On a surprisingly warm and sunny April morning in Brisbane – the forecast had been an overcast day with light drizzle, not what you want to hear ahead of a serious day of winery touring – I meet my guide and Vino Bus owner Natasha Bennett.
I catch her packing the Vino Bus with water, snacks and some tasty-looking cheese and crackers and make a mental note not to pack quite so many muesli bars next time. I like to graze constantly so having an appropriately large amount of snacks on board means we are off to a solid start.
At this point you might think, hang on, winery touring…. in Brisbane? I too held the same reservations about how Brisbane would fare against my recent Barossa Valley experience. Natasha however assures me Queensland produces many award-winning wines each year but most people aren’t aware because most establishments here are small, family-owned boutique wineries.
So most of the wines you see in bottle shops and duty-free stores come from big commercial operations that use grapes from the southern states.
Armed with this knowledge, we set off to pick up 10 of my soon-to-be new BFFs also on the tour. The busy roads clear after 30 minutes and the view becomes more serene as the rainforest canopy closes over us and we snake along Tamborine Mountain Road.
Our first stop is the picturesque Witches Falls Winery where, upon passing beneath an avocado tree, you’re greeted by a beautiful green courtyard with an Alice In Wonderland-worthy oversized chess board beside lush green and purple vines.
From the beginning it becomes clear the one thing we won’t go home feeling – unless we choose – is sober. This is not your regular winery tour where you get to try only a couple of wine varieties. Just at Witches Falls, I begin to lose count of how many splendid wines I can try. Whether wine appreciation novices or card carrying wine pros, it’s safe to say everyone tries more than a few new and exciting wines (and liqueurs) at each of the five stops.
Our guide at Witches Falls, Pete, is attentive, allowing us to try wines according to our individual likes and dislikes, creating a tailored and personal experience.
Our next stop is a delightful surprise as we arrive in what appears to be a traditional German village. The crowd-pleasing Tamborine Mountain Distillery is Australia’s smallest operating pot still distillery, and creates an incredible variety of liqueurs, schnapps, vodka, gin and eaux de vie.
The intimate feeling of the tour continues as we’re given the option of trying several liqueurs served on pressed silver trays. We finish the tasting with the delectable salted peanut liqueur, placing everyone in a jovial and celebratory mood as we head back to the bus for snacks and one last stop before lunch.
By the time we knock on the Mason Wines cellar door, everybody has a warm belly and is feeling pretty, pretty, pretty good. The next thought I have though is: How am I possibly going to fit in more tastings? Nevertheless I soldier on (someone’s gotta do it right?) to find a new favourite crisp sauvignon blanc among many other delectable wines that I try while chatting with Natasha about the stunning location.
You couldn’t ask for a more peaceful backdrop than the verdant Tamborine Mountain terrain, a product of its lava flow beginnings 22 million years ago. No wonder it seems a world away.
Next up we head to lunch at Cedar Creek Estate, where my choice of the pork belly served on truffled mashed potato with broccolini and mustard sauce comes with a heavy side of spectacular Gold Coast Hinterland views. Our small group is now pretty well acquainted and poses for photos with one another in front of the gorgeous view before we head around the corner to continue the tastings.
The fun doesn’t show any sign of slowing down after lunch but we each take up a barrel stool at the bar, to spend a little extra time in digesting the next round of wine tastings (as well as our lunch). As if the day could get any better, Natasha, obviously a mind reader, decides to end the afternoon on a high with two of my favourite things, beer and cheese. We head to the Fortitude Brewing Company and Witches Chase Cheese Co for the final stop of the day.
We’re greeted by live acoustic music on arrival as we make a beeline straight to the craft beer on tap being served up by the paddle. The signature Drifter Endless Summer Ale stands out as a seriously palatable brew ripe for a sunny afternoon such as ours. Other brews sampled include a Dorian Gray, Anzus IPA, Golden Ale and Pacer 2.8. Now if I could tell you more about the cheeses I would but by this stage I no longer care about anything but how delicious they are and how quickly I can consume each one.
Needless to say I sleep like a baby on the smooth drive home only having to wake as I am dropped off at my doorstep – yes, they offer door-to-door service. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get much better than this.