward to dining and wine-ing in a wonderful new Stanthorpe Restaurant.

MLK is currently open 7 days – Monday to Saturday 7AM to late and Sunday 7AM to 3PM. We dined at MLK on Monday evening 4th July, there’s a small report later in this year’s Granite Belt Diaries. The restaurant, as an interim measure, is small so book in advance. You can also BYO which is a nice addition. MLK is also offering a takeaway menu and including hampers. For up to date details visit the MLK Web Site.

John Handy Retires From Wine Making

Sadly for myself and many wine lovers John Handy, the wine maker for many years at Heritage Estate Winery, has decided to pursue another venture unrelated to wine making. John was one of my favourite local wine makers consistently producing fruit expressive wines which could also cellar long. I wish him every success in his new venture and sincerely hope that he returns to wine making on The Granite Belt in the future. If you have some of John’s cellaring style wines let them sleep long and open on special occasions. Especially his 2017 and 2019 Chardonnays, 2018 Wild Ferment Marsanne, 2009 Semillon, 2018 Old Vine Shiraz and 2020 Sagrantino.

This sad news of course means that Heritage Estate Winery has a new in-house wine maker. Stephen Oliver, who has been involved in making wines on The Granite Belt for around 20 years, has joined the Heritage team. It will be interesting to follow Stephen’s wines at Heritage, I’ve tasted one so far and was impressed.

Is there more than one Andy Williams?

OK, I’m not entirely sure about this but there must be some possibilities as it’s doubtful that a single person could do so much and appear to be everywhere almost at the same time. When you visit Hidden Creek Winery and encounter the wine maker you see the person on the left in the photo at left. Andy Williams1 However if you visit Mason Wines at Ballandean you’ll encounter an exact duplicate but you’ll have to accept my word on this because you can’t tell from the distant figure in the photograph but the doggie provides a clue – surely that’s Pepper aka Dumpy who is always seen accompanying the Andy Williams at Hidden Creek Winery.Andy Williams2 Now I can truthfully state that at Mason Wines the Andy Williams I talked with there was a perfect likeness of the one at Hidden Creek – as near as I could tell but I’m no expert on human phenotypes.

I did become quite suspicious when the one at Mason Wines told me there’s another at 4382 Terroir but I believe the truth became apparent when he told me I’d encounter one more if I visited Meteora Estate Vineyard. So there it is … Andy Williams has cloned himself and possibly also Pepper. Be careful though as there is some form of telepathy happening with these clones as they all seem to remember, in perfect detail, conversations I’ve had with each of them at the different locations.

What’s Really Happening?

Well apparently there is only one Andy Williams making wine on The Granite Belt he’s just gone a little hyper. Andy has leased the Mason Wines winery facility at Ballandean and there he’s making all the wines for Mason and for 4382 Terroir plus his own label Unsung Hero, he still makes the wines for Hidden Creek and is also making wines for Meteora Estate Vineyard who plan to have a cellar door by next winter. Andy is additionally making the wines for Serrena Que Estate and Dragon Fly Estate. I also heard a reliable rumor that he’s making a batch for Brisbane City Winery. But Andy is human after all so he and Leanne have stopped managing the Hidden Creek Winery Cellar Door and the Cafe. You can, instead, now indulge in some beautiful platters at Hidden Creek but more about that later.

Vintage 2021

Eastern Australia was pummelled by wet weather in early 2022 and very heart breaking flooding for many families and businesses. I must say that I do feel for all of them very strongly and wish them all the assistance they so rightly deserve. Our planning and building goal posts moved long ago but with no recognition and affirmative action by decision makers. Let’s hope an overall redesign with sensible measures can be embraced by all at last.

