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South Burnett Wine and Food News with Jason Ford

Kilkivan Pioneering Queensland's Water Buffalo Industry
31st May 2004: I love reporting the more unusual foodstuffs that are being raised in our region - particularly niche food products that offer potentially better returns than the commodity crops many farms raise. So today I'm pleased to break the news that the South Burnett could soon have a new type of dairy industry based on water buffalos. And no, I'm not making this up! One of the trendiest food fads in Europe at the moment is buffalo dairy products. "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver is a spokesman for a buffalo Mozzarella. And buffalo milk is now a popular alternative for people who suffer lactose intolerance. Recently I found out that Kilkivan farmer Craig Gould - who saw the potential of establishing a herd of buffalo after a trip to the Northern Territory - is already well down this path. In line with other Australian states, the Queensland government recently amended existing legislation allowing the movement of water buffalo within carefully defined limits. This allowed Craig to trial a small herd of five "swampies" on his Kilkivan property over the last year and has been so encouraged by the animals' progress that he's currently transporting another 28 down from the Territory to join them. One of the new beasts is a River Rhine (which renowned as a good milking breed). Craig believes that a Swampie-River Rhine cross will enhance both meat and milk production and he's working on that right now. With the fallout from dairy industry deregulation still causing pain in many quarters, the niche market of buffalo dairy may just provide a much-needed shot in the arm for our struggling dairy farmers. I'll keep you posted on this as things develop.
Local Wines Beat Name Brands At Brisbane Wine Show
Stuart Range Goodger Shiraz28th May 2004: Like many locals, I've been a firm supporter of the South Burnett's ever-expanding wine industry for years. And the industry - to its credit - keeps reaffirming my faith by producing excellent results wherever our region's wines go head to head with southerners. The most recent gongs have come from the Brisbane Wine Festival, which is being held at the Carlton Crest Hotel in Brisbane's CBD from the 18th to 20th June. The Wine Show has just announced its 2004 medal winners and I'm very pleased to report that Kingaroy winemaker Stuart Range has picked up a silver medal for their 2003 Goodger Chardonnay and a bronze medal for their 2002 Goodger Shiraz Cabernet Merlot at this long-standing, prestige event. What particularly tickles me about these latest wins is that they were achieved against some of toughest competition Australian winemaking has to offer. If you take a look over the list of award winners in each category - and you can do that by clicking the links above - you'll see that these accolades were handed out to some pretty rarefied company. Nearly all the the other medal winners are "household name" wineries from South Australia, Victoria and NSW (names that I think most people would recognise whether they're deeply interested in wine or not). As usual, Stuart Range are being modest about the wins and supremo Graham Helmhold simply says he's "delighted" to have the firm's wines ranked in the same class as older, more established regions. Frankly, so am I.
On The Land Returning To The South Burnett
Filming a cooking segment for On The Land25th May 2004: The South Burnett used to be Queensland's best kept secret - but I think we're steadily becoming its best known one. Hot on the heels of their recent five-part series on Kingaroy's peanut industry, our friends at Channel Seven's On The Land TV show are returning to our region this weekend for another three-day stopover. This time the crew will be shooting stories in our region's northern areas (ie Murgon, Goomeri and Kilkivan) to cover different aspects of our the place we all call home. On Friday I'll be filming my second cooking segment for the show - this time at Bendele Farm where I'll be preparing a dish with their famous organic certified duck. Then on Saturday, presenter Lyric Mitchell and cameraman Eric Martin will travel to the Barambah Ridge Winery and a free-range pork producer in Murgon. And on Sunday 30th the pair will spend the day at Goomeri's annual Pumpkin Festival where they hope to capture some footage of the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll - always a sight to behold! On The Land focuses on regional, rural and agricultural issues from all corners of the country every wee, and during the show's Queensland stop-over they'll also be cover other stories in Kilcoy and Maleny. South Burnett residents can get to see On The Land at noon every Saturday. If you live elsewhere, check your TV guide for screening details. Photo above: Shooting a cooking segment for On The Land's Kingaroy special in March 2004.
The Gastronomic Delights Of The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival!
22nd May 2004: The famous Goomeri Pumpkin Festival is rapidly approaching and visitors to the event on Sunday 30th May will be able to savour all things bright orange. As reported last month (see story below, 25th April) a specially made pumpkin wine will be on sale at the festival through Barambah Ridge's stand. But the gastronomic delights don't stop there! I've been told that over four hundred litres of pumpkin soup will be prepared for the day…that's right, 400 litres! Event organiser Becky Morsch and an army of volunteers have already begun processing three-quarters of a tonne of pumpkin flesh to cater for the demand of warm soup on what should be a fine autumn day. The soup will be available at the SES building on Goomeri's main street. Also available on the day will be a truckload of the South Burnett's legendary pumpkin scones, billy tea damper and a tummy warming stew. Another novelty product you should look out for at this year's event is pumpkin fudge - and I'll be first in line for a packet. There'll also be a continuous barbeque operating throughout the day at the food hall in Dickson Park. You can obtain more information about this year's Festival by contacting David on (07) 4168-4209, Geoff on (07) 4168-1925 or by looking over the Festival's web site.
Stuart Range Rebranding Starts To Pay Off
Stuart Range Wines19th May 2004: Early this year one of the South Burnett's leading wineries undertook a major rebranding exercise. Kingaroy's Stuart Range cut the word "Estates" from their title; tossed their well-known old logo overboard in favour of a newer, much more stylish one (see illustration at right); and rebadged their major lines as "Top Drops". It was a bold move for the 6 year old company but I'm pleased to report that it appears to be paying off. In the last few months the company's wines have been picked up by several of Brisbane's leading restaurants (for example, Ecco, Michaels Restaurant and Pier Nine) and by leading restaurants in the Cairns and Port Douglas areas too (eg: Tinaroo Lakes Resort and Catalina Restaurant). These restaurants are not only stocking Stuart Range alongside premium southern wines but re-ordering regularly as well - clear proof that these South Burnett wines are finding a loyal market amongst diners. The company also had another bit of good news last week when their flagship Goodger Shiraz notched up another win in its steadily expanding list of gongs. This time it was a Bronze medal at the Heritage of Australian Wine Show, held at Camden in Sydney's south-west. Courier-Mail wine writer Mike Frost also recently tipped his hat to Goodger Shiraz, joining the esteemed company of James Halliday who nominated it as one of the state's best reds a few years back. Stuart Range's Managing Director Graham Helmhold said that he was "excited" at the momentum the changes appear to be having. "We've worked hard to present a professional Queensland wine with high quality product in the bottle." he said. "The latest medal goes a long way to confirming that we're doing something right".
Whistle Stop Wines' Official Launch: What A Corker!
Whistle Stop Wines official launch May 2004 16th May 2004: More than 100 people flocked to Nanango's Whistle Stop Wines on Saturday night for the gala launch of the new cellar door, braving the cool autumn air to watch Nanango Shire Mayor Reg McCallum declare the venue officially open. Guests were treated to a sampling of all Whistle Stop's current wine range accompanied by delicious finger foods whipped up by talented chef Kaz Walsh, each one specially chosen to complement the wines being served. They were also serenaded by guitarist Michael Mangan and heard owners Terry and Margaret Walsh recount some of the hilarious highs and lows of their near decade-long journey from naive, fresh-faced grape growers to becoming the owners of what's arguably the most stylish new venue in Nanango. Margaret and Terry confided that ever since Whistle Stop opened its doors about a month ago (see story 1st May 2004) they'd both been overwhelmed with the support they've received from the local community. Many locals are now either regular lunch-time diners or dedicated coffee and cake quaffers. And the tourist trade is starting to walk through the doors too. Whistle Stop's wines are also starting to gain a fan base (their semillon and Frog Grog - a sweet white dessert wine - both drew sincere compliments from the crowd I was with at the opening). Again, if you haven't visited Whistle Stop yet I can only suggest you do. It's a delightful new South Burnett venue and a worthy addition to our region. Photo above: A small selection of the crowd that attended Whistle Stop's official opening on Saturday night.
Queensland's Best Verdelho: A South Burnett Original
Barambah Ridge 2003 Verdelho13th May 2004: Regular readers will remember that earlier this year I promised to review our region's 2003 Queensland Wine Awards medal winners. I've been swamped with news since January but today I'm going to (finally!) start making good on my promise. And probably the best place to begin is right at the top of the South Burnett's medal tree with the wine that took 33% of the gold medals at last year's show: one in its own right and a second for being so good it was made joint runner-up for the Best Queensland White Wine Trophy. The delightful drop I'm talking about is Barambah Ridge's 2003 Verdelho and it was brewed up by accomplished local winemaker Stuart Pierce from fruit grown on the company's Redgate estates outside Murgon. Ever modest, Stuart attributes a lot of the wine's success to the simple vagaries of the weather. "The growing conditions for the 2003 harvest were great," he said. "Compared to the previous year, temperatures were lower and there was a lot less humidity in the air. This made for very good growing conditions on the vine. We also had rainfall at budburst - which was just fantastic! - and follow-up falls around Christmas 2002 which really wrapped things up." The Queensland Wine Show judges obviously thought so too, awarding the 2003 Verdelho 55.5 points out of a possible 60. And to give you an idea of just how good this result is, only two other wines in the 308 entries scored higher (56.0 points) and only two others achieved the same ranking. Barambah Ridge also walked away with three bronzes at the show (for their 2002 Merlot - 46.5 points; their 2001 Reserve Shiraz - 46.5 points; and their 2003 Unwooded Chardonnay - 47.0 points). And if you want to buy any, they're available from Barambah Ridge's web site right now. Photo: Barambah Ridge's dual-gold 2003 Verdelho scores a quick kiss from an admiring fan.
New Organic Rosella Jelly and Rosella Jam From Durong
Malecagara Organic Rosella Jelly and Rosella Jam10th May 2004: Some time ago I wrote about a company producing "organic" products and a reader was very quick to email me about it. He explained - correctly - that the word is loosely used these days. There are actually two types of "organic" products on the market: those that come from fully certified organic producers (who have to work hard for years to obtain organic certification) and those that come from producers who don't have certification but raise their crops without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Plainly "certified organic" is a much harder designation to get than "organic" and that's why products from certified producers command a premium on the market. Many of us, though, are just as happy to buy products that are simply raised in sympathy with organic principles. And one new South Burnett brand in this vein that might interest readers are a small range of organic products from Malecagera Farm in Durong. Martin and Leeann Stern moved to Durong in 2001 and have begun operating Malecagera as a permaculture farm. In addition to raising Boer goats, they also produce a range of organic fruit, herbs and vegetables that Leeann processes into jams, pickles, jellies, cordials and ointments. Recently I stumbled across their Rosella Jelly and Rosella Jam (pictured at right) which were being used by a South Burnett catering firm and I must say that they're both excellent! Malecagera isn't fully certified yet but hope to be some day. In addition, their products are only produced in short runs at moment and most are sold locally at markets. But if you'd like to find out more about what they currently have in stock, email them or phone them on (07) 4168 0273.
South Burnett Cuisine Wings Its Way To Canberra
Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Jason Ford and TAFE hospitality students at Eidsvold7th May 2004: As I reported yesterday in my embargoed story (see story below, 4th May), a group of Kingaroy hospitality students from the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE - armed with a display of South Burnett produce - travelled to Eidsvold in the North Burnett this week to help launch the proposed RM Williams Australian Bush Centre and the foundation of a new agri-forestry industry in the area. We took a loooooong bus trip there and as soon as we arrived got hard at work on catering for Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Ian Williams (RM's Son) and another invited 400 guests and dignitaries. I'm very pleased to report that the display of South Burnett cuisine we took along with us attracted a tremendous amount of interest and the hospitality students drew a lot praise from attendees too. Later in the day, the students got to meet Australia's 2IC John Anderson personally and presented him with a range of sauces and olive oils from Kilkivan's South Burnett Hampers and a sample bag from Kingaroy's Peanut Van. The products were jetting their way down to Canberra by mid afternoon - no wine on this occasion! The event was huge and the friendly community of Eidsvold should be really proud of the day, which was executed without hitch. And after another looooong bus trip back, I think my weary-eyed students have certainly deserved their weekend break! Photo above: South Burnett hospitality students meet and greet Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson at the R M Williams Australian Bush Centre launch in Eidsvold.
