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South Burnett Wine and Food News with Jason Ford

South Burnett Scores Again In 2005 Good Life Restaurant Guide
Good Life Queensland Restaurant Guide 200529th November 2004: South Burnett restaurants are about to be affirmed as major players in Queensland's restaurant industry. For the second year running, the Courier Mail's Good Life team have included three of our region's top eating spots in their prestigious 2005 Restaurant Guide. And I'm proud to announce that as an added bonus, the Bell Tower Restaurant at the Booie Range Distillery has been awarded a red star of excellence. Since only 21 other regional restaurants in the State have received this accolade, it puts new operators Brad and Megan Clark into some very rarefied company. The two other South Burnett restaurants reviewed in the 2005 Guide are Kingaroy's favourite little exotic café, Burning Beats, and Explorers Restaurant at Kingaroy's Burke and Wills motel. Burning Beats' co-owner Kerry Cotter told me she's delighted at being included in the Guide for the second year running. "We've worked extremely hard to establish our reputation and it's very rewarding to have your efforts acknowledged in such an important publication.".Explorers Restaurant secured its debut appearance in the Guide with its recent refurbishments, innovative menu and family friendly hospitality. The Restaurant Guide will be available at most newsagencies from December 1st for $12.95. It caps off another big year for the South Burnett wine and food industry - but its not over just yet! I've been given a heads-up that Channel Seven's Queensland Weekender will air its half-hour South Burnett feature on Christmas Day at 6.30pm. Remember to tune-in!
Kingaroy Ridge Releases Two New Sizzling Summer Recipes
John Cahill of Kingaroy Ridge26th November 2004: Earlier this year (see story 24th September) John Cahill from Kingaroy Ridge - our region's smallest but arguably most innovative wine producer - put together a Spring recipe brochure with simple recipes for two mouth-watering dishes to accompany his 2003 Shiraz and Port. John tells me that these recipe sheets disappeared off the counter about as quickly as his boutique wines have disappeared off the shelves. So much so that he's had to have them reprinted several times over. "Personally I prefer to drink wine with food rather than on its own," John told me. "People's tastes have become quite sophisticated in the last few decades and I'm not the only one who thinks this way." John believes that giving customers a little bit of a hand with menu choice has helped sales of his latest wines (and it now looks like his second vintage will be sold out by Christmas - get in quick if you want some for the cellar). So now he's released a second mini-brochure with two summer dishes on it - a Spicy Lamb Chops with Peach Salsa recipe and the second for an indulgent Toblerone Fondue with Tropical Fruits dessert. Cahill's Wines are available exclusively through the Carrollee Hotel's bottle shop in Kingaroy, and you can get hard copies of the two new recipes at the counter. But as before, savvy Cuisine readers can also obtain them right here in Adobe PDF form. Get cooking! Photo: John Cahill of Kingaroy Ridge getting up close and personal with his rapidly disappearing 2003 vintage (photo courtesy of the Kingaroy Mail)
Region Scores Big At Queensland Wine Awards
23rd November 2004: November is always a tense month for our region's wine-makers. The reason? Two very big, important annual wine shows are held this month. The first is the Australian Small Winemakers Show which is held in early November in Stanthorpe (see story 8th November). And the second - even bigger, and with considerably more prestige attached - is the Courier-Mail Sheraton Brisbane Queensland Wine Awards which are held in late November/early December. This year the judging team for the 2004 Wine Awards was headed up by well-known Australian wine judge James Halliday and Queensland guru Ken Gargett and the winners were announced a the Sheraton last night. As was the case at this time last year, I'm very pleased ro report that the South Burnett is continuing to surge ahead, increasing our medal count from 13 last year to 17 medals this year. The biggest per capita winner was the amazing John Crane of Crane Winery who took out gold for this year's best red (Crane's 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon) as well as the trophy for the State's best fortified wine (Crane's NV Frontignac) and a bronze apiece for his 2002 Merlot and 2003 Shiraz. Other winners (in alphanetical order) were Barambah Ridge (Silver: 2004 Chardonnay; Bronze: 2004 Semillon; Bronze: 2003 Shiraz); Bridgeman Downs (Bronze: 2004 Chardonnay); Captain's Paddock (Bronze: 2003 Rosetta Chardonnay Cabernet Sauvignon); Clovely Estates (Silver: 2003 Queensland Chardonnay; Bronze: 2001 Left Field Shiraz; Bronze: 2004 Left Field Verdelho; Bronze: 2002 Queensland Classic White Semillon; Bronze: 2002 Reserve Shiraz); Stuart Range (Silver: 2003 Goodger Chardonnay; Bronze: 2002 Shiraz Cabernet) and Tipperary Estate (Bronze: 2002 Shiraz).