Vintage 2021 while not as wet as 2022 was still characterised by a wet veraison and the sprayers would have been in overdrive in some vineyards and for some varieties. Also the previous extreme drought years had a continuing effect on vines and local yields. Luckily The Granite Belt is mostly small vineyards and driven by hands on wine making throughout all the processes from viticulture to producing the wine. This ‘manageable’ hands on approach, as we learned in the 2011 vintage, is the most successful method of mitigating the effects of extreme conditions. As you would expect because vineyards aren’t vintages there was a lot of variation across the region in the 2021 vintage. Because yields were still down for some producers in the aftermath of the drought more grapes than usual were purchased from growers outside the GI, so you will encounter, but not to the same extent as 2020, wines made with a little more fruit from Chalmers, the Heathcote Region, Riverland and the like. Despite the challenging wet veraison and the hangover effect of the drought years there were some high volume/high quality yields on The Granite Belt and, as already mentioned other vineyards supplemented with non local GI fruit. The result is that you may expect some very good 2021 white and red wines on The Granite Belt and I can say this with some measure of confidence as I have tasted a few finished products and some still in barrel, additionally the skill set of Granite Belt wine makers has risen along with the explosion of grape varieties. I have, in fact, encountered a few 2021 wines, which are possibility the best produced by those labels in my experience. So always taste first and preferably with a clean palate but you can buy with confidence. Remember though about the clean palate – did you know that eating cheese while you taste wine can actually hide some faults in the wine but having a slice of green apple first achieves the opposite.

Friday 1st July

We left Brisbane for The Granite Belt later than usual because Varias didn’t have a lunch time slot available until 1:30. Even though we left in time to arrive for lunch by 1PM we were late as there had been two serious road accidents just south of Warwick so a detour was needed along a packed slushy partly dirt road.

Anyway, as usual Varias was worth the drive, no food photos this time but the meals were superb and still on trend the Petit Verdot (2019) is their best red wine. Unlike last time I didn’t get to taste the Albariño but, remembering how much I enjoyed it last July, I purchased a bottle of their latest vintage and will review this wine later in the year. Varias certainly seems to be Aria’s happy place!

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After Varias we did some shopping in town and headed to our accommodation to begin the unwind.

Saturday 2nd July

We had a late breakfast (around 10AM) at St Judes Cellar Door and Bistro. Sorry no photos on this day but Rob Davidson makes a great coffee with Fonzie Abbott beans and the Eggs Benedict were superb as usual. Aria opted for scrambled eggs, she says Rob makes the best she’s ever tasted.

After brekky Aria lead us back into town for some apparently very important clothes shopping which seemed to occupy hours. We decided to head to Jamworks for lunch. Driving into the Jamworks carpark at Glen Aplin just after 1PM I didn’t like our chances of a table, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the carpark so full, even the outside tables were occupied and it was cold. Luckily people were leaving one table just as we walked in and we were immediately ushered there.

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Jamworks is a real success story in the region. Anna’s Candles and Jamworks used to occupy different sections of a small building at the front of the property near The New England Highway. In 2006 Jamworks moved into a larger building constructed on the site just a little further from the main road and there they have flourished performing so well that the majority of the traffic that used to drive another few kilometers along Townsend Road to The Bramble Patch didn’t get beyond Jamworks. You must visit Jamworks Gourmet Foods if you haven’t yet done so. They offer scrumptious breakfasts, lunch with a range of local wines and a huge range of gourmet jams, relishes, chutneys, sauces, pastes, glazes etc. After lunch we returned to our accommodation for a short break before heading to Summit Estate Wines for the second burning of the Wickerman winter soltise event – the first had been so popular they had to host a second to deal with all the disappointed people who missed attending.

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We arrived at Summit Estate at 6PM and the place was packed. The previous event, one week ago, was a ticketed sit down dinner and dance. This one was more informal with platters and whatever wine you wanted a glass or bottle of at the cellar door. Nick spotted me and came over for a quick chat. Summit Estate wines are now being made at Symphony Hill by their South African wine maker Abraham de Klerk. We, myself and friend Graeme, tasted two wine and quickly decided on both. The first was a 2021 Cabernet Malbec and the second a 2021 Tempranillo. These were both enjoyable wines the Cabernet/Malbec being our group favourite, the Temp was up there being 15% alcohol by volume. Due to fruit shortages in the wake of the drought and the very wet 2021 veraison the fruit for the Tempranillo was sourced from outside the GI. The Cabernet/Malbec 12.9% a/v is a 60/40 blend, the Cabernet coming from outside the GI and the Malbec being estate fruit. A tasting note will be coming for this wine. When you visit Summit Estate ask Nick about his ‘Vegan Cheese’, he’s made four different cheeses from a base of cashew nuts, we bought some and opened them at the Mourvèdre Blind Tasting event at Pyramids Road Wines the next evening and they were a hit.

