By Dominique Tassell
Quality is the priority at Heritage Estate Winery, with every aspect of the business tailored to providing the best possible experience.
The winery’s monthly Five Senses Degustation Dinners are the perfect example of this.
Owners Robert and Therese Fenwick say visitors to Stanthorpe have relished the opportunity to don their dinner jackets and frock up.
Guests at the dinner are seated with the winery owners at a grand oval table, an experience in itself given the table’s historic significance. The giant leather inlaid table is a Queensland treasure which these days calls Heritage Estate home, but once seated members of Parliament as the first Queensland Parliamentary Table circa 1859.
The dinners offer an indulgence in all the five senses, with taste, sight, smells, sounds and a touch of class.
The winery states it is thought to be the only sensory experience of its kind in Queensland, with gourmet dishes and wine on offer in combination with a ‘Le Nez du Vin’ aroma kit so guests can learn to identify wine scents.
The aroma kit is the only of its kind in Queensland, and the winery is an exclusive state distributor of the 54 scent aroma kits from France.
Over dinner, guests are introduced to the little bottles of scents.
Mrs Fenwick says “it makes pennies drop for our guests when they smell the little scent bottles”.
She states that the winery’s Old Vine Shiraz aromas of liquorice, chocolate, earthy tobacco, truffle and boxwood, and by smelling the scents individually in the bottles guests are then able to identify those notes in the wine tasting.
“Our guests are finding it totally enlightening to be able to verbalise a smell that they know is familiar in the wine, but it’s hard for them to verbalise until the kit reveals the scents,” she says.
On the dinner menu is the likes of Amuse-bouche (bite-sized hors d’œuvres), seafood and game courses, decadent desserts, all of which are served paired to Heritage Estate’s 5-Star Halliday Rated Wines. Exotic meats are a feature, including goose, venison, Angus beef cheek, and goat.
Guests are also treated to silent movies projected overhead and the sounds of a string quartet ensemble.
Mr Fenwick says they started up the dinners last year as an option for Queenslanders wanting to travel.
He says it seemed like a natural progression to offer visitors an opportunity to taste the “exquisite dishes” the winery’s chef had been posting on social media through cooking videos during the lockdown.
People are reportedly relishing in the opportunity to dress up, with Mr Fenwick stating that “we ask the men to wear a dinner jacket if they have one, the ladies frock up, and we even have a professional photographer at all our dinners to capture and share the photos with our guests, all included in the dinner experience”.
Once an old apple store, the Heritage Estate cellar door is the second oldest in the region.
The supporting beam in the winery cellar door also came from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was used in the place of the many small rooms of the old apple store.
Laden with antiques and a grand open fireplace, it sets an impressive backdrop to dinner events.
Antiques and other curiosities include the over 80 year old Pianola which guests can play, a workers’ card punch time clock, railway equipment, old scales, and more.
Also of historical note are the vines themselves at the winery, with the red wine vines being over 60 years old. The winery states this is old for Australia and old for the world as the oldest vines in the world are in South Australia and are roughly 130 years old.
The white wine vines are over 30 years old and at 927 metres above sea level are the highest of any 5-star Halliday winery in the country.
The soil in the Granite Belt is reportedly key to the quality of the wine, as the decomposed granite soil repels disease, is good for drainage, and encourages many varieties of healthy vines.
Heritage Wines are a strong supporter of the Granite Belt’s Strange Bird Trail, with many of their wines from unusual varieties that represent less than one per cent of Australian production. These include Verdelho, Fiano, Tempranillo, Malbec, and more.
John Handy, the winery’s supervising winemaker and viticulturist, grew up on the property and has been making wines there for 15 years.
He has produced a raft of award-winning wines with the business and oversees every aspect of wine production from the nurturing of the vines through to the final bottled product.
John often employs Wild Ferment techniques so the wines not inoculated with purchased yeast, but are fermented slowly and gently, using yeasts from the winery airs, rather like making sour dough.
He completed an Environmental Science degree at Southern Cross University and then went onto Charles Sturt University for a degree in Oenology. Upon returning home he took up residence as the chief wine maker, and then of course, viticulturist.
There are too many awards over John’s 16-year tenure to name, but Heritage owners Robert and Therese Fenwick, themselves with a business and wine history, hope that Heritage will continue high standards.
“To win against 10,000 wines and be respected by James Halliday, is a great basis for the future” says Therese.
Five Senses Dinners are a hot ticket during winter, which is the Granite Belt’s peak tourism season, yet the last year has seen Stanthorpe enjoying a welcome tourism boom, which has seen record visitors right through spring, summer and autumn too.
The upcoming Five Senses Degustation Dinner will be held on 18th September, and the dinners are continued monthly.
Tickets are $170 per person, including French Champagne on arrival at 6pm, followed by seven courses and matching wines. Accommodation pick-ups are available by prior arrangement. For dinner bookings phone (07) 4685 2197 or visit www.heritageestate.wine for more information.