What grows together, goes together: Southern Queensland
When you head up the driveway to Kelvin Falls farm in Southern Queensland, one of the first things you notice is an old caravan in one of the paddocks. While rusted relics are a common sight on many farms, on closer inspection, this caravan is occupied.
Like grey nomads milling around a campsite kitchen, a brood of happy hens pecks at the plentiful pickings around their mobile coop. And every few days, when the grass starts looking patchy, they pack their chicken belongings and their van is moved to a new pasture.
The chooks aren’t the only ones happy to call Kelvin Falls home. A herd of around 200 cattle also enjoys grazing the days away in their grassy habitat. The providers of this peaceful existence are Andrew and Rowena O’Dea, the fifth generation of O’Deas to farm this land and a couple committed to the highest standards in animal welfare.
Like the chickens, the cows are regularly and strategically rotated around the paddocks to ensure the grass has time to regenerate and the cows are well fed.
While frequent human contact helps mollify the cows, the O’Deas also use low stress stockhandling techniques. Instead of using something noisy like a motorbike to round them up, their methods are quiet and calming, encouraging the animals’ natural tendency to move in a group.
Paddock to Plate
The advantages of this to the cows are twofold, Andrew explains, “Rotating our cattle in one herd has many low stress benefits, including remaining in the same social group from birth, and consistently meeting the nutritional needs of each animal.”
This stress-free life is also good news for consumers of Kelvin Falls beef as, Andrew says, “Stress triggers the body to produce adrenalin, which increases the acidity in the muscles, which in turn reduces flavour and tenderness.”
Adding to the quality of the O’Dea’s beef is the fact the cows are 100% grass fed. Free from growth supplements such as hormones and supplementary feed such as grain, grass-fed beef is renowned for its exceptional flavour, as well as its high levels of antioxidants, Omega-3 fats, vitamins B and E and zinc.
Queensland’s Cool Capital
Visiting Kelvin Falls on a warm autumn day with a big clear blue sky, it’s hard to imagine that Southern Queensland has been known to experience a dusting of winter snow. And even if there’s no snow, temperatures often drop to below zero.
Cool temperatures, combined with a high altitude, are ideal conditions for growing grapes and the Granite Belt wine region, centred around the town of Stanthorpe, is a solid performer.
One of the region’s most successful producers is Golden Grove Estate, a third generation winery owned by the Costanzo family. Ray Costanzo is the current custodian and winemaker, who grew up on the family property, but left Queensland to pursue his winemaking career. He was eventually lured back and now proudly spruiks the appeal of his Granite Belt home and its fantastic conditions for pursuing his craft.
“Golden Grove Estate sits on a slight hill in Ballandean. We peak at 840m elevation, not so high that we are too cold, so ripening is never an issue,” Ray explains. “Our site is also very frost free, as all that cold air drains away from the site. The granite rocky soil on the slope forces the vines to work hard, producing low yields, but exceptional quality.”
While Ray makes great Semillon and Shiraz, the Granite Belt is renowned for alternative styles and Golden Grove Estate also excels in varieties like Vermentino, Tempranillo and Malbec.
A Meating of Flavours
While Southern Queensland has long produced quality ingredients, the arrival in Stanthorpe of Lou and Ben Lanyon has provided the recipe for dining success.
Bringing prowess gained from running high-end haunts like Southern Ocean Lodge, they opened McGregor Terrace Food Project in an old general store and butcher shop. Accolades followed thanks to a menu featuring local ingredients, plus produce from their own garden.
To create a special Southern Queensland celebration lunch, Ben chose Kelvin Falls beef cheek and brisket as the centrepieces of the menu. There to enjoy it were Andrew and Rowena, Ray, and his wife, Jenny.
Entree was beef cheek and mustard fruit tortellini with cavolo nero, enoki mushrooms and brown butter. To match, Ray chose his 2017 Vermentino, a complex expression of the variety thanks to some time on skins. With its creamy texture, it was an ideal partner to the delicacy of the dish.
The main was wood fired roasted beef brisket with eggplant, black garlic, labneh and pickles. For this, Ray went for his 2016 Malbec and it was a hit. As he describes, “It was big enough to partner perfectly with the brisket, yet delicate enough not to overpower it. That’s what’s great about Granite Belt wines, it’s their elegance that sets them apart.”
Elegant wines plus superior quality beef – no wonder it’s a state fit for a queen!
Recipe: Get Ben Lanyon's beef brisket, with eggplant puree, pickles and labneh