Queensland is best known for its beaches but those who venture inland to the Sunshine State’s wine regions are rewarded with charming cellar doors, award winning wines and stellar dining galore. When you visit Queensland cellar doors, farms and vineyards line the roads, fruit stands come with honesty boxes and it seems everyone has time for a chat. A Queensland cellar door is simply that kind of place – friendly, laid-back and completely unpretentious. Here are half a dozen Queensland cellar doors worth raising a glass to.
With its twinkling chandelier, red leather couch and wines with names like Wild Child Viognier, Symphony Hill is anything but boring. It is also home to some of Queensland’s most famous strange birds. Strange birds have no feathers, don’t know how to fly, only come in two colours – red or white – and live in a bottle. But they’re not some bizarre new species. ‘Strange Birds’ are Granite Belt wines made from alternative grape varieties like Nero d’Avola, Fiano, Lagrein and Petit Verdot. The Strange Bird Wine Trail is one of the most unique wine routes in Australia and just one of the many reasons visitors flock to this picturesque wine region located 2.5 hours from Brisbane.
Witches Falls Winery
Less than 40 minutes drive from the Gold Coast, towering high rise give way to Mount Tamborine’s pretty villages, boutique vineyards and stunning National Parks. Walking tracks, wineries and providors are scattered throughout the area which means stumbling across yet another lovely place to stop is part of the fun. Drop into Witches Falls Winery which has a cellar door staffed by enthusiasts who know their stuff. Ask for a picnic rug at Witches Falls so you can taste the wines outside in the fresh, mountain air. Allow time to go for a walk in Queensland’s oldest national park, Tamborine Mountain National Park, which offers stunning scenery and impressive views of the Pacific Ocean.
Banca Ridge Vineyard & Cellar Door
If you want to learn more about Queensland wine, the cellar door at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism should be your first stop. Discover the story of the State’s wine history in an interpretive gallery and taste award winning vintages created by talented viticulture and oenology students. If you want to give winemaking a try yourself, there is a Winemaker for a Weekend course offered during vintage. Varias Restaurant, the cellar door’s other star attraction, is a popular stop on the Nude Food trail – a self-guided food trail linking the pleasures of good food with a commitment to community and the natural environment. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hire a bike from Granite Belt Bicycle Tours and cycle between each spot.
One of the State’s oldest wineries, Ballandean Estate, was founded in the 1930s and has been producing wine ever since. Old vines, volcanic soils, a cool climate and high altitude come together to create buttery chardonnays, peppery shiraz and stunning fiano. Here you can dine in the barrel room on a seasonal menu featuring the region’s best produce and, of course, the accompany wines are superb. Eating out is one of the great pleasures of visiting Queensland’s wine regions but you can also go direct to the producers. Head to Suttons Juice Factory and Cidery or go strawberry picking at Ashbern Farms and fill a punnet for next to nothing. In the cooler months you will also find farms selling figs, pears, apples, olives and apricots; warm weather brings berries, cherries, and bunches of lavender.
Winemaker Adrian Tobin is an artist at heart – something that’s reflected in the beautiful labels on his individually numbered bottles of wine. Tobin’s dedication is apparent in the neatly turned out vineyard encircled by a hand-built dry stone wall and a cellar door where each wine comes in a fresh Riedel-style glass. Kids can skip the cellar door in favour of the old-style tree swing outside while the grown-ups enjoy a leisurely tasting. You’re unlikely to leave Tobin Wines empty handed as most of the wines have taken out multiple awards.
As wine expert James Halliday points out, Gecko Valley has extended Queensland’s viticultural map further than ever before with vines planed on the coastal belt between Gladstone and Rockhampton. While the area isn’t particularly well known for growing grapes, owners Tony and Coleen McCray researched 150 years of temperature, climate and rainfall data to determine which varieties would thrive close to the Tropic of Capricorn. Their attention to detail has since been rewarded with a thriving vineyard. Wines featuring chardonnay, Verdelho and shiraz grapes are on offer at the cellar door, with the Rose Garden café and paintings and jewellery created by local artists providing two more reasons to visit.
Disclosure: The writer is always looking for an excuse to crack open a bottle of Queensland wine.