Hi everyone...I'm back in one piece after a riotuous 48 hour weekend away. Helen and I boarded the Winelander at the Transit Centre in Roma Street. As we made our way out throught the suburbs, the tour manager, Ray, welcomed us on the trip and told us a little of what we would be doing. First off was a glass of complimentary champagne...at 7.30 in the morning. He then ended with the message "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." Ok, I thought, it's going to be that kind of a weekend...it was, with bells on. Our steward came around with champagne or orange juice. I didn't want any healthy stuff to spoil my day so I had champagne, took a sip and shuddered. However, after that first rough taste, it went down very nicely and I had another glass...Helen had another two. We got chatting with a couple of ladies sitting across the aisle from us...Sandy and Trish...and the four of us teamed up for the weekend.
There was one tiny fly in the ointment and that was three 40-something women sitting in front of us who were rather rude and arrogant...Helen christened them "The Princesses" and the name stuck all weekend. However, we didn't let them spoil our fun and ignored them for the rest of the weekend. As they didn't want to mix with others, it was easy to do.
We passed through the outer suburbs of Brisbane, across the Lockyer Valley, over the Little Liverpool Range and on up into the Toowoomba Range. As we did last year on the Carnival of the Flowers steam train trip, we took a couple of hours to ascend the Range, we had two diesel engines this time rather than steam...much cleaner. We stopped in Toowoomba for 10 minutes for a brief leg stretch then on board and off again.
Next came wine tasting. Our carriage and seat numbers were called in batches and we sampled three different white wines from the local wineyards around Stanthorpe, our final destination. I hadn't had any breakfast as I can't eat at 5 am, the time I woke up, you can imagine the effect these had on top of two glasses of champagne. I was having a great time. It wasn't just one sampling from each bottle...it was two or three, and they weren't small samples, either. However, I thought I'd better eat something so had a couple of ham, cheese, tomato and pickle sandwiches with a cup of coffee. That helped tremendously and I was ready for the next round.
We were called for lunch in the same way, in batches by car and seat number. Lunch was a lovely cold collation of ham off the bone and several different salads, plus fresh luncheon rolls. Very nice indeed. After lunch, while we sped on over the Darling Downs, kilometres of endless flat plain, I had a nana nap and felt quite revived after that. We had another brief stop at Warwick then started the final leg of our journey through the Granite Belt to Stanthorpe, where we arrived at 3.30 pm. We were immediately herded onto coaches and were off to the wineries and more wine tasting (it's called the Winelander, after all).
Our first winery was Ballandean. The history of the name is quite interesting. It was originally a large cattle station named after the owners, Ball and Dean...Ballandean, with the "a" in the first part of the name pronounced short as in "cat"...Ball'n'dean. I found a lovely wine there I'd never heard of before, Viognier, pronounced "vee onyay". It's a relatively dry white with a lovely after taste. Apparently it's going to replace Chardonnay as the "must have" wine. I only tried a couple of whites there.
After about 30 minutes we moved on to the next winery, Harrington Glen. They had a special wine tasting area set up through the back and we were seated with our glasses while each wine sampled was given a brief description before we sampled it. There were about 12 wines sampled and we were given a set of tasting notes each. They had a Viognier, too, which tasted quite different to the Ballandean one, but still very pleasant and again with a lovely after taste.
I don't really drink red wine. I like it very much, but unfortunately it doesn't like me and I get a migraine if I drink more than half a glass. However, I did try a sip of the reds and there were a couple of lovely ones, but what I really like about the samples was the Ruby Port. Oh boy, that was easy to drink...so mellow it could be dangerous. There was also a white port called Toy Boy Trop, which amusingly was named after the winemaker, quite a nice looking young man...or so we were told.
Our last winery was Whiskey Valley Winery and again, we picked out the wines to try. I tried a dry white called Vin Doux, which I quite liked, but that was all. I was all sampled out after the last place. However, while we were at this winery, we noticed a huge place situated high up a small mountain overlooking the valley. This place was lit up like a battleship and is a restaurant. Apparently that's where the Summer Winelander tour will be having dinner in February. I bet the views are magnificent.
We were finally dropped off at our motels around 6 pm, which give us about an hour to relax before meeting for dinner at Anna's Italian Restaurant, just down the road from our motel, The Granite Court Motel. It was bliss walking into our motel unit, which had the heating turned on. After the cold air outside, it was beautifully warm. We had pay TV, so flicked through some channels there to see what was to offer. By the time we freshened up and changed for dinner, it was time to meet outside for the walk down the hill to the restauran. We had our jackets, gloves and scarves on as it was rather chilly and promising to get colder.
Anna's is situated in a beautifully renovated old Queenslander. We were greeted by the proprietor a very charming 30 something Italian. It's the first time I've been greeted with a hug at a restaurant...very nice. There were 120 of us on this trip plus local diners so the place was packed. The dinner was buffet style, all Italian food...which I absolutely adore...and was soooo tasty and delicious. I had one rachelli (a potato croquet type of thing), stuffed mushrooms (yum), stuffed capsicum (divine), a small piece of Italian style chicken, a couple of prawn cutlets and for salad, pickled vegetables, tomatoes and a small helping of Caesar salad. I have never tasted such a delicious meal. There was dessert too. Fresh fruit as well as various Italian delicacies. I'm not sure what I had but whatever it was, I enjoyed it. Helen and I finished off with coffee for me and tea for her. We were going to have a glass of wine but were all wined out by that time so decided to forego it.
Now I must say here, that the service at Anna's was excellent. The restaurant was jammed packed with people coming in as others left. Yet, it was run efficiently with very pleasant staff. Most impressive. I even spotted Il Padrone carrying a large armful of plates out to the kitchen.
I was dreading the walk back to the motel, uphill after that meal, but it needed walking off. By the time we left it was very cold. Helen and I had our scarves over our heads to keep our ears warm and puffed our way back to the motel. It was good to crawl into bed and watch a bit of the History Channel on TV. We slept like logs, in snuggly warm and comfortable beds, waking at 6 am on the Sunday to a very frosty day.
Here are a few photos...
The pressed metal ceiling from the old refreshment rooms at Toowoomba.