Queensland’s best wineries & cellar doors
Wine time is anytime, in all honesty. But Queensland’s wine time to shine is right this minute.
The sunshine state is having its moment in the sun when it comes to all things vino, and there are wineries galore gaining good ground on the ‘Old Boys’ of the Australian wine scene. (Ahem… we’re looking at you Barossa and the Hunter Valley).
And while the huge variety of wines available in Queensland is nothing short of impressive, the once-underdog wine scene is stepping up to the cheese platter in a serious way.
From the Granite Belt’s stalwarts and alternative varietal champions to boutique, family-run operations and tropical fruit wine with the most unexpected of terroirs, there’s no stopping a Queensland grape on the rise.
Wine drinkers, rejoice! The Queensland wine golden age is here for good.
Ballandean Estate Wines
When one winery takes out all the awards at Queensland Wine’s 2015 awards night, you know they must be doing something right. Taking away the Viticulturist, Winemaker, Cellar Door and Winery of the Year gongs, is no mean feat.
As the oldest winery in the Granite Belt, the Puglisi family clearly has their secret formula for success nailed. With one of the best cellar door experiences in Queensland, Ballandean is making a name for its alternative – or Strange Bird – varietals, as well as its dry whites and premium reds using grapes from two vineyards in Ballandean, one with picturesque views over Girraween National Park.
One of the must-dos on the Granite Belt wine trail, it’s also a great place for an authentic Italian meal from the Barrel Room Cafe.
Harrington Glen Wines
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stay overnight at a working winery AND in a converted Victoria Railways train carriage, then say hello to Harrington Glen Wines.
In the heart of the Granite Belt, the 60-acre winery is home to a number of award-winning wines and three en suite carriage bedrooms available to rent year-round.
From petit verdot to verdehlo, and a tidy selection of dessert wines, there’s something here for everyone so hit the road with your crew and make it a weekend.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Bunjurgen in October, you’ll experience the splendour of sipping amazing wines under a purple haze of Jacaranda blooms. The relaxed and informal cellar door experience rolls on all year round, with an open fire on cold days, so you can sample the verjuice wines and ports this winery is known for.
Grapes grown on the 24-hectare property are sent to Ballandean Estate for production and packaging before being returned to Bunjurgen in the form of well-bottled roses, shiraz and port, among others.
Word has it that the Famous Bunyip Fortified Red port is inspired by more than just legend, but you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Ocean View Estates
The award-winning wines and promise of delectable eats (created by an ex-Bretts Wharf and Tank Restaurant head chef) are enough to lure the crowds, but the Honnef family recently added craft brewery to the offer thanks to daughter Hannah’s (now head brewer) love of beer.
Be part of the ‘Fight of the Ferment’ between father and daughter by taking part in a Vine & Bine experience, a special menu paired with wines and beers from either side of the battle lines.
Created by a wine-loving collective in 1997, Summit Estate is can’t-miss on the Granite Belt trail. With a top-notch selection of wines, and a slick cellar door experience, Summit Estate is another champion of the Strange Bird varieties (and a part of the Strange Bird Alternative Wine Trail through the Granite Belt).
Head to the Barrel Bar for a cheese and wine matching session and sip on wines like tempranillo or make your way to the Aroma Room to school up on all things wine.
Owned and operated by Tim and Michelle Coelli, Twisted Gum is a boutique and sustainable winery in the Granite Belt. Using dry grown grapes – i.e. no irrigation – the winery produces everything from shiraz through to chardonnay, and grapes are hand-pruned and hand-picked by the couple, their four children and their crew.
Taste the fruits of their labour in the character-filled old Queenslander that makes up their cellar door, or make a weekend of it with a stay in the renovated 1920s cottage. Make the most of the cottage’s wood fireplace by hitting Twisted Gum in winter – you might even see some snow!
With a cellar door in the heart of Brisbane’s inner-city Red Hill, Clovely Estate is a prime example of the South Burnett’s clout as one of Queensland’s best wine regions. Awards and accolades are all in a day’s work for this winery, one of Queensland’s largest producers.
If a country jaunt is on the cards, head to the 430-acre winery (and the Moffatdale cellar door) to see what all the fuss is about, and sample the 2012 Polyphemus Shiraz, the recent winner of Queensland Wine Awards’ Champion Mainstream Variety Red award. Or just order online and let someone bring it to you.
Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery
Tropical climes don’t typically make for great wines – most grape varietals preferring hot, dry days and cool, frosty nights as they do – but Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery puts paid to your expectations, one delicious fruit wine at a time.
Only a casual 18-minute drive up the ranges west of Port Douglas and on the edge of Mt Lewis National Park, the wines here make for an unexpected wine tasting.
Despite their sugary, fruity source, the range of table wines produced by Shannonvale isn’t just confined to dessert and sticky wines; you’ll find dry medium passionfruit wine similar to sauvignon blanc, a Tahitian lime wine that’s the perfect accompaniment to a Mexican feast, and a full-bodied, Merlot-esque red made from the jaboticaba (Brazilian grapetree). Don’t forget to check out the tropical fruit port, too.