South Burnett Cuisine On Show In The North
Bruce and Rae Hurley from South Burnett Hampers4th May 2004: On Thursday 6th May a range of gourmet products from the South Burnett will be travelling north to Eidsvold (population 942) to be displayed at the opening of the proposed R.M. Williams Australian Bush Centre there. Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson PM will be unveiling plans for a $12 million futuristic agri-forest industry centred on the town. He'll also be announcing the establishment of the Bush Centre which - it's hoped - will become a tourism centrepiece for Eidsvold, helping it build a new future as an innovative and creative regional tourism destination. Unfortunately townships in the North Burnett haven't enjoyed the same level of economic growth as their South Burnett counterparts. But the event's organisers hope that displaying a range of quality products from the South Burnett region will serve as an example of how alternate industries such as food, wine and tourism can complement the North's traditional economic base (beef and citrus). Recently I was asked to present the 400 expected attendees with a regional display that would best represent the South Burnett's phenomenal growth in gourmet food and wine tourism. South Burnett Hampers from Kilkivan (see story below, dated 16th April), Kingaroy Cheese and peanuts from the Peanut Van will be amongst some of the products that will be making an appearance on the day. Hospitality students from the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE at Kingaroy will also be making the trip to help with the event's catering. This will also showcase the high level of quality training regional Queensland can provide (PS: Sorry this story is a little late - it was embargoed until opening day). Photo above: Rae and Bruce Hurley's South Burnett Hampers will be one of the innovative gourmet food services on display at Eidsvold this week.
Whistle Stop Wines Opens In Nanango
Margaret Walsh and Kaz Walsh at the Whistle Stop Cellar Door1st May 2004: Long-term readers of this site will recall that back in January 2003 I tipped that a new cellar door would be opening in Nanango. Things took a little longer than expected (builders!) but it was worth the wait: Whistle Stop Wines finally opened their new cellar door a little over a fortnight ago - and they've been bowled over by the rush ever since! Whistle Stop is the creation of Nanango grape growers Margaret and Terry Walsh, who decided to produce their own brand about a year ago (with the assistance of Barambah Ridge's winemaker Stuart Pierce) and then open their own cellar door to retail it. Whistle Stop Wines made their first public appearance at this year's Wine & Food In The Park Festival and the cellar door opening is the next step. The new premises are located on the Burnett Highway about a block towards Goomeri from the Drayton Street intersection in a charmingly refurbished railroad worker's cottage. The building has plenty of off-street parking, a large dining area with lovely views of the nearby ranges and a delightfully relaxed atmosphere, complemented by historic photos of Nanango and the old Nanango railway line. Award-winning chef Kaz Walsh (no relation) runs the kitchen from 11:30am to 2:00pm to serve up a wonderful range of inexpensive meals - and outside those hours you can enjoy tea, coffee, cakes and cheeses. Whistle Stop Wines is open Thursdays to Mondays between 10:00am and 5:00pm and apart from tourists, Nanango locals have taken to the new cellar door with a vengeance: Margaret tells me she already has several very happy "regulars". You can phone Whistle Stop on (07) 4163-2222 or send them an email - or if you're looking for a great new place to go this long weekend, just drop in! Photo above: Whistle Stop owner Margaret Walsh (left) and chef Kaz Walsh (right) at the Nanango's bright new Whistle Stop Wines cellar door.
 

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