I will happily admit that I love the noise, the colour and the energy of living in a large city. It makes me feel alive. But every now and then every city slicker needs to escape somewhere, even if it’s just for the day. There’s something very soothing about heading to the beach or the mountains but my personal favourite way to unwind is driving out to the countryside past grain fields, grazing cattle and rural vineyards. But where to get my rural fix?
I’d lived here for almost 5 years and had never heard of the Somerset Valley until recently. Located a mere 60 minute drive west of Brisbane, the region is home to quaint little country towns, lakes, and a handful of wineries which make up the Somerset Valley Wine Trail. The trail is best reached by taking the Bruce Highway north to Caboolture, and then following the D’Arguilar Highway all the way into the valley. Take the southern approach via Ipswich for the towns of Fernvale and Esk, and beautiful Somerset Dam. Or if you have an entire day to spend here, you can do the whole loop which takes about 2.5 hours without stops.
There are 6 vineyards in the region and we started our day at Woongooroo Estate, a boutique family-owned winery near Woodford (www.woongoorooestate.com). The turn-off to the winery is not well sign-posted and easily missed. The cellar door offers wine tastings, matching wine and cheese experiences and even wine-infused ice cream. We sampled a bold shiraz and a delicate pink muscato, followed by a cheese platter with local cheeses from Kenilworth and Maleny. Yum!
We were keen for something heartier so we made our way back down the road to Ocean View Estates Winery, the largest vineyard in the region (oceanviewestates.com.au). Although there is no ocean view, the vineyard and grounds themselves are very picturesque.
Winery tours and wine tastings are available at the cellar door and you can enjoy fabulous food at the restaurant overlooking the vineyard. We shared crispy lamb ribs with sumac yoghurt, soft shell crab with Vietnamese mint, coriander and eggplant, and roasted quail with burnt carrot puree and pickled mushrooms. Then it was time to burn off some of those calories by wandering around the grounds. The Optus Yestival was in full swing on the day we went with live music, a brilliant red Kombi van doling out coffee, face painting, and a jumping castle. I could easily have spent a few hours here spread out on a picnic blanket enjoying the sunshine and music.
But real life beckoned and it was time to head home, past the fields bathed in the warm light cast by a setting sun.
© 2015 Live Life Brisbane