Merlot Becomes A Page 3 Winedog
Jo Byers from Captains Paddock with Winedogs20th November 2004: Regular readers with long memories will recall that back in July I tipped that the South Burnett was about to get a canine superstar. How so? Well it turned out that Merlot - the friendly red kelpie-cross that greets every visitor to Captains Paddock Cellar Door at Booie - had been selected as the South Burnett's sole entrant in a unique publication about the dogs that live in Australian wineries called Winedogs. I'm now very pleased to report that the new 2nd edition of this publication has just been released. And no matter whether you're a fan of dogs, wine or both it could well make a fabulous Christmas present. Winedogs is published by McGill Elliott and it's a high quality, high gloss hardback publication overflowing with breathtaking shots of dogs from right around the country, set against beautiful vineyard and winery backdrops and all interwoven with some very interesting reading. The original book was a surprise best-seller and the new edition is double the size. Merlot proved such a charmer that she appears not once but twice in the book, with a stunning pair of photos I regret I can't show you here because they simply don't reproduce too well onscreen. However you can see them yourself the next time you drop by the cellar door for a bite to eat. Winedogs is proudly displayed on the front counter for you to browse and Paddock owners Peter Eaton and Maryanne Pidcock are even considering getting some postcards of Merlot's photos whipped up. The book costs $34.95 and can be obtained at Captain Paddock; all good cellar doors; or directly from the publishers web site (where you can also get to see a sample of the types of photos the book overflows with). Photo above: Jo Byers shows off Winedogs at Captains Paddock's cellar door - Merlot's shots are bookmarked!
Kiwi Rock Star Heads Up Wondai's Newest Eatery
Ruth and Bunnie Walters17th November 2004: Australian readers can easily imagine the impact there'd be if Billy Thorpe opened a restaurant in our region. Well, a trans-Tasman equivalent has just happened. You'd be very hard pressed to find a Kiwi who hasn't heard of Bunnie Walters and I've spoken to plenty of Aussie music buffs that know of him too. Bunnie is the Kiwi equivalent of Thorpie and topped the New Zealand pop charts in the 60's and 70's with hits like Take The Money and Run and Nearest Thing To Heaven. But now he's now proud to call the South Burnett home! A few weeks ago Bunnie and his wife Ruth (pictured at right) took over the reins of Constellations Restaurant at Burnett South's Up Country B&B in Wondai and renamed it Bunnie's Café and Restaurant. The move allows lessees Phil Russell and Casey Kriletich (ex-Kiwis themselves) to devote more time to running Up Country's B&B. Ruth and Bunnie have put together a new and exciting lunch, dinner and café menu that incorporates heaps of South Burnett regional produce and local wine. They also intend running regular theme nights and to make a bit of a specialty of New Zealand seafoods and Atlantic salmon, both in very short supply here. If you haven't been to Bunnies yet the café/restaurant has a warm and inviting country ambiance and also offers alfresco dining and a covered barbecue area. Bunnies will be kicking off in a big way this coming Friday 16th November with an a-la-carte Seafood Night with live entertainment by the man himself (it starts at 7:00pm - book quickly!). They'll be following up with an authentic Hungarian Night soon afterwards. Bunnies Cafe and Restaurant is located at the Burnett South Up Country B&B just a few kilometres north of Wondai off the Bunya Highway. You can phone them on (07) 4169-0196.
