Sunday, 26 February 2012

It's vintage time in the Granite Belt

It's vintage time in the Granite Belt and Sam has a grin across his browned Italian face. 'The grapes are looking good this year,' he tells us as we load the camera bags and jump in the back of his 4WD for a tour of the vineyard.

We're at Golden Grove Estate Wines, south of Stanthorpe and just west of Ballandean, at the home of the Costanzo family. Growing grapes in this region is nothing new, it's been going now since for quite some time. The Granite Belt is dotted with wineries, enough to take up more than a day for a serious wine connoisseur. Luckily we found the time to pop in on one or two while there for some work recently. 

The cool summers and the high altitude of around 820 metres provides ideal growing conditions for many of the classic wine grape varieties Sam explains, as his voice is almost lost in the wind and the 4WD clunks into another gear as it climbs the first ridge. Sam is a keen photographer and also a Nikon use and being tempted, on the odd occasion, to a fermented grape juice, I think I may like Sam a lot.

Proud grape grower Sam shows off this years prime crop
near Ballandean in the Granite Belt
 The ripening grapes set to make a fine drop of red wine.

Across the road is a long time favourite of mine, Ballandean Estate Wines, Queensland's largest and oldest family owned and operated winery. The Puglisi family are seeing in their sixth generation soon and have much to be proud of.

It's good to catch up with Angelo's and Mary's daughter Leanne again after many years, though I initially think I have timed my visit too early as I suspect a slightly sore head from entertaining in the cellar the night before. As usual though Leanne is her bubbly self and we venture out to where the wine is being bottled, casks emptied and readied for the crop coming in.

In an unfortunate accident last year Ballandeans' storing cellar burnt to the ground taking with it 180,0000 bottles of wine and some of the best vintages seen from the property. As we chat i-phone photography (yes Anita that's right) Leanne is not so quick to show me the images of the smouldering, devastated mess the family were faced with in the early hours of that shocking morning. In true Puglisi style, the smile returns to her face and the attitude of 'things could have been worse' takes over. 'On and up as they say, at least no lives were lost, and this vintage is looking pretty good,' she says.

I spot a bottle of the 2007 vintage, another acclaimed year of which all but a few bottles were lost to the flames and purchase it. With this and along with my couple of bottles from Sam and his crew, I'll toast the Granite Belt, its wineries, fun loving families and high trap rock country.

If you have never been out this way do yourself a favour: there's loads more to do such as great bush walking, wildlife, National Parks, four wheel driving and heritage and history.
We'll bring you more over the next few months from this truly unique part of Queensland.

 Tasting at Ballandean Estate with Leanne.

Want more info
Ballandean Estate
Tel: (07) 4684 1226

Golden Grove Estate
Tel: (07) 4684 1291

Southern Downs Tourism
Granite Belt Wine and Tourism Inc.

Check out these events they hold:
Ballandean Estate: Opera at the Vineyard
Golden Grove Estate: Sicilian Vintage Lunch

View these giant historic casks at Ballandean Estate.

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