Symphony Hill Wines wins trophy at Royal Melbourne Wine Awards

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In a major first for a Queensland winery, Symphony Hill Wines on the Granite Belt has been awarded a national trophy for its 2014 Gewurztraminer at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Their 2014 Gewurztraminer was awarded Best Single Varietal White Wine. This is their fourth time they have been finalist for a trophy at Royal Melbourne and in fact their 2013 Gewurztraminer was finalist there last year.

They are making quite a name for themselves with this alternative white wine variety after their 2013 vintage was rated 5 stars by James Halliday and awarded trophy at Royal Brisbane Wine Show in July with chief judge PJ Charteris remarking that Symphony Hill Wines has set a new benchmark for Gewurztraminer in Austalia.

SH mel 2014Winemaker Mike Hayes was over the moon when he accepted the trophy at the trophy presentation dinner. “This is a career highlight that lifts Symphony Hill to yet another level. Trophies at national wine shows for successive vintages is rarely achieved by any winery. We have a great team, lead by our exceptionally talented assistant winemaker, Tom Battle. They invest so much into the winemaking at Symphony Hill and this is wonderful recognition of their efforts. You never stop learning in this game and it is great to see success for not only our mainstream varieties like our signature Reserve Shiraz, but also critical acclaim for our alternative varieties.”

“It has been quite an exciting 6 months where we have achieved trophies at two national wine shows and 6 new release wines rated 5 stars by James Halliday. After releasing our wines 10 years ago I think we can safely say we are off our L Plates.”

Mike Hayes was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research alternative grape varieties in Europe late last year and also gained valuable insights into how to add more texture to white wines. “We have other exciting wines being released shortly to our wine club members including Lagrein, Nebbiolo and Petit Manseng. It is exciting to see the wine landscape of Australia changing as people discover new exciting grape varieties.”

Owner of Symphony Hill Wines, Ewen Macpherson commented, “It is an amazing wine – It has jazz hands! The aromas of Turkish delight and lychees just rocket out of the glass like no other wine. With those sort of aromas many people tasting it for the first time think it is going to be a sweet wine but then they discover it is a beautiful dry wine with musk and spice on the palate. It is simply sensational when matched with spicy food. At our cellar door, where people get to sample our whole range of wines, it is our most popular white variety!”

“This award should be awarded more to Mike Hayes our winemaker, rather than Symphony Hill Wines. It was his excellence in viticulture that produced the quality grapes and his 30 years experience in crafting wines from vines that lead to the production of the best Gewurztraminer ever to come out of Australia.”

Wine industry honours Hayes

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HUMBLED BY AWARD: Winemaker/Viticulturist Mike Hayes was blown away to be awarded the Samuel Bassett award at the recent Queensland Wine Awards Photo Erin Smith / Stanthorpe Border Post Erin Smith

EMOTIONAL, humbled and shocked is how winemaker Mike Hayes described his reaction to winning the coveted Samuel Bassett award at the 2014 Queensland Wine Awards.

The award is presented to a person who, over time, has contributed to the advancement of the Queensland Wine Industry.

“It was a really surreal night,” Mr Hayes said.

“It was not until the drive home that it started to sink in. It was quite an honour, there are many people who are worthy of receiving this award.”

Mr Hayes said he never expected to be presented with the award in his lifetime.

The Symphony Hill winemaker has played a huge role in the Queensland wine industry, especially around the Granite Belt.

He has helped establish many successful wineries and also works to pass on his skills and knowledge to future generations through the Queensland College of Wine and Tourism.

“It shows that if you put your head down and work hard, good things can happen,” Mr Hayes said.

“However I would not have been able to achieve what I have without the support of my partner Andrea and daughter Jessica.

“They mean the most to me and are a huge part of why I have been so successful.”

Mr Hayes, who is a born and bred Stanthorpe man, also thanked his former teacher at Stanthorpe State High School, John Neville.

“John was instrumental in the early days at QCWT,” he said.

While Mr Hayes is back at work in the vineyard, he said the fact he had picked up this award was still sinking in.

“All the things I never thought would happen to me are coming true,” he said.

“But to be honoured by my peers is something everyone strives for.”