Tipperary Estate Opens New Cellar Door
Pauline Gillett and JamesTaylor14th November 2004: The South Burnett got another cellar door last week when Craig and Pauline Gillett opened their Tipperary Estate facility to the public. The couple's delightful new building is located right next to their bed and breakfast at 167 Tipperary Road in Moffatdale (not far from Clovely Estate). It's now open for lunch from 12:00 noon to 2:00pm every day of the week as well dinner on Saturday nights (orders are taken between 6:00pm and 8:00pm - but you can stay as long as you want!). Like the rest of us, Craig and Pauline have been suffering from our region's shortage of builders for most of this year. They'd originally hoped to have their new premises open in May but had to patiently wait out a 6-month delay while scarce tradespeople could be sourced. Even now some of the interior fixtures - like the planned wine display area which will cover a lot of wall space behind the hand-crafted bar - are still a few weeks away. But the new cellar door is very roomy and with warm summer weather just around the corner, its airy design and wrap-around verandahs with sweeping views across Tipperary's vineyards and the Barambah Valley is sure to be popular. How about the wines? Tipperary only put in their vines a couple of years ago so the wines you can get at the new cellar door aren't (as yet) grown on the property. Instead, Craig and Pauline buy in top quality grapes from other vineyards and have them crafted locally. The result is that Tipperary's wines are really quite top-notch right now. I was particularly impressed with one of their shirazes when I visited a few days ago and I've heard equally good comments about the whites too - especially the verdelho. If you'd like to pay a visit yourself, you can contact Tipperary Estate by phoning (07) 4168 4802 or by sending them an email. Otherwise just drop by! Photo: Pauline Gillett from Tipperary Estate gives James Taylor from Arabesque Wines a few tips about builders at Tipperary's new cellar door.
Cherbourg Enjoys Some Home-Cooked Hospitality
Elvie Douglas and Hans Rogljic11th November 2004: Every now and then a story comes over my desk that's so magic it simply has to be published! International chef Hans Rogljic - who's currently teaching hospitality at TAFE's Nurunderi campus - has just opened Cherbourg's first cafe restaurant in conjunction with two of his graduate students (Farin Gray and Elvie Douglas). The new Nurunderi Café restaurant is now open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as part of Hans' Certificate II course and it's already starting to prove very popular. "What we have right now is a restaurant and training unit where we're teaching the 10 people in the course the fundamentals of hospitality and tourism,"  Hans said. "They're learning cookery, budgets, customer service, and working with non-alcoholic aerated beverages. Down the track we'll be working on alcoholic beverages along with serving cappuccinos, catering and so forth. Cherbourg Community Council provides the facility and pays the costs so we're able to provide meals - basic, wholesome, fresh food - at greatly reduced prices." And the point of the exercise? (apart from skilling up Cherbourg). Tourism development! "We really want to develop the tourism potential of the area," Hans said. "We have an information centre sitting on top of a hill at Cherbourg overlooking the whole of the Bjelke-Petersen Dam, which is a really stunning site. We want to develop that area in the future and the students we train today are going to be playing a big part in that". Photo: Elvie Douglas and Hans Rogljic planning the meals for the Nurunderi Cafe - an exciting new initiative to help develop tourism at Cherbourg.
2004 Small Winemakers Show A Bit Of A Fizzer
Australian Small Winemakers Show8th November 2004: November is always a bit of a tense month for our region's wine industry. Apart from wondering if we're going to get pelted with hail (a concern that lasts until March when the final red grapes come off the vines), November is also the month when many of our wineries exhibit in two very big shows: the Australian Small Winemakers Show at Stanthorpe and the Queensland Wine Awards in Brisbane. Last year our winemakers submitted a bare 2% of the entries at the Small Winemakers Show and came away with a whopping 32% of the medals (see story 7th November 2003). But this year I regret to report that the judges must've been looking for different qualities. Our region - and in fact, nearly all of Queensland - got a bit of a trouncing at the 2004 ASWS. In all, 333 wineries from all over Australia with grape crushes of 500 tonnes or less submitted 1,719 entries to the Show. The judges handed out an astonishing 592 medals (33 golds, 110 silvers and 449 bronzes - which seems a bit on the excessive side to me) with the overwhelming bulk going to the more established wine regions in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The South Burnett had 6 entrants in the show (Barambah Ridge, Captain's Paddock, Clovely Estates, Cranes Wines, Kingsley Grove and Stuart Range) and of necessity had to bypass a lot of categories (eg: rieslings, which aren't grown in Queensland because of our climate). But this year we came away with just two bronzes (one for Stuart Range's Verdelho and - most surprising of all, after winning 5 gold medals in succession - one for John Crane's mind-blowingly good Frontignac). If you're interested, though, you can get the full results list straight from the ASWS's web site. All local eyes are now focussed on the Queensland Wine Awards which are coming up towards the end of this month. I'll keep you posted.
