Among the rolling hills of the scenic Mt Mee Road tourist drive, husband and wife team, