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What grows together, goes together Wunderbar lamb and Mitchell Family wines.

The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s most underrated wine regions, which is hard to fathom given it produces some of the finest Rieslings and intensely concentrated red wines in the country.
No doubt, the pull of the Barossa has a lot to do with the underestimation of the Clare, but, if you can resist the urge to turn right at Gawler and stay on the A32, you’re in for a treat. 
In addition to its wine cred, Clare is uniquely beautiful. The open landscape is a sea of wheat fields sprinkled with eucalypts and stone cottages beneath powder blue skies. 

Heinrich’s Wunderbar 

You’ll also notice a few sheep along the way, as Clare, like much of Australia, was Merino country. But around 1959 when wool exports declined, families left in droves.
One of the few that stuck with it were the Heinrichs of Black Springs and fifth generation Ben, along with his wife, Kerry and five children, continues to farm sheep on the family’s original 810ha property just east of Clare. 
But while the sheds, tractors, machinery and utes all make this look like a stock standard farm, one look at the sheep and you realise Ben does things a bit differently to his ancestors. 
Practically bald and with long tails, Ben’s sheep are a breed that sheds its wool, chosen as part of his humane, minimal intervention philosophy. This is underpinned by his adherence to the Humane Choice farming principles of which he is the only certified producer in Australia.
“With no wool, we can give our sheep a better life, as there’s no mulesing, tail docking, crutching or shearing,” Ben explains. “My sheep are truly free range, paddock raised, no feed lots and we try to minimise human interaction with them as much as possible.”
When it comes to conventional industries, sheep farming is close to the top. The practices are well entrenched over generations and traditions are not easy to break, especially when there are mouths to feed. 
So why undertake such a radical change? For Ben, it was the knowledge that the ways of the past were not going to work.
“Dad was running a self-replacing Merino flock and it wasn’t going so well,” Ben recalls. “Personally, I wasn’t cut out for it, I couldn’t see myself shearing, and Dad saw the writing on the wall. It was either going to be sheep with no wool, or no sheep at all!”
So Ben, backed by his dad, started Wunderbar. They’ve since gone from strength to strength, now selling directly to butchers and chefs around the district and into Adelaide. Fans of their meat remark on how tender, flavoursome and lean it is, while chefs love to cook with it. High praise indeed. 

A Delicious Seed

Word of Ben’s lamb is spreading and one chef that sings Wundebar’s praises is Guy Parkinson, owner of Seed Winehouse +Kitchen in Clare.
Guy and his partner, Candice, have run Seed since 2014 after travelling through Clare and deciding it was the place to set up shop. Seed is now a food and wine destination, drawing people from all over to sample Guy’s creative, trattoria-inspired cooking paired with Candice’s take on the Clare wine scene.
The couple had been Hunter-based, where they had a significant following of loyal winemaking food lovers, and this pattern has repeated in the Clare. 

The Mitchells

Part of the Seed appreciation society are the Mitchells, who run the acclaimed Mitchell Wines. Led by second generation Andrew and Jane, they work with their children, Hilary, Angus and Edwina, to produce beautiful expressions of Watervale Riesling, Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache under the Mitchell and McNicol labels. 
The Mitchells have been in Clare since 1949 when Andrew’s father purchased land featuring an orchard, a dairy and a small vineyard. Andrew was born and bred on the property and after school, returned to the family business. 
“I came back home and thought that making wine was better than working for a living,” he says with a cheeky smile.
Most of the wines the Mitchells produce are released with some age, a decision that can be a financial burden. However, as Andrew explains, “The significant thing about the Clare Valley is that it is a region that produces wines with incredible intensity of flavour, but with elegance. We sell some of our wines at 10 years old and the dividend is that people get to see our wines at their best.”

