Maybe I’m becoming sentimental as middle age takes its grip, but when I recently learned that a cellar door outlet for a Granite Belt Winery has opened a few hundred metres from my childhood home, I couldn’t help but feel a wistful longing for a return to my childhood stomping ground – even if it meant a return to the misty cold winter of the Darling Downs!
While they may not officially be a Darling Downs producer, Preston Peak Wines grow their fruit on the Devil’s Elbow Vineyard at Wyberba on Stanthorpe’s Granite Belt but have a cellar door operation at Preston Boundary Road near Hodgson Vale, about 10 minutes south of Toowoomba.
The earliest memories of my childhood are from a time when my parents were teachers in Toowoomba and the hobby farmer in my old man necessitated that we live in a ramshackle old Queenslander on a semi-cleared 40 acre patch of dirt at Hodgson Vale, just outside of town. As I wandered across the paddocks as a 5 year old picking wild mushrooms, being chased by geese and fetching eggs from the rat infested hen house, I could never have imagined that 40 years later the family home would be a near neighbour to a stunning cellar door operation and state of the art function centre.
The Preston Peak Winery and function centre is the brainchild of Ashley Smith who was the brains trust behind the concept of having a cellar door operation just outside of Toowoomba but with a supporting vineyard in the Granite Belt set at an altitude of 860 metres. Although originally planted with Chardonnay grapes, Ashley these days experiments with a range of varietals and has been rewarded for his efforts with many medals and awards at prestigious wine shows.
Preston Park Mourvedre Carmenere 2013
I have to admit that I had never heard of the winery until a friend recently returned from a wedding at the function centre with a bottle of the “Preston Park Mourvedre Carmenere 2013”, for me to try. Whilst naturally suspicious of any bottle of wine that ostensibly hails from the 4350 postcode, from the first sip I found myself double checking the label on the back of the bottle just to make sure that I wasn’t being deceived. This was a wine of integrity, charm and great structure!
Having poured myself a glass, the dark, dirty and almost dank colour told my taste buds they should expect something low in fruit and high in tannin, but that prediction couldn’t have been further from the truth. Although there were obvious savoury and tobacco characters on the nose, as soon as the glass touched the lips, a circus of blueberries, black currants and red plums entertained the taste buds whilst through the middle, the savoury nuances gave way to ribenaesque sweetness before some gentle acids and fine tannins gave structure and balance to the finish. It’s only a medium weight on the palate, but this has to be one of the very best Granite Belt wines I have had the pleasure of tasting. You certainly wont find a blend of Mouvedre and Camenere in any other winery in Australia!
The blend itself is unusual, if not remarkable. Mourvedre is a grape native to Rhone and Provence in South Eastern France whilst Carmenere was a Bordeaux native, before it was wiped out by Phylloxera and rediscovered flourishing in Chile where winemakers had mistaken it for Merlot.
But I will give the winemaker an A+ for creativity with this small batch production; it is a show stopper. If the rest of the Preston Peak range is half as good as the Mourvedre Carmenere, the side show might be enough of an incentive to make the trip to the home of the Carnival of Flowers.