Tag Archives: wine

A Day in the Granite Belt

I live, work, eat, drink and do most other things within a tight radius of the Brisbane GPO.  If I can’t get to it on foot or on the 199 bus, then I’m almost certainly being paid to go there by a client.

That said, I do love the country and often imagine myself growing vegies and engaging in other rural pursuits.  Even though I’m really a townie, I was lucky enough to grow up with friends and families with farms and spend plenty of weekends and holidays visiting them.

I recently got to visit the Granite Belt with a couple of friends.  It’s a fair hike for a day trip, and whilst accommodation in the area isn’t anything flash, I’d suggest staying at least overnight.  We were somewhat hampered by bad weather with low clouds and rain settling in for the full day.

After the obligatory road trip sausage and egg muffin and hashbrown our first stop was Suttons Farm at  Thulimbah, ten minutes out of Stanthorpe.  The Sutton family make apple juice, cider and run a tea room with apple-y cakes and treats.  I’d heard a bit about Suttons and was expecting something different to what we found.  It’s a pretty basic set up with a small shop and seating area in a corner of one of the old packing sheds.  Juice and cider were great but unfortunately the lady who served us couldn’t have been less passionate about their products and engaging her in any kind of conversation to find out more about the products and processes proved futile.  A shame.

Mmm...Cheese

Next stop was Granite Belt Dairy.  Owners Ross and Karen make farm house cheeses from their herd of 20 something pretty jersey cows.  Ross manages the herd of ‘supermodel ‘ cows and Karen makes the range of seven cheeses, which include an Italian style hard cheese, a double cream brie,  a blue and a cheddar style.  Karen explained that the concept of their dairy shop is to offer all the things you’d need to have a decent picnic.  There’s a huge range of jams, chutneys, relishes, oils, vinegars, wine, bread along with cheese boards, bottle openers and other bits and pieces. It’s a well run tourism business that many more in the region would do well to model from.  Maturing cheeses are also on display at eye level behind the shop counter and Rosco and Karen are happy to have a chat about the region, their cheeses and pretty much anything else.

We’d chosen Robert Channon Wines for lunch and by the time we got there the rain was heavy so we bolted from the car to the fire inside their tasting room, which was full of people with just a single person behind the tasting bench.  So straight to lunch for us.  The menu is an interesting mix of dishes – from home cooked favourites, to French inspired and a few Asian inspired dishes thrown in for good measure.  While the meals were fine, they weren’t up to the same standard as the fantastic wines which are available by the glass or bottle at very reasonable prices.  With a view of a lake and foothills and frolicking calves and water birds providing entertainment, it a top spot to relax and warm up.

As the rain continued to bucket down, we got a little lost trying to take a shortcut to our next destination.  It turns out that smartphone GPS apps don’t work that well without a mobile signal.  The area around Thulimbah is mostly orchards with extensive netting to keep the birds out and the fruit on long enough to set.  So quite by chance we wound up at Heritage Estate Wines, where I’ve been once or twice before.  Staffed by the loveliest lady, we had the place to ourselves and our host talked us through their collection of antiques which includes the cabinet room table from Queensland first parliament, the wines and a bit about the history of the area.  I enjoyed their 2009 Reserve Chardonnay – lovely texture and freshness and well priced at $25.

Smallgoods bonanza at Vincenzo's

With rain still hanging about and a long drive ahead of us, we made a quick pit stop at Vincenzo’s.   This place crams pretty much every food and drink product produced in the region into one store.  The sheer quantity of smallgoods and cheese here rivals anything available in Brisbane.  Good bread, olives, sardines, olive oil and wine are also stacked high and wide.  You can also pick up local fruit, mostly undersized and marked produce rejected by supermarkets but not spoilt by long periods of refrigerated storage or transport.

More cheese

We only scraped the surface of the Granite Belt, and uncovered a couple of gems.  With more time and the right operators and marketing, the region is well placed to grow and attract more visitors and investment.

The Granite Belt region is around 2.5 hours drive from Brisbane and surrounds the country town of Stanthorpe, near the Queensland/New South Wales Border.

More info on the region, accommodation, wines and other attractions here.

Love food, curious about wine?

Do you love food but get a little nervous when confronted with a weighty wine list? Do you find yourself gravitating towards the same two or three ‘safe bet’ wines when you visit the bottle-o? Do imported wines excite but utterly confuse you all at the same time? If so, then Swirl Sniff Spit is for you.

Held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at the Era in South Brisbane Swirl Sniff Spit is a free tasting that aims educate wine lovers at all levels trough a guided tasting of 10 – 12 wines, generally organised around a theme. Led by Bree Boskov, a certified sommelier and on premise manager for De Bortoli Wines, it’s a fun and informal way to broaden your wine horizons and discover varietals and wine making styles whilst meeting other wine and food appreciators.

This months tasting features a line up of fine Grenache from Australia and overseas.

