A few weeks ago I found myself in wine country. Not WA’s Margaret River, nor SA’s Barossa Valley or even more locally in Stanthorpe. I found myself in the wine country of the Scenic Rim, *invited there by Tourism & Events Qld. Now I know what you’re thinking. Wine country in Qld? Set aside your prejudgment and we’ll take that up at the end of the post.
The two wineries I visited were quite distinct in both the style of wine and cellar door set up however they had a couple of things in common. Fantastic hospitality and fabulous views that went on for miles
Kooroomba Lavender Farm & Vineyard
Located in the Fassifern Valley, Kooroomba is perched on a hill overlooking the rows of lavender and grape vines. The modern building is simple and elegant with polished concrete floors and is in part made up of the local stone sourced from the property. With enormous picture windows commanding sweeping views out towards Mt Alford and Main Range National Park, the cellar door is just begging you to linger a little longer and enjoy a glass of wine or a meal as you take in the outlook.
There is a small selection of wines with two whites (a Verdelho and a Chardonnay), one red, a rosé as well as Reserve Port. I enjoyed a glass of the 2013 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon with our tasting platters in the restaurant. It was a soft and full-bodied with plenty of berries up front followed by plum and blackcurrant. Owner Doogan O’Hanlon told me that the slightly sweeter rosé was extremely popular with Chinese tourists and indeed, as I sat and admired the view I watched a group enjoy three bottles of the rosé over lunch. Wine is made off premises by winemaker Dylan Rhymer at nearby Ballandean Estate in the Granite Belt.
The restaurant menu is what I would characterise as ‘classic cellar door’ with a good selection of pan and oven cooked dishes such as veal tenderloin and pork belly. Along with Hervey Bay scallops, pumpkin risotto, garden vegetables with hazelnut butter and chicken nuggets for the kids, you’ll find there is something for everyone. I *enjoyed a selection of items from a tasting plate on offer including duck liver pate (made on premises), herbed olives (grown on the estate) and crisp lavosh. With marinated feta and jamon, this was exceptionally good value at $22 and could be easily shared between two or even three. A great way to enjoy an afternoon with friends with a glass of wine or two.
I must make special mention of the lavender ice cream with polenta snap. This ice cream is one of the best I have enjoyed in recent years and most definitely the best lavender ice cream I have ever had. Made with a dense French custard of eggs and cream, it was smooth as silk with a subtle hint of lavender. It’s a fine line between perfume of Provence and perfume of Great Aunt Millicent but Chef Mark Naoum pulled it off. If I was making money from likes on Instagram, this would be the money shot.
A recent change in ownership means there are big plans afoot for Kooroomba including additional olive and lavender plantings; family friendly menus on Friday and Saturday nights; on site weddings; and, accommodation options. You can do worse than a drive out for Sunday lunch to this beautiful cellar door.
168 F.M. Bells Rd
Mt Alford via Boonah Qld 4310
Bunjurgen Estate Vineyard
A small cluster of wandering chooks will welcome you as you drive into Bunjurgen. They’re the early welcoming party before owners David or Sue arrive to greet you. Historic Queenslander ‘Bellbrook’ sits on the corner of the vineyard, ageing gracefully and providing a focal point for the vineyard’s activities. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Queensland wooden house with tongue and groove walls, wide porches and sash windows. It’s under the trees, at the front of Bellbrook that you’ll be invited to sit and take your leisure as David and Sue guide you through Bunjurgen’s wine selection. There’s a cellar door in the barrel room for inclement weather but the opportunity to taste whilst taking in the view is too good to pass up.
Bunjurgen is a locale in the Boonah area that has history back to the convict era of the 1840’s and is where the vineyard derives its name. To establish the vineyard, test vines were planted in 2003 to determine the best varieties to grow in an area that can be subjected to high levels of sticky summer humidity. The answer was Chambourcin, a high yield grape and a modified trellis system to reduce the chance of mildew and fungus. Disease and pests are managed naturally but there’s also some help from permanent netting that protects the vines from hail, birds and flying foxes – all part of growing grapes in Queensland. Wines produced are reds and rosé and fall into two categories. The Colonel’s Selection for premium and cellared wines and the Bellbrook Series for day to day drinking. There’s an unusual white port and an unwooded cherry port at the cellar door. Once again the wine is produced by Dylan Rhymer at Ballandean Estate. For those who are the designated driver, there is a chance to enjoy a glass of Bunjurgen’s sparkling verjuice. This tangy unfermented juice made from the only Shiraz grapes on the property is perfect with a slosh of soda water and some ice. It is also now available pre-bottled as a grown up soft drink.
We enjoyed a Murrumpi Red chilled 2015 Chambourcin Rosé paired with a selection of modern canapes from local cafe Poppi’s Pantry. Murrumpi is the local Aboriginal word for koala and features a delightful photo of David’s sister in her younger days holding a koala. This is a light, floral rosé is dry with some residual sweetness. The pretty pint tint comes not from the skins but from the grape itself, whose juice is pink. A very drinkable wine, it is a good alternative for those wanting to pair with meats such as lamb or turkey but find a full-bodied red just too heavy going in the Queensland heat. Perfect for a wander through the vineyard and to gaze back towards Boonah and surrounds.
121 Brent Rd
Bunjurgen via Boonah Qld 4310
Drinking In The Scenic Rim
At the 1873 Vienna Exhibition, Victorian wines were praised by a panel of French judges tasting blind. When it was revealed that the wine was from Australia, they withdrew in protest on the grounds that wines of that quality must clearly be French. A case of prejudice over pleasure. I urge you to reserve judgement on the wines of this region until you have visited and tasted them for yourselves.
There are 17 wineries in the area and, based on my visit to these two, there really is something for everyone when it comes to drinking in the Scenic Rim. (did you see what I did there?) There is a Scenic Rim Wine Trail map available on the Scenic Rim Regional Council website.