Bunya Blue Makes Its Noosa Debut
Lindy Milan, Kate McGhee, Chris Ganzer and Jan Power5th November 2004: Last weekend the Australian Gourmet Traveller held a Food and Wine Summit at Noosa's Style festival which attracted a veritable who's who of the food industry. And lucky guests at this event were treated to something new from the South Burnett: Kingaroy Cheese's Bunya Blue Brie (see story 3rd September 2004). The Food and Wine Summit was the first time this exciting new cheese has been served up outside of Stuart Range's cellar door in Kingaroy and three hundred attendees got to enjoy it during their second-course while they were discussing the future of Australian cuisine in general. The summit was held under a giant marquee at Lions Park immediately across from the Noosa town centre as part of a weekend celebration of Australian food and wine. "It was really great exposure for Kingaroy Cheese and the South Burnett as a whole," cheesemaker Chris Ganzer told me. "Some of the country's most important food and wine commentators were there and it's nice to see we're gradually getting recognition for the top quality of our food and wine products. This is a pretty far cry from the blank look the South Burnett used to draw a few years ago when most people didn't even know where we were, much less what we do." Want to try Bunya Blue yourself? Contact Kingaroy Cheese on (07) 4162-5990 to find out your nearest stockist. Photo above: Lindy Milan (Food Director for the Australian Women's Weekly), Kate McGhee (well-know food writer) and Jan Power (organiser of the Brisbane Farmers Market) get cuddly with Chris Ganzer from Kingaroy Cheese after tasting Bunya Blue.
South Burnett Featured In The Good Life
Good Life South Biurnett feature2nd November 2004: If you were one of the estimated 250,000 Queenslanders who purchased a copy of the Courier-Mail for your Melbourne Cup guide today, you would've found an unexpected bonus inside: a feature on the South Burnett. In my last story (see immediately below) I mentioned that Nick Bray was in our region researching the area last week as part of the Good Life's current wine and food trail series. I was so excited about this news that I held this story back by a day to report on how he'd done. The last time the Good Life covered our area they wrote about Explorers chef Steve Gudzinski as part of a feature on top-flight cooks working with regional cuisine in rural Australia (see story 17th September 2003). This time around, Brad Clark from the Bell Tower Restaurant scored the front page (see photo at right) but the accent was more on the wide spread of fine wines and foods our region offers. Naturally - with only two pages and a front cover at his disposal - Nick could only cover a few regional highlights (eg: The Peanut Van, Crane Wines, The Bell Tower and The Left Bank) and just give passing reference - or no reference at all - to many, many other great establishments. All the same I think he's given a very fair and accurate report and I hope it encourages even more people from around the State to come visit us. You really have to experience the South Burnett at first hand to appreciate it. [PS: If you're visiting this site online because it was one of three recommended in the article, Nick did make one blue: Tourism Queensland's web sites - the other two recommendations, perhaps because they helped with the feature - are actually far less accurate about our region than our own. If you really want the most current and in-depth information about us you'll find it on South Burnett Tourism and - of course - South Burnett Online. Both sites recognise that the overwhelming majority of people visit us by coming up the D'Aguilar Highway from Brisbane. This is just a short 2 hour drive, not the complex overnight trip through Noosa that Nick suggests]

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