Mr Hayes also extended his congratulations to the other Granite Belt wineries that picked up awards at the 2014 awards.


Stanthorpe Border Post   Erin Smith | 12th Sep 2014

Golden Grove haul in the awards

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BIG WIN: Ray and Sam Castanzo show off their haul of awards from the 2014 Queensland Wine Awards Photo Contributed

GOLDEN Grove winemaker Ray Castanzo says the winery’s impressive haul at the 2014 Queensland Wine Awards is due to the hard work the whole team put in year after year.

This year on top of picking up three golds, three silvers and eight bronzes at the annual awards, Golden Grove were also named Queensland Winery of the Year.

Ray picked up Queensland Winemaker of the Year for the second time and his father Sam Costanzo was dubbed Queensland Viticulturist of the Year for the third time.

While impressed with all of the awards, Ray said having The Vintage Grand Reserve 2012 Durif named Champion Wine of the Show and Champion Alternative Variety was a big honour.

“This was the best buzz,” he said.

“It was judged by David Morris, a guru and legend in the industry when it comes to Durif.

“For him to rate it as highly as he did, is one of my biggest achievements.”

Golden Grove’s 2013 Chardonnay was named Champion Mainstream Variety – White Wine as well.

Ray said it was great to have their standard wines achieve as well as their alternative wines.

“It is all about consistency across the board,” he said.

“Every wine I make, no matter what the cost, I aim to make to the highest quality.”

Also picking up a champion wine award was Mason Wines for their 2014 Verdelho, in the under $20 category.

Mason Wines winemaker Anthony Rametta said he was happy with how they went.

Altogether they picked up three bronze and a gold for the Verdelho.

“You go into these awards not expecting to pick up anything, so when you do, it is a bit of a surprise and makes you a little bit happy,” Mr Rametta said.

Mr Rametta said he was happy to see the Verdelho pick up a gold.

“It is our biggest seller,” he said.

“I always knew it was a high-quality wine, but it was still a surprise to win.”

Stanthorpe Border Post  12th Sep 2014

Golden Grove Estate-Outstanding Success at Queensland Wine Awards

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Father and son combination of Sam and Ray Costanzo are setting the standard for Queensland wine. At the recent 2014 Queensland Wine Awards Golden Grove was named Queensland Winery of the Year with Sam Costanzo taking out Queensland Viticulturist of the Year and Ray Costanzo Queensland Winemaker of the Year. DSC_0838Of the 16 wines entered by Golden Grove 14 received medals. The Vintage Grand Reserve 2012 Durif was named Champion Wine of the Show and Champion Alternative Variety –Red Wine. The 2013 Chardonnay was named Champion Mainstream Variety- White Wine.

Other trophy winners were Lucas Estate – Champion Mainstream Variety-Red Wine with the 2006 The McKinlay Cabernet Sauvignon and Clovely Estate with the Outstanding Wine of Provenance with the 2009, 2010 and 2013 vintages of their Leftfield Semillon.

Sirromet Wines was named the Queensland Cellar Door of the Year. Cellar Door of the Year was strongly contested with all entrants showing a high level of service, knowledge and presentation. Supporter Awards went to Craft Wine Store (Retailer) , Aria( Restaurant). Social media (SteveLeszcznski, QWine), Press media (Des Houghton, Courier Mail) and Community Event ( Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers).MH sam bassett 2014

The Samuel Bassett Award for outstanding contribution to the Queensland wine industry went to Mike Hayes, winemaker and viticulturist at Symphony Hill Wines and Vine to Wine Consultancy. The Queensland Wine Awards is a celebration of the industry –its wines and its people. In its 31st year the Awards showcases the wines of producers from the many regions of Queensland and gives recognition to achievements within the industry. The Awards are organised by the Queensland Wine Industry Association.

See all results of 2014 Queensland Wine Awards……

Sirromet Wines boss declares war on Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc

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Daily Wine News 28/03/2014

Sirromet Wines owner and founder Terry Morris has declared war on the tidal wave of New Zealand-made Sauvignon Blanc flooding Australian markets.