Family-owned and awarded to the hilt, Sirromet is basically Queensland winery royalty. The majority of their grapes may come from a vineyard in the Granite Belt but their Mount Cotton HQ is where all the action happens.
From weddings to music festivals (A Day on the Green is held here every year) and multiple eateries, Sirromet Wines has helped advance the Queensland wine cause by leaps and bounds. The cellar door experience is state-of-the-art so make sure you plan a day trip to experience all of the Sirromet glory.
Robert Channon Wines
Verdelho fan? Robert Channon’s your man. James Halliday once called these verdelhos the best he’s ever tasted, but the wine is just the start of it.
Also home to a nice selection of reds and rosés, some miniature horses and a canine receptionist named JS Bark, it’s a delightful combination of quirky and charming.
Sip on a wine flight from the cellar door, which overlooks the Singing Lake, before quelling your hunger pangs with something to eat at the cafe. If the timing’s right, you might even catch a concert in the irreverently named Swigmore Hall.
Another Granite Belt MVP, Symphony Hill is a James Halliday mainstay, earning the 5-star rating three years in a row (‘15, ‘14 and ‘13) and picking up plenty of other credit and awards for their well-made drop in their 14 years of operation.
Their signature red, the Reserve Shiraz, is even fit for royalty: it was served to Wills and Kate when the couple came to Brisbane in 2014.
Flame Hill Vineyard
High on a breezy hill in the heart of the Sunshine Coast hinterland sits Flame Hill Vineyard, so named for the vermillion-shrouded Illawarra Flame Trees that pepper the Montville property.
Producing wine from both the Montville property and a block in the Granite Belt, Flame Hill is dedicated to sustainability and their paddock-to-plate philosophy. The gourmet restaurant and kitchen garden is a destination in itself, perfect for long boozy lunches with friends.
Home to an annual grape harvest festival (called Stomp), the vineyard also doubles as a B&B with two renovated 1920s dairy cottages taking guests year round.
If red wine is your jam, then Boireann is all your prayers answered in vineyard form. Specialising in full-bodied, full-flavoured red wines (made from French and Italian varieties), the small winery in the Granite Belt recently made its way onto James Halliday’s top 100 wineries list and listed as a top 5 winery for 2017.
If you care about your taste-buds, you’ll put Boireann on your list of must-visit Queensland wineries. Oh, did I mention it’s for sale? #wine4life
Witches Falls Winery
When Jon Heslop left the Hunter Valley in search of something to call his own, people called him crazy. Now, Witches Falls is one of Queensland’s best wineries, and listed in the James Halliday Wine Companion 100 Best Wineries list.
Experimenting with methods like wild fermentation and co-inoculation, Witches Falls’ intimate cellar door makes for very interesting – and educational – tastings.
Golden Grove Estate
Another James Halliday star performer, Golden Grove is an unassuming, small-scale winery putting out most impressive drops from the Ballandean Valley.
Here you’ll find plenty of alternative wine varieties like malbec and mourvedre and durif, and the usual suspects if you like to stick with what you know. Do yourself, and your wine collection, a favour: bag a few bottles of the 2012 Vintage Grand Reserve Tempranillo.
Rumbalara Estate Wines
Okay, so country Queensland is probably the last place you’d expect to find a slice of Africa, but Rumbalara is just that, channelling the wild spirit of the savannah with bottles named for African animals like The Leopard and The Buffalo.
The fortified range even includes a Queensland version of South African favourite Amarula. Called Impi Cream, it’s a curious concoction of coconut and chocolate that pairs well with dessert dishes.
Also sitting in the heart of wine country, Ballandean, the inspiration for the winery draws on the winery owners’ African heritage and the ancient culture of Australia’s Indigenous population.
Canungra Valley Vineyards
The Gold Coast may be all shimmer and shine on the coastline, but head to the hinterland and you’ll find sub-tropical surprises around every corner. Not only is the green behind the coast home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, you’ll even find wine worth writing home about.
Canungra Valley Vineyards sits on a clear, babbling creek at the foothills of the Scenic Rim, producing wine for both the public and its sister business, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. Set up at the bar in the old homestead building for a tasting with one of the very friendly and knowledgeable staff or organise for a picnic basket and bottle next to the creek (completely catered, picnic basket and all).
Set up at the bar in the old homestead building for a tasting with one of the very friendly and knowledgeable staff or organise for a picnic basket and bottle next to the creek (completely catered, picnic basket and all).
With hugely limited production – only 100 to 160 bottles of each varietal every year – Tobin Wines steadfastly sticks to their philosophy of minimal interference in the winemaking process.
The winemakers are fastidious and thorough, focussing on terroir and fruit quality, something that shows in the quality of wine.
Unlike mass produced wines, Tobin Wines are harder to get your hands on outside the cellar door, so hit the road to get your hands on a few of these bottles.