McLaren Vale Cadenzias
d’Arenberg 2009 The Cadenzia GSM @darenberg
Dogridge Cadenzia Grenache 2007 @dogridge
Maximus Cadenzia GSM 2009 @maximuswines
Oliver’s Taranga Cadenzia Grenache 2009 @OliversTaranga
Samuel’s Gorge Cadenzia 2009 Grenache @SamuelsGorge
Yangarra Cadenzia 2006 @Yangarra

Barossa, Northern Spain and Southern Rhone
Vieux Telegraphe Le Pigeolet des Brunier Vin de Pays 2008

Sons of Eden Kennedy vintage tbc @SonsOfEden
Clovely Left Field GSM 10 @ClovelyWine
Cirillo The Vincent 2009
MDV Eden Valley 2009 @MDVwines
Turkey Flat 2009 @TurkeyFlat
Palacios Remondo ‘La Vendimia’ 2010
Vina Ginesa Rojo 2009

To find out more visit the Swirl Sniff Spit website and to secure your place at the next tasting follow @swirlnsniffspit on Twitter.

Adventures: Terroir, East Village – New York

I am deeply conflicted about Terroir, a wine bar with branches in both New York’s TriBeCa and East Village.

On the one hand I wish it were downstairs from my apartment, so I could visit whenever I pleased, to partake of excellent bar snacks and work my way through all 54 pages of the wine list.  On the other, I am glad it is a long flight away in a country I try and visit no more than once a year, lest I absent myself from my business and relationship in order to become a devotee of Paul Greico and his altar to wine, slowly draining any accessible funds along with each glass.  I am resolved however that Terroir could only exist in New York.

Terroir is a small, buzzy and instantly comfortable wine bar that you would probably not give more than a second glance if you weren’t looking for it, as we were.  In fact I was somewhat obsessed and lucky that my patient husband was good enough to indulge me.  It works as a place to drop in for a few drinks after work or a place to gather with wine nerds and enjoy rare and very special wines.  The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and you’ll sit at the bar or a communal table where you’ll strike up conversations with a variety of people who love wine.  I do not recall the specifics of what I drank – a slightly sparkling German Riesling to start, many other things afterwards…… the passionate staff are willing and competent accomplices in whatever exploration of the wine list you wish to make and it makes sense to put yourself into their hands.  We shared a ‘combo platter’ of charcuterie and cheese which is available in three sizes – methuselah, salmanazar and melchizedek.  Whatever size you get this is very good value and full of excellent wine friendly food.  The food is by Marco Canora, also chef at the very excellent Hearth restaurant, a few doors from Terroir where we later had easily the best dinner I’ve eaten in the US.  Again, the staff at Hearth was knowledgeable, passionate and accommodating of a request for some Australian wine, resulting in a Betts & Scholl 2002 Grenache from the Barossa Valley.  It may seem sacrilegious but sometimes after extended travel you wish for something familiar. 

We visited during Terroir’s ‘Summer of Riesling’, a celebration of Riesling where the only white wines available by the glass were Riesling.  A fantastic idea!

In case you think that Terroir is an elitist place for wine snobs, here are some gems from the menu and wine list:

“Cheese – The Other White Meat, Ask Any Belgian Monk”

Lyrics for ‘White Wine In a Box’ – a wine themed reworking of Justin Timberlake and SNL’s ‘Dick In A Box’ and ode to Lindsay Lohan rolled into one.

A full page missive calling for street fairs to be banned: “Because while street fairs generated $1.6 million for NYC last year, Street Fairs cost us $2.4 million in police overtime.  Because all the tube socks Street Fairs sell have holes in them.  Because a chicken kabob on 3rd Avenue and 22nd Street tastes exactly like 3rd Avenue and 22nd Street and that is not the terroir we are looking for.”

(in the middle of around a dozen pages devoted to rieslings) “Acid is our Friend!  Like a date with Lady Gaga.  Or an audience with Hugo Chavez.  Or a dance with Kathy Lee Gifford.  ………We are generally afraid of acidity in wine.  But damnit People of America…we desperately need acidity in our lives…to cleanse the streets of blowhard millionaires from Buffalo, to drown the stupidity of the 6th Congresswoman from Minnesota, to act as an enema against the overcrowded hallways of K Street.  We desperately need ACIDITY.”

From “The Architect of Wine Silence” on Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive  “A rare few can elevate wine to a level where one doesn’t even realise grapes or man was involved; only terroir can be experienced…….The architecture of these wines is profound.  Silence can be the only result when faced with such perfection.”

Greico’s immense passion is stamped all over Terroir, his opinions illuminate and expound the virtues of the myriad wines offered.  If you are in New York, forget Momofuku, forget Per Se, forget the rest and get your arse on a stool at the bar at Terroir. 

Note:  I am most distraught that the fabulously entertaining wine list is now a mere 35 pages and no longer includes political commentary about Obama, Greek economic woes and contains only about a third the total number of rants.  Importantly I think there is still just as many wines.  After my visit, I commented on Twitter to @TerroirNY that I had contemplated slipping a copy of the wine list into my hand bag – to which Greico replied with a link to the wine list and a suggestion that I should ‘Print wine list, make hand bag’.  The reality is Terroir’s wine list provides enough material to make luggage requiring several valets.