Out of the Barrel – Ravens Croft Wines and Robert Channon

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Final day of our Granite Belt short break

I awake to the sound of birds singing and Harry dragging my blankets off me asking if he can have breakfast now. This time tomorrow we will be waking up in our own beds, the things we have seen and done will be just memories of our short weekend away. But that is how I like it. I would much rather be out creating memories than amassing “stuff”. It’s my memories of the adventures I have that sustain and nourish me.

I have promised Harry that after my cup of tea we will go over and meet Phil (owner of 31 the Rocks) to help with the morning feeding of the birds. Just as we are about to head over, Phil comes up the stairs. “Are you ready Harry? The birds are waiting and there are two other visitors over there for you to see”. As we approach we see that the two other visitors are a pair of grey kangaroos having a feed on the grass. We watch as Phil places the seed on the bird feeder and the king parrots, lorikiets, and bronzed winged pigeons come down to eat. The birds have their fill and fly away. We head back to our cabin and pack. We take a final walk up to the granite ridge at the rear of the property to admire the view and then it is time to go. We have enjoyed our stay here.

31 The Rocks Stanthorpe
Walk up to the ridge with views towards Stanthorpe at 31 The Rocks

The plan for the day is to visit the Regional Art Gallery in Stanthorpe, have some morning tea, visit a winery, go for a walk and then drive home via Tenterfield. The art gallery has a beautiful exhibition on of intricately drawn and painted birds. A new playground has been installed in the park adjacent to the gallery and Harry is keen to play. The morning is slipping away as we stop for morning tea at the Brinx Deli in town. A melt in your mouth croisont filled with ham and cheese and a gooey chocolate brownie in my belly and I am ready to visit Ravencroft Wines. Jeff at Bungawarra has pointed us in their direction. Jeff and 6 other wine makers in the region have teamed up to cross promote each others wineries, modestly calling themselves the Magnificent Seven. Seeing as Pyramids Road Wines and Bungawarra are part of this group I can’t pass up the opportunity to visit Mark and his Ravens Croft Winery.

Ravens Croft Wines
Entrance to Ravens Croft Wines

Ravens Croft Wines

“I hate the blue dot, I hate it! This road doesn’t even exist!”. Chris who is driving glances over at me. “Really? Again? What is it with you and google maps!” Just for something different the blue dot on google maps and I are having a disagreement. We pull over and Chris grabs my phone to have a look. Apparently the “short way” that google maps has sent me is in actual fact “the very, very long way”. I would like to add here that I am actually quite a good navigator. Its the blue dot I have the problem with.  I go old school and pull out my paper map of Stanthorpe with the wineries marked on it. We aren’t actually lost, we have just come in from the other side of the winery. We drive a bit further up the road, see the sign and turn in the driveway.

I immediately like this place, it has a nice and cosy feel to it. We walk in the doorway and a man greets us. “Hi. Mark is out the back in the shed giving some friends a taste of some wines out of the barrel. Come in and I will start you on the whites and then I’ll take you over to join them”. Sounds great to me!

Ravens Croft wines Stanthorpe
Walking into Ravens Croft Wines

We taste the beautifully tropical 2011 verdehlo and the very interesting 2010 gerwurtztraminer. I am trying to work out what I can taste in this but I can’t put my finger on it until I read the tasting notes. Lychee and a hint of rosewater. Nice. The 2010 chardonnay is lovely, a palate of melon and citrus with a creamy finish from both the malolactic and wild fermention process. We are up to the reds, and are invited to join Mark over in the shed where the important stuff happens. I always love tasting wines that are yet to be bottled straight out of the barrel, there is something very romantic and organic about it.

Ravens Croft Wines Stanthorpe
Checking out the crushing equipment while tasting wines straight out of the barrel

There are wine barrels, crushers and other things I that I don’t know the names of but it all looks authentic. Mark greets us warmly and invites us to join in. First up the 2014 chardonnay. This hasn’t been fermenting for long and you can really taste the grape, so fresh and light. This kind of experience really gives one an appreciation of how the wine evolves over the time in the barrel through to the bottling stage. Next up is the 2014 petit verdot and it is lovely. Mark is showing us the equipment and talking enthusiastically about the wines and what his hopes are for them. I am having a lot of fun. Then its onto the 2013 tempranillo.This is fantastic. It is almost ready for bottling and I can imagine it will sell quickly.

We finish up in the shed and head back into the cellar door to taste the reds that are actually bottled and for sale. We taste the 2009 and 2010 pinotage, lovely and light with berry and spice. Mark is south African and we chat about wine and Rodriquez (good music, go look it up and watch Searching for Sugarman while your at it). As the conversation flows so does the wine. The 2010 cabernet sauvignon is delicious and the 2009 petit verdot drinks so well with its tannins and dark cherry flavours that I have to take a bottle of each. Harry is now dancing around outside on the deck and its time to go. This may be a small winery but the wines are very good. I check up Marks bio when I get home and find out why he produces such good wines – he has made wines for 5 wineries including Tyrells in the Hunter and Capel Vale in the Margaret River. Harry is begging us for a cheese plate. Can he please go to a winery with a cheese plate? Oh, ok if we must!

Ravens Croft Wines Stanthorpe
Harry enjoying the deck overlooking the vineyard at Ravens Croft Wines

Robert Channon

Robert Channon Wines is just around the corner from Ravens Croft Wines and we know they have the Singing Lake café there so that’s where we stop. We order our cheese plate, and while we wait head into the cellar door to do some tasting. Harry has his bag of tricks with him again and sets himself up with his little diggers and trucks just near the back door. This winery is known for its Verdehlo which has been highly rated by James Halliday, but they have so many other wines worth trying.

On this visit we take away a soft and fruity pinot gris, the very easy to drink Singing Lake chardonnay verhehlo and the multiple award wining reserve chardonnay. The 2009 pinot noir is devine, and I have to say I am surprised to see this variety of grape doing so well up here. The reserve cabernet is earthy and full of dark berry flavours and is my favourite here today. They are clearing out old stock and have a 2007 shiraz for tasting. It is soft and juicy with a bit of spice. I like it. What’s that? It’s on special for $100 a case? I like it even more!

Robert Channon Wines Stanthorpe
Harry enjoying our cheese plate at Robert Channon Wines

We are notified that our food is ready so I order a glass of the pinot noir and join Chris and Harry out the back. We eat and talk and watch the birds down on the lake. I’m feeling very relaxed. I wish we had another day as I feel like I’m only just getting into this break. Time has gotten away on us and my plan of climbing Bald Rock before heading back home isn’t going to happen. Oh well we did it last year I guess, and there is always next time.

We decide to head back via Tenterfield and Lismore.The afternoon sun illuminates the rocky outcrops and casts a golden glow over the farming land as we drive down from the tablelands back towards the coast. Thank you Granite Belt. It was short and sweet but my equilibrium has been restored.

Robert Channon Wines Stanthorpe
View towards the lake at Robert Channon Wines

 

At a Glance

map Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery
Weeroona Park, Lock St (turn at Victoria Street)
Stanthorpe QLD 4380 http://srag.org.au/

mapBrinx Deli
149 High Street
Stanthorpe QLD 4380

mapRavens Croft Wines
274 Spring Creek Road
Stanthorpe QLD 4380
Open Friday – Sunday 10:30 – 4:30 http://www.ravenscroftwines.com.au/

mapRobert Channon Wines
32 Bradley Lane Stanthorpe
Open Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm and Monday and Tuesdays 11am- 4pm
Singing Lake cafe open weekends only. http://robertchannonwines.com/

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