The Lunch

As a celebration of Wunderbar lamb, Guy devised a menu with an entrée of lamb backstrap poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled cucumber, mint and whipped yogurt, and a main of roasted rack served on baby carrots cooked in whey and honey, pearl barley and pomegranate. 
Andrew and Angus brought along a range of wines to evaluate and see which suited Guy’s food best. 
For the entree, Candice chose the 2009 NcNicol Watervale Riesling. It had the age to be a perfect textural match for the silky backstrap, but also fresh acidity to cut through the whipped yoghurt.
For the rack, Candice’s call was Andrew’s 2001 Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz. The wine was still dense, but time had softened the mouthfeel, allowing the secondary fruit to sit beautifully with the flesh and the sauce to suit the wonderful, natural intensity of the wine. 
As the afternoon progressed, conversation became more relaxed as stories were shared and reflections were made on their beautiful home.

Guy Parkinson’s back strap of lamb poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled baby cucumber, whipped sheep yogurt

Recipe: Get Guy Parkinson’s back strap of lamb poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled baby cucumber, whipped sheep yogurt

Wine: Explore Mitchell Family Wines

Clare Valley: Discover the fun of cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail

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Wine
The Granite Belt: Beautiful One Day, Perfect Wine The Next
Words by Paul Diamond on 8 May 2017
Cool climate wines from Queensland – if that sounds strange, head to the  Granite Belt wine region  and you’ll find plenty! It’s well established that the first ‘official’ Australian wine region was Farm Cove NSW, planted by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. But what about the second? If you assumed it was in South Australia, Victoria or even Tasmania, you would be wrong.  It is, in fact, Queensland’s Granite Belt, planted in 1820, preceding Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. Given most of Queensland is hot and tropical, we usually associate it with beaches and reefs rather than grape vines. However, the Sunshine State has a rich and varied agricultural history and people are now starting to favour the Granite Belt’s cool climate, Euro-style wines. Three hours south west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland’s apple capital, Stanthorpe. This is heralded on your arrival by a massive apple on a pole, a bold indicator of local pride in the tradition of Coffs Harbour’s big banana, Ballina’s prawn and Goulburn’s Merino. Originally known as ‘Quart Pot Creek’, Stanthorpe was settled when tin was discovered in the late 1800s. Fruit production followed as the altitude and climate started to attract Italian immigrants who’d come to Australia to cut cane and then moved south to take up pastoral leases.  Cool Climb Wines As you travel south west from Ipswich along the Cunningham Highway, you start the gradual climb through the Great Dividing Range. By the town of Aratula, a popular resting spot, the temperature drops considerably and you realise how cool it gets at 110 metres above sea level.  The Granite Belt has some of Australia’s highest altitude vineyards and it is the associated cool climate that is the perfect setting for the region’s fine boned wines. So don’t visit this region expecting big, ripe wine styles that are popular in warmer areas. The cool climate dictates that the Granite Belt’s wine styles are closer to those of Europe. Think medium bodied, savoury reds with fine tannins and pronounced acidity. In the whites, expect lighter, citrus driven styles with elegant layers and fine acid lines. Adding to the Granite Belt’s wine identity is the fact it excels in alternative styles. While you’ll certainly find mainstream varieties like  Shiraz ,  Cabernet   and  Chardonnay , real excitement comes from discoveries like  Fiano ,  Vermentino , Chenin Blanc, Savagnin, Barbera, Graciano, Durif, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Granite Belt producers have long recognised that these varieties are the future and with their unique alternative identity, have dubbed themselves the ‘Strange Birds’ of the Australian wine scene. In fact, visitors can explore this fascinating region by following one of the Strange Bird Wine Trails. BOIREANN WINERY Established in the early 1980s by Peter and Therese Stark, Boireann has been a Granite Belt standout for decades. While quality and consistency are high, production is low, with reds the specialty and only a very small amount of  Viognier  grown to co-ferment with Shiraz. Standouts are their Shiraz Viognier, Barbera, Nebbiolo and the ‘Rosso’, a Nebbiolo Barbera blend. www.boireannwinery.com.au/ GOLDEN GROVE Third generation winemaker Ray Costanzo has made wine all over the world, but is passionate about the Granite Belt. Golden Grove is one of the oldest wineries in the region, making a wide range of wines including Sparkling Vermentino, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and  Tempranillo , but it is Ray’s  Vermentino  that has developed a solid following.  