Our group sat at an inside table, the outside Wickerman burning brightly looked enticing but the inside fireplace, tables and chairs won the night. We left after most had gone acknowledging that we had just experienced another Granite Belt event that had been on our bucket list for a number of years .. thank you Summit Estate, Nick and Heidi ☺️

Sunday 3rd July

St. JudesWhen you stay at the Ballandean end of The Granite Belt there are two great venues for breakfast: St Judes Cellar and Bistro and Jamworks Gourmet Foods. We had brekky at St Judes yesterday but really felt like some more Fonzie Abbott coffee so the decision was obvious. Rob was having some electrical issues and we were lucky that he managed to accomodate us but had to turn most away.

There is a rare photo of the St Judes bar completely empty I took this photo realising that I’m unlikely to ever see this again during normal opening hours. In between making coffee and cooking our breakfast Rob was busy trouble shooting the switchboard circuits, he commented, somewhat nonchalantly, “you just have to learn to work around it”.

Anyway even under the challenging conditions Rob managed to deliver and coffee and food were both excellent – thank you Rob! Immediately following breakfast we returned to our accommodation and booked lunch at Hidden Creek Winery and Cellar Door.

We had a little extra time before lunch so we called into Bungawarra Wines.Bungawarra Wines Jeff ushered us outside to the warmth of the sunny verandah and where he had some opened bottles slowly reaching drinking temperature. Jeff and Tom made a new blend in the 2019 vintage ‘Malbec with friends’. This is a very slurpable wine which we both enjoyed tasting, there’s a full tasting note on the blog here.

I asked Jeff about Tom Battle and whether or not Tom is still the new assistant wine maker. Jeff replied, “No not an assistant at all we are both the wine makers here”. Jeff speaks very fondly of Tom saying he reminds him of himself when he was younger. We bought some of the Malbec with friends, only two bottles which, as I write this, have disappeared already so we’re returning for more. I asked Jeff if he still had any of the exceptional 2018 Malbec available and he replied that he could sell us just a few as he had put some aside for people who really loved that wine and obviously we were in that category, so we bought some more as we only had one remaining. I first encountered the 2018 Malbec at the last Magnificent Seven event at Victoria Park in Brisbane it was one of the standout wines of the night. After a really enjoyable but all to short conversation we said our goodbyes to Jeff as lunch was booked – Jeff is a true gentleman.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful Granite Belt winters day with clear blue skies and hardly any air movement. On days like this there aren’t any better places to spend some time than outside the Hidden Creek Winery Cellar Door sitting at tables next to the lake.

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The platters were just what we felt like eating for lunch on that gorgeous day and they paired beautifully with the Hidden Creek 2020 Saperavi we ordered. As mentioned earlier in these diaries Andy and Leanne no longer manage the Cellar Door and Cafe so on this occasion we were looked after by Emily an amicable and helpful girl from Surrey. Emily is brand new at Hidden Creek and apparently I asked her too many questions about the wine, so when Andrew Corrigan arrived she asked for help and sent him to our table. Andrew, a co-owner of Hidden Creek, is a master of wine. Our daughter Aria’s response to Andrew’s visit is recorded in the video above. We left Hidden Creek around 3PM with our sights firmly targeted on the evenings Mourvèdre Blind Tasting at Pyramids Road Wines.

We arrived at Pyramids Road Wines at 5PM to be greeted by Sue and Warren, Steve and Lisa from Girraween Estate and our ex Brisbane now Granite Belt local friends Graeme and Pauline. This blind tasting event has been held every year, with just one exception, for the last 10 or 12 years. People who have attended this event in the past are Craig Robinson, Peter McGlashan, Peter and Therese Stark, Anthony Rametta and partner and probably a few others. This is an evening myself and others really look forward to. It used to be hosted in the Pyramids Road Cellar Door but moved to the house a few years ago. The lineup for this years event is shown in the photo below.Mourvedre lineup

Left to right: Golden Grove 2019, 14% a/v, 35% Whole Bunch, Screwcap Granite Belt; The next an Adelina 2020 Shiraz/Mataro wasn’t part of the actual Mourvèdre tasting; Pyramids Road Wines 2021, 14% a/v (my guess), Screwcap Granite Belt; Vanguardist 2020, 14.1 a/v, 40% Whole Bunch, Diam, French oak puncheons, Blewitt Springs; Prometheus 2021, 12% a/v, Screwcap Riverland; Kay Brothers 2020 Basket Pressed Mataro, 14.5% a/v, Screwcap McLaren Vale; Hewitson 2016 Old Garden Mourvèdre, 14% a/v, Natural Cork, Barossa; Marius ‘Matarius’ Mataro 2017, 14.5% a/v, Screwcap, Willunga McLaren Vale; Pyramids Road Wines 2017 Mourvèdre 14.5% a/v (my guess), Screwcap, Granite Belt.

Mourvedre tasters

Above: The tasting group, minus the photographer, with one abstainer on a Nintendo Switch

Tasting Notes

Bottles were wrapped in socks and all wines were poured by myself. Tasters were unaware of the identify of any particular wine until all had tasted a few times and offered comments after which the label and other details about the wine e.g. a/v, whole bunch etc were revealed. Please note that these are all good wines and are capable of being drunk with enjoyment by many people. The following impressions of the wines are particular to the palates of the tasters and not everyone agreed with all the statements about the wines with the possible exception of the oak comments regarding the Hewitson wine.

Adelina 2020 Shiraz/Mataro

This wine wasn’t part of the ‘offical’ tasting as it wasn’t a straight Mourvèdre varietal. I brought it because I was interested in what Adelina wines were like. Tasters commented: Spicy dark red cherry, tastes ripe. Silky texture. Smooth and alcoholic. Pretty and plush. Not a complicated wine, easy drinking.

The blind tasted Mourvèdres are presented in the order in which they were tasted

Vanguardist 2020 Mourvèdre

Earthy mushroomy, savoury, inviting nose. Spicy. Red purple colour. Great length. Balance of tannin and acid.

Hewitson 2016 Old Garden Mourvèdre – the most expensive wine in the list and made from the oldest Mourvèdre vines in the world planted in 1853.

Vanilla, coconut oak, syrupy, big alcohol, chocolatey, red brown colour. Oak dominates fruit. Shortens the length. Natural cork closure. There was another concern expressed on the night regarding this wine that had nothing to do with the bottle’s contents, instead it was the bottle itself. The heft factor of this bottle is immense, it could be registered as a weapon! The Australian wine industry, like all industries in Australia, is concerned about sustainability factors and apparently glass bottles and transporting same accounts for the biggest component of a wine’s carbon footprint – see, for example, this article.

Prometheus Riverland Mataro 2021

Less dense colour but still bright. Lifted cherry perfume that looks like whole bunch. Strawberry nose with some greenness in the background. Very pinotesque. A bit too much of the stemmy character. Too much winemaking! Perhaps 100% whole bunch? Not overly varietal as a result. When the lower alcohol (12%) was revealed some comments were; It’s only 12% so maybe not whole bunch and just unripe fruit. However the whole bunch call was correct as this wine is 40% but I imagine the fruit ripeness along with the whole bunch produced the overall affect noted. This let to a discussion between myself and Warren on how you distinguish between the two on the palate – but you had to be there!

Kay Brothers Basket Mataro 2020

Dense colour. Barnyards. Not an inviting nose. Looks a bit dirty/grubby. A touch of funk. Old tired oak. A syrupy broadness that detracts. Earthy and mushroom. Note: This wine was matured in old puncheons for at least 12 months, people kept returning to it as the night continued and the wine kept improving.

Marius ‘Matarius’ Mataro 2017

A bit of age on this one, earthy, meaty cherry, raspberry, chocolate earthy palate with up front pretty cherry but slightly short flavour and slightly hard tannin acidic finish. Lack freshness. Looks a bit advanced for a 2017. Note: Roger Pike makes excellent Mataro, I’m suspicious about bottle variation and will put another one of these in the lineup next year.

Golden Grove 2019 Mourvèdre

Meaty, spicy, dusty on nose, tight sweet fruit on palate, big acid hint pencil
shavings on finish. Good structure.

Pyramids Road 2021 Mourvèdre

Note: At this point Warren decided to include two of his wines in the tasting so people knew that this wine and the next would be Pyramids Road Wines however they were unaware of the vintages. Fresh cherry, fruit driven style, lovely elegance and persistence of fruit character.

Pyramids Road 2007 Mourvèdre

BlackBerry fruit pastille, savoury cherry chocolatey palate, fruit has faded slightly but still a wonderful drink.

Despite some possible bottle variation you have to call what’s in front of you .. WOTN was the Pyramids Road 2021 Mourvèdre followed closely by the 2020 Vanguardist. Disappointment of the night was the 2016 Hewitson Old Garden due to the massive oak hit and there was a general opinion that the oak may not fade before the fruit does. I’ve decided to throw another of these in the lineup in around 5 years, if we’re still doing this, to see if the fruit has somehow managed to exert more influence.

Mourvèdre Blind Tasting 2023

We decided that next year we’ll taste, discuss and notes points, wait awhile and then do a second round. Reason is that wine can change given enough breathing time and the wines for the 2022 tasting were all popped and poured and life is so full this pop and pour process will likely continue.

Monday 4th July

Today we planned to Visit Brad at Boireann Winery, Rob and Therese at Heritage Estate Winery and dinner at Marley’s Little Kitchen. An agreement was reached to call into Brinx Deli and Cafe for brekky enroute to Boireann.

Brinx Deli & Cafe is a great place to have brekky or lunch in town but you really must book to avoid disappointment. The coffee is Campos (one of my favourite roasting houses), the food is excellent and the service friendly and efficient even when they are very busy. Unfortunately I had another ‘duh you forgot to take photos moment’ still you have to appreciate holiday brain. If you don’t book the staff will try and take care of you but this will likely mean waiting outside for 15+ minutes. After our breakfast two females just had to do more clothes shopping in town so we didn’t arrive at Boireann until after midday.

Driving into Boireann Winery we noticed a local tradies van parked in front of the house, Brad was having some repairs done. It was very cold, we walked inside the cellar door to escape the wind chill but the temperature inside seemed at least as cold. Eventually Brad arrived apologising about being held up by the tradie. Brad had explained in text that he had some ‘Regions Range Wines’. We discovered that these wines were made with grapes sourced from a vineyard at Heathcote – a personal choice by Brad as he likes fruit from the region but also probably because of reduced yields in 2021. The Boireann 2021 vintage wines were all in barrel and we left them sleeping there. So we tasted the three Regions Range Wines. Again apologies – no pics, however Brad was still in a process of gaining agreement for labels for the three wines.

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Brad and Aria – 2020 on the left and 2022 on the right. Brad could be shrinking?

The Regions Range wines were 2021 ‘The Plough’ a cabernet sauvignon, 2021 ‘The Shears’ a shiraz and 2021 ‘The Cart’ a cabernet sauvignon. Both The Plough and The Shears were made in a lighter style than is usual at Boireann. The Plough (RRP $30) is enjoyable fresh drinking now, light bodied with some drying tannins late on the palate, the a/v is 15%. The Shears, a shiraz, is made in a very similar style to The Plough and consequently is light bodied, exhibits more of a red than darker fruit expression, is 13.5% a/v. Both The Plough and The Shears are made for early drinking and aren’t cellaring style wines. The Cart was made using the same cabernet sauvignon grapes that were used for The Plough but the wine making process was very different. This is more of a serious wine made to express the more usual Boireann style. Extended maceration and 50% new French Oak have produced a more intensely flavoured wine with considerably more weight than the other two Regions Range Wines. The tannins are more like what Boireann enthusiasts are used to. The a/v is 15% and you can confidently cellar this wine for up to 10 years. We bought three of The Cart and drank one the same night at Marley’s Little Kitchen. We waved goodbye to Brad and left Boireann Winery at 1:15PM and headed straight to Rob and Therese.

It was around 1:30 as we parked at Heritage Estate Winery.

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Heritage Estate Winery has a very impressive cellar door, it’s unique to the region and steeped in history. If you haven’t yet visited you will be appreciative of what this cellar door has to offer from the enclosed verandah to the old brick building, large open fireplace and the antique ‘heritage’ furniture. The winery currently offers lunches on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. These lunches consist of 5 dishes paired with wines. The wines come in a Light Flight or a Full Flight. The winery also offers a 5 Senses Degustation Dinner on the 2nd Saturday of each month.fiano The 2021 Fiano in the picture is a truly lovely wine. I reviewed it on Instagram here but haven’t posted it on the Blog yet. The wine was made for the first time with some barrel influence, I had expected around 20% old oak and was surprised when I was told it was in new French Oak and the final blend would be around 50/50 Barrel/Tank. John Handy’s records indicate it was finally 45% new French Oak and 55% tank. What I didn’t realise at the time is that the oak used was an aquaflex barrel. You can read about aquaflex here, however the process involves saturating the wood in water to reduce the amount of soluble tannins, the partially constructed barrels are then bent by firing followed by toasting. The effect of this is that there is a gentler/smoother transition from oak to fruit in the wine with less smoky/roasted aromas and allows the fruit to more truly express itself. There are a few local wine makers now using this type of oak for Chardonnay. The 2021 Fiano presents the best of both maturation vessels – fruit expression from the tank and dialled back oak influence which allows an elegance in the spice and tannin combined with a creamy textural mouthfeel. This wine is still improving, you will certainly enjoy it now but don’t rush if you’re not feeling that thirsty. I bought one more so I can continue to follow it’s development.

We had booked dinner at Marley’s Little Kitchen for 6PM so we left Heritage and headed back to our accommodation for a short rest and to change for dinner.

When we arrived at Marley’s Little Kitchen we did appreciate that it is meant to be an interim stepping stone to a large restaurant and that we booked as there are around 8 tables in total.

“Marleys
“Marleys
“Marleys

If you’re familiar with the excellent cuisine at Ballandean Estate’s The BarrelRoom then you’re already acquainted with what to expect at Marley’s. Matt and Bobbi-Lee Wells were the creative force behind all those epicurean delights at The BarrelRoom but now they have left (see earlier in these 2022 Diaries) and have opened Marleys while they await the establishment of a much larger Restaurant/Wine Bar/Pizza House in Stanthorpe town. Again I suffered ‘Holiday Brain’ and the meals were all demolished before it occurred to me to take some photos. In my personal defence I do believe that I perform very well when I’m not on holidays – if you can ever trust a self-recommendation ha ha.

Aria (9 year old) ordered Calamari and Chips, she can be a fussy eater but these disappeared quickly. Myself and Liliana ordered a Beef Carpaccio for our entrees and a Duo of Beef with Balsamic braised cheek, sirloin, confit garlic mash, greens and homemade pesto. As aficionados of The BarrelRoom would appreciate, both meals were delicious. Marleys are open 7 days and are BYO – the bottle on the table at the front of the picture was Brad’s ‘The Cart’ Regions Range Cabernet Sauvignon which complimented the Duo of Beef perfectly but still no decision on the label yet!

Marleys are open for all day dining – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 3pm on Sundays. They also offer takeaway including a range of hampers. This is an exciting new venture for the region and a place well worthwhile visiting when you are on The Granite Belt.

Tuesday 5th July

raspberry glazeWe were staying at The Southern end of The Granite Belt so this morning we went to Jamworks Gourment Foods for breakfast. We arrived around 10:30am but it was still very busy for a Tuesday, this seems to be situation normal now for Jamworks. Coffee and Brekky – Campos Coffee and Eggs Benedict (scrambie eggs for Aria of course) were scrumptious and Aria discovered a new Jamworks product so we had to buy one. Later in the day we discovered Aria eating the new product directly from the bottle with a spoon – we had to call in later during the trip to buy another one, obviously this is good stuff!

After Jamworks we decided to visit Warren and Sue at Pyramids Road Wines to organise our members pack. On the way there I received a text message from ‘Medicare’ stating that I had been exposed to someone infected with Omicron and to follow ‘this link’ to buy a RAT testing kit. I thought nothing of it – the usual spam, however when we arrived at Warren and Sues the sign on the right said closed and there was a smaller sign on the ground at left which said ‘Closed Due to Covid’. I immediately thought of the spam text so I called Sue. Sue said, “yes they are closed” “no they don’t have covid, they did weeks ago, Warren has taken the sign down but left it standing on the ground” “they are closed today because they’re in Brisbane for Warren to have a day procedure”. Liliana then informed me they were talking about that on Sunday night at the mourvèdre blind tasting, I must have had too much mourvèdre. Anyway relieved that we didn’t have to go into isolation we decided to head to Balancing Heart Vineyard for a quick snack and glass of wine.

Balancing Heart Vineyard was packed when we arrived, it is the only venue at the southern end that’s open all day offering food so I guess they have the market cornered in that respect. Regardless of the circumstance they are certainly doing something right as the food is first class and the pizzas are just what you want on a cold winters day/evening. A plus, at least for two of us, is that they offer gluten free pizzas.

