Sirromet - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
5-star culture amongst the vines less than 20 minutes from the city.
First off, Sirromet's Cellar Door building is a thing of beauty.
An amazing tower is built on top of the building which hosts the cellar door, winery tours and the small cafe.
This tower isn't one of those 'look, but don't touch' attractions either. I almost expect to be barred entry to these sort of structures nowadays. However there was no rope or chain and the receptionist cheerily told me to "head on up, the view is stunning", so I climbed the staircase to the viewing platform as I waited for the tour time to arrive.
There is a commanding view from the top, out across the stunning Mount Cotton.
From my perch I spied the rain moving on in as the many kangaroos and wallabies hopped across the manicured lawns to revel in the downpour.
I descended the tower and at a small snack at the small cafe attached to the cellar door. The cafe is a modest affair, mostly cakes, ice cream, savouries etc. I mention it only because it is truly a part of the cellar door complex. The main building of Sirromet is home to a gorgeous five-star restaurant that's menu is well out of the range of your normal visitor.
When the appointed winery tour time arrived I was delighted to see that it would be just small group.
The tour operator (a lovely woman whose name now escapes me), myself and a middle-aged English couple on holiday.
Our host had a wonderful bubbly personality and was very enthusiastic as she showed us around the grounds and recounted the history of this young but wealthy winery.
We entered the main building, home to the restaurant, the offices, labs and of course the winery itself.
The tour had many fascinating attractions including a Austro-Hungarian wine press that dated back to the 1800's (the oldest wine-press currently residing in the Southern Hemisphere, or so I was told), and the owner's cylindrical personal cellar of wines (organised by variety and region of origin).
Our tour host had said that on this day something rare could happen.
The head winemaker Adam Chapman had expressed a desire to meet the visitors on the tour (something I was told he had never done before).
I couldn't believe my luck!
When I introduced myself to the winemaker, and spoke of my excitement over the vintage just passed in New Zealand, he told me "Well now we simply HAVE to taste some tank samples!".
Adam led us over to one of the tanks where we tasted Cabernet Sauvignon that had just been pressed.
Our English companions were overjoyed at this unique experience and spoke fondly to me of Villa Maria wines (who I worked for at the time) that they often drank at home.
After this we bid farewell to Adam and finished up our tour of the medium sized winery. I was very interested in seeing the sparkling wine production area, especially as I had never seen riddling racks in use in person.
Once the tour was over we went back to an area behind the Cellar Door where we were invited to taste a selection of wines.
In all honesty, I thought the Tour by far trumped the tasting.
The wines I was really interested in weren't available in the tasting (Nebbiolo and the like) instead were a slightly humdrum assortment that while were thoroughly endorsed by my English partners, did little to spark my interest at first.
However of great interest to me was a wine labelled "Sun Wine".
This wine turned out to be made from Chambourcin grown on the estate and was a very intriguing red dessert wine with an alcohol level of about 22%.
Although interesting the wine had a strong palate of fruitcake which I detest so unfortunately it was not for me.
The host knew her background knowledge on the wines and I was thoroughly impressed with her the whole time.