www.goldengroveestate.com.au JESTER HILL Established in 1993, Jester Hill is now a family affair, having been bought by ex-health professionals Michael and Ann Burke in 2010. With the new focus that Michael is bringing to the wines, the estate is building momentum and picking up accolades along the way. Standouts include their Roussanne, Chardonnay, Shiraz and  Petit Verdot .  www.jesterhillwines.com.au/ BALLANDEAN With an extraordinary history of winemaking that stretches back to the 1930s, the Puglisi family have been operating their cellar door and passionately flying the Granite Belt flag since 1970. Fourth generation Puglisis Leeane and Robyn are warm, generous, regional advocates, who have a large cellar door from which they love sharing their passion for both the wines and the people of the Granite Belt. Tasting highlights include their  Viognier , Opera Block Shiraz and Saperavi, a full-bodied red that originally hails from Georgia.   www.ballandeanestate.com/ JUST RED Another family-owned winery, Just Red is run by Tony and Julie Hassall with their son Michael and daughter Nikki. Just Red’s organic wines are styled on the great wines of the Rhône and are winning awards in the show system. Their star wines include Tannat,  Shiraz Viognier , Cabernet Merlot. www.justred.com.au/ RIDGEMILL ESTATE WINERY Starting its life as Emerald Hill in 1998, Ridgemill boasts a modern but unpretentious cellar door looking out on dramatic mountain surroundings. The broad range of wines is crafted by winemaker Peter McGlashan and includes Chardonnay, Shiraz,  Shiraz Viognier , Mourvèdre and Saparavi. With its self-contained studio cabins, Ridgemill is a great place to base yourself. www.ridgemillestate.com/ SYMPHONY HILL Symphony Hill’s winemaker Mike Hayes is quite possibly the Australian king of alternative wine varieties. Mike won the Churchill Fellowship and travelled around the world studying alternative styles. His wines are highly awarded, vibrant and interesting. A trip to the Granite Belt is not complete without a tasting with Mike, including his standout expressions of  Fiano , Lagrien, Gewürztraminer,  Petit Verdot and Reserve Shiraz. www.symphonyhill.com.au/ TOBIN WINE Adrian Tobin’s wines are a strong philosophical statement, reinforcing the notion that wine is made in the vineyard.  Since establishing Tobin Wine in 1999, Adrian has been deeply connected to his vines and produces a small amount of high quality Sauv Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet. All of Adrian’s wines are named after his grandchildren and are collectables.  www.tobinwines.com.au/ GIRRAWEEN ESTATE Steve Messiter and his wife Lisa started Girraween Estate in 2009. Small and picturesque, it is home to one of the region’s earliest vine plantings. They produce modest amounts of Sparkling wines, including Pinot Chardonnay along with Shiraz, Rosé and Sauv Blanc. Their table wines include Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet.  www.girraweenestate.com.au FEELING HUNGRY There is no shortage of good food in the Granite Belt, but a trip to  Sutton’s Farm  is essential. An apple orchard, it’s owned by David and Roslyn Sutton, who specialise in all things apple, including juice, cider and brandy. Their shed café also pays homage to the humble apple with the signature dish being home made apple pie served with Sutton’s spiced apple cider ice cream and whipped cream. For breakfast, try  Zest Café  located in town, where the coffee is fantastic and their baking game is strong. Their breakfast will definitely see you going back for seconds.  A delicious choice for lunch or dinner is the  Barrelroom and Larder , lovingly run by Travis Crane and Arabella Chambers.  Attached to Ballandean winery, the Barrelroom is casual in style and fine in output. Everything that Travis and Arabella cook comes from within a three hour radius and if it doesn’t exist in that area, they don’t cook it. A fantastic way to spend an afternoon is with Ben and Louise Lanyon at their  McGregor Terrace Food Project . Based in a Stanthorpe, this neighborhood bistro with a gorgeous whimsical garden offers cooking from the heart with the surrounds to match. Whether your choice is a Granite Belt alternative ‘Strange Bird’ or a more traditional varietal, take it along to Ben and Lou’s Food Project, sit out the back and you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France. You will, in fact, be in Queensland, thinking that it is a pretty cool place to be; literally and figuratively.     
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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