The Gold Coast-based businessman is urging fellow Queenslanders to help turn back the invasion by switching to locally-produced Verdelho as an alternative white sirromet

“It is time for us to ditch the imports because right now three out of every four bottles of Sauvignon Blanc sold in Australia are from New Zealand,” Morris said.

“Queenslanders need to take a stand and protect local jobs and support our wine industry in the same way we get behind our sports teams against the Kiwis.

“Queensland is recognised as producing some of the best Verdelho wines in Australia, and it’s a variety that thrives on our Granite Belt soils and the cool climate there.”

Morris said Sirromet’s battle plan to counter New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc invasion was spearheaded by a newly-released 2013 white wine labelled ‘Verdelho Blanc Grand Reserve’.

“This is a 100 per cent Queensland Verdelho in every way,” he said.

“We included the word ‘Blanc’ on the label to alert customers this is something to try instead of buying yet another Kiwi import and looking after jobs over there.”

Sirromet’s 2013 ‘Verdelho Blanc Grand Reserve’ is made from fruit from the company’s Night Sky Vineyard, located at 820 metres elevation at Ballandean on the Granite Belt.

The wine was produced, bottled and labelled at Sirromet’s headquarters at Mount Cotton, near Brisbane, under the direction of chief winemaker Adam Chapman.

“There are more than three million adults in Queensland and if they each bought one bottle of local Verdelho from Sirromet or other wineries around the state then it will create jobs here,” Morris said.

“Why should we keep supporting jobs in New Zealand when we have more than 50 wineries in Queensland who employ people who spend their money with other local businesses?”

Wine Australia reports that 32 million litres of Sauvignon Blanc was sold in Australia in the year ending July, 2013, and it was valued at more than $500 million.

New Zealand-made Sauvignon Blanc holds a dominating 73 per cent of Australia’s sales value market share of the variety.

Australia now imports more than 83-million litres of wine annually, with 62 per cent from New Zealand, including 87 per cent of imported white wines.

Photo Source Courier Mail

Granite Belt 2014 Apple and Grape Festival a Huge Success

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The Granite Belt community delivers stellar festival to a crowd of 60,000

Huge visitor numbers, fantastic entertainment, incredible fundraising efforts and a massive celebration of regional food and wine have the Granite Belt community asking – was this the best Apple & Grape yet?

gg apple and grapeWeeroona Park was alive over the weekend with a diverse range of food and award winning Granite Belt wine, as well as the all new Seasonal Harvest Marquee.

Food cooking demonstrations were also a hit with both Masterchef’s Emma Dean and Better Home and Garden’s Fast Ed cooking up a storm using fresh seasonal

Festival Entertainment Director Rosey Harslett said “we worked really hard to bring back the street festival feeling and making sure there was great entertainment throughout the CBD.  We have had excellent feedback from people saying that there was so much spirit and energy, and I think this was largely due to the line-up organised by Dave Murray.”


Images by Mel Kettle

Confessions of a Wine Tragic

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ADRIAN Tobin’s picturesque vineyard has run at a loss from the day he bought it 14 years ago.

“It’s true, we haven’t turned a profit yet,’’ he said, shrugging philosophically.

 “It cost us $3000 a week last year to prop it up. Some tell me I’m bloody mad. “I’m just a wine tragic.’’  

adrian tobinTobin, 72, runs his boutique Granite Belt winery at a loss because  he refuses to compromise on quality for quantity. Imperfect fruit is ruthlessly cut from the vines and left to rot on the ground. This  encourages a concentration of  flavours in the remaining berries. The wine improves, but volumes are low. It means Tobin Wines, on Ricca Rd at Ballandean, invariably sells out. Sometimes he doesn’t bottle at all if the fruit isn’t good enough.

Tobin is an artist and retired chemist who funds his “hobby”  via   his international firm, Urban Art Projects, with offices in Brisbane, San Francisco and Shanghai. UAP provides public sculptures and works of art for government and corporations. The profitable business is now run by his two sons.
Warwick-born Tobin (his father was a country schoolteacher so they moved a lot) was a chemist for 18 years. “I  became disenchanted when things came ready-made,’’ he said.  “I was reduced to a two-finger typist sticking labels on bottles. “Before then we made everything by hand to doctors’ instructions.’’