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“viognier

We weren’t as hungry for lunch today as brekky at Jamworks was a late one so we ordered Fritattas. Have to say we were impressed at the platter presentation and the sides that accompanied the Fritatta, these were quickly demolished before I could take a photo. We ordered a glass each of the 2019 Shiraz but Liliana decided to taste the 2021 Viognier and decided it was a better match, for her, for the Fritatta. One taste convinced me she was right, nevertheless the 2019 Shiraz was a well made wine and with good fruit weight – I remained with the shiraz as I needed the internal warmth. A return next visit for a pizza (we had some the previous year) is high on our list. Aria was complaining about too many visits to wineries so we couldn’t stay very long and we still had a visit to Ridgemill Estate on the afternoon’s agenda. It didn’t occur to me that Mike Hayes would be around but I found out later he was – have to catch up with him next time. Mike is one of the very best and most knowledgeable local wine makers.

I have very fond and long memories of this vineyard which used to be called Preston Peak. The vineyard is reasonably large and has always had a reputation for excellent fruit, it is (or was until recently) the only Granite Belt vineyard with Sagrantino vines. The 1995 Preston Peak Shiraz, made by Phillipa won a gold medal and Champion Queensland Red Wine, it was a beauty!

We bought a bottle of the 2021 Viognier and left as Aria refused to allow me to spend more time to taste other wines, hopefully next time.

We left Balancing Heart, turned right onto Old Wallangarra Road and next left onto Pyramids Road then left again onto the New England Highway and eventually left onto Reid Road at Severnlea to head to Ridgemill Estate. The Severn River was really very swollen at the bridge. There were only a few people at Ridgemill Estate when we arrived as it was much later in the day. Aria seemed to settle at Ridgemill as she could feed the goats and play with the Kittys Max and Ninja – naughty Ninja spent a night with us last year when we stayed in one of the Ridgemill cabins, Aria really enjoyed that and spoiled Ninja with food and attention!

“Marleys
“Marleys
“Marleys

Unfortunately for me, not for him, Peter McGlashan was on holidays this week so I missed him but Marissa looked after us very well and Martin dropped in for a chat. Martin has been forced by the wet weather to delay plantings of some new vines including Albariño and Mencía indeed there has been a problem with bogged tractors across the entire region. We tried a few wines … a new release 2022 Pinot G which is described as halfway between a Gris and and Grigio but, according to my palate Pete often makes one or the other, the 2019 was a Grigio and this 2022 is more in the Gris style but only you can decide, I guess that’s the fun of the label. The 2021 Riesling is still developing and changing, it’s definitely a step up from the 2019, lovers of Clare Vallev especially Watervale Riesling are sure to appreciate this wine. Lastly we tried a 2021 ‘WYP’ Pinot Noir, Aria has decided to lend her developing expertise in describing the bouquet to my efforts and she really is quite talented at this regardless of her only 9 years on the planet. The wine was made with grapes sourced from the Sirromet Seven Scenes Vineyard at Ballandean and it is beautifully balanced with silken red fruits, earthy qualities and an unusual mid palate surge of cured meats which we really enjoyed. We bought a few of these, some of the 2021 Rieslings and a few more wines – actually 15 bottles when it was all tallied.

On the way back to our accommodation for a short rest before travelling to town to have dinner with our good friends Graeme and Pauline at their home we made a quick detour to Just Red Wines to grab a bottle of Tony Hassall’s 2021 Shiraz/Viognier for dinner. This wine is possibility the best Shiraz/Viognier I have encountered and I was interested in Pauline and Graeme’s impressions. The wine didn’t disappoint – a tasting note will be coming sometime a little later.

Wednesday 6th July

Our plan was to have breakfast in Tenterfield at The Corner Café life & style, however there had been an accident on the bridge across Accommodation Creek between Ballandean and Wyberba and the road was temporarily blocked. We have been told by locals to be very careful driving toward this bridge especially if someone towing a caravan or trailer is approaching from the north. The bridge needs a redesign and trailers etc tend to drift across the road. We waited as the queue grew and then decided to head back north and have brekky at St Judes which thankfully was open and ready. The road cleared while we were having brekky so we headed to Tenterfield for a light lunch and the customary clothes shopping for Liliana and Aria.

After Tenterfield we headed back north on the New England Highway as we had made a casual arrangement to catch up with Ray Costanzo at Golden Grove Estate Wines and Andy Williams who was working in the Mason Wines Ballandean facility.

We stopped on Sundown Road and texted Ray who unfortunately was incredibly busy setting up a large bottling run for Rosé the following day – Rosé Brosé. We decided not to trouble Ray and to catch up with him next time. Ray appreciated the gesture and made good use of the time to produce this – Rosé Brosé made from a blend of Granite belt Grenache, Sangiovese, Skin contact Vermentino and Shiraz. I sent Andy a text and he said, “Drive in”.

mason winery

Recognise the place above? It’s the Mason Winery at Ballandean and, as mentioned earlier, Andy Williams has leased the facility to make copious quantities of wine which obviously you could do as the place is huge. I tasted a few of the wines in tank it was a very cold and misty day and those tanks were almost shivering, so tasting under the conditions to gain an indication of what the finished product would be like was difficult.

The video above was taken on the New England Highway just south of Mason Wines at 2PM a few minutes before we called in to catch up with Andy.

Anyone who drank and enjoyed the 2020 Prieto Picudo and Aglianico wines will be pleased to hear there will soon be a 2021 of each. The Prieto Picudo will be similar to the 2020, good fruit weight and balance, lots of berry and plum flavours. The Aglianico was a little reticent to reveal it’s identity, Andy thought that, at this stage, it may be half a step behind the excellent 2020 and he seemed correct until around 40 seconds after spitting the trademark Aglianico tannins suddenly unleashed the full force of their personality and I was convinced! Andy has made a Nero D’Avola which is lighter than the Aglianico and Prieto but a wine I really look forward to matching and enjoying with food as, along with lighter fruits, it has savoury in spades. Finally I tasted a very interesting Graciano which, although extremely cold, was quite redolent and showed Violets and Blueberries with spices. A quick taste revealed a pretty wine with a definite blueberry surge on the mid-palate and a spicy finish. I think this will be a very easy wine to drink – never buy just one bottle!

Dinner this evening was booked at what is now my favourite Granite Belt Restaurant – Essen.essen staff We arrived at Essen Restaurant at 7:30pm and sat at the larger table just inside the front entrance. Whenever we book Essen we always mention that two adults are, by preference, gluten and diary free and this request is catered to seamlessly. Chris (left above) our friendly waiter greeted us at the door and was attentive all evening. Because Essen is BYO you can bring things like the bottles below, this is always a plus factor!

Our main course (sorry again no pictures) of local organic sirloin beef was just superb, cooked to perfection and disappeared way too rapidly. Doesn’t that always happen when the food is excellent and you’re sharing a platter – if you’re hungry, never share at Essen. Tristan and Clarissa in the photo above are the very talented brother and sister team responsible for culinary creativity and delivery at Essen. If you’re from Brisbane and you think you recognise Tristan you’re right, he was the head chef at Brisbane’s Fireside Restaurant but left there last year to join his sister at Essen and thereby double our dining delights. Book early, Essen is incredibly popular.

Thursday 7th July

Today, because I had messed up the AirBnB booking we were headed back to Brisbane one day earlier than we had expected. Of course we had time to visit Rob at St Judes once again for breakfast.

“brekky
“doggy
“doggy

Brekky was of course yummy and Aria still insists that the scrambled eggs Rob makes are the best on the planet. When you’re about to drive from Ballandean to Brisbane you need a sated tummy and a mug of Fonzie Abbott. One of the staff at St Judes has a French Bulldog, Aria and Primrose shared a few moments.

We returned to Brisbane to encounter the endless complaints of our Tonkinese cat Oakley who was under the care of a pet sitter while we were away. Now Oakley, who’s extremely talkative, complains if we even head toward the carport.

You can expect more Granite Belt Wine Tasting Notes to be coming soon.
I’m quite behind in posting notes from Instagram to this blog so have decided to post new ones as I do them and gradually post older ones over time, indeed as time allows. So some tasting notes will be out of sync between the blog and instagram.

Lastly, The Granite Belt has experienced an exponential rise in popularity since the pandemic, this will change a little as people become more confident of travelling further afield without encountering an isolation situation when they arrive there. However much of the increase in visitors will remain as The Granite Belt is a beautiful region, lovely to visit, only 2Hrs 45Mins drive from Brisbane. If you haven’t been before and are planning a visit I do suggest you do a little planning beforehand and book in advance both for accommodation and restaurants and also for wineries that offer meals. The universe willing, The Granite Belt Diaries will return in July 2023.

Granite Belt Diaries Links:

The Granite Belt Diaries July 2021

The Granite Belt Diaries July 2020

Posted by Peter Pacey

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