He purchased his 6ha vineyard from the Ricca family who grew table grapes.  Although Tobin has “retired” he works 100 hours a week.

 “It is an affliction. It has taken over my life,” he says without a hint of irony.

Tobin makes exceptional wines but refuses to jump on the publicity hurdy-gurdy. “I’m not on an ego trip like a lot   of winemakers,’’ he   says. “I don’t enter wine shows; couldn’t be bothered.”  As he speaks he swirls and sniffs   at his handcrafted Tobin Wines 2007 Isabella Semillon, a perfumed beauty that would stand alongside many of the Hunter Valley’s finest. Semillon is an unpopular variety that can be shy when it is young. It ages brilliantly, however, and is transformed into a toasty mouthful of complex, honeyed lime flavours.

Tobin is proud of his achievements and rightly so. He believes he has the oldest semillon and shiraz vines in Queensland. They were planted by Department of Primary Industries agronomists in the 60s.

Tobin also bottles tempranillo, merlot,  cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, verdelho and sauvignon blanc.

He’s happy to fly under the radar. Ironically, his neighbours include Golden Grove and Ballandean Estate, Queensland’s most decorated and commercially successful producers. “It’s all about quality for me,’’ he said. “I don’t sit comfortable in the wine industry. They say I am an obsessive-compulsive or anally retentive.

 “I don’t talk about making wine, I talk about growing it. Ninety-five per cent of winemaking happens in the vineyard. It’s all about the purity of grapes.

“I am a perfectionist which is madness in itself.”

“I am an artisan and the wine is an art form.’’ He believes the Granite Belt has the potential to be the leading wine region in Australia “We have only scratched the surface,’’ he said.

“We can make better cabernet than the Coonawarra. It’s only vine maturity that we are lacking.

“This precious little patch of the universe is about to shake the wine world.“I might not be around to see it, but it will happen.’’     Courier Mail      Sat 08 Mar 2014

John Neville retires as Queensland College of Wine Tourism CEO

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john nevilleWine glasses will be raised across the Granite Belt for CEO of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism John Neville as he prepares to step down after eight years in the top job.

Neville, who helped establish the college from the ground up, will retire to his Stanthorpe property at the end of this week, leaving former Cruise Whitsundays CEO Peter O’Reilly to take his place.

Read more….

Evolution of the Granite Belt wine region

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James-Halliday 2Queensland’s Granite Belt is one of Australia’s most interesting regions, on the face of it much too far north to produce high quality grapes. That it is able to do so is explained by its altitude, over 800m. Its principal viticultural challenges are spring frosts and growing season rainfall of over 500mm – two-thirds of the annual rain. And I can personally vouch for the fact that snow can fall in January.
It was not until 1965 that the first wine grapes (1ha of shiraz) were planted, and 20 years later only a handful of wineries had been established – most of which either no longer exist, or have changed name and ownership.

Things have changed dramatically as the region approaches its 50th birthday. Senior citizen Ballandean Estate (established 1985) has just released a suite of excellent red wines from 2012; Boireann (established 1998) only knows how to make world class red wines; Golden Grove (established 1946 as a table grape producer, but in reality 1985 when Sam Costanzo became winemaker/owner) with an impressive array across both white and red wines; Summit Estate (established 1997) a skilled maker of Spanish-inspired (Tempranillo, etc) reds; Symphony Hill (established 1999) has hit the headlines with first class white wines and Shiraz; and Ridgemill with a stunning Chardonnay.

The early years were particularly difficult because cellar door trade was negligible; the mid-years saw general tourism without much wine knowledge; maturity has grown in the last 20 years with knowledgeable bricks and mortar and web visitation.

James Halliday  Newsletter

Australian Wine Companion 

Early Start to Granite Belt Harvest.

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Ray CostanzoThe Granite Belt’s grape harvest is underway about three weeks early, thanks to the hot weather that has baked Australia this summer.

The southern Queensland grape producers might have missed out on the smoke taint damaging grapes in the southern states, but they have had a tough season this year, with hail and frost damaging many of the region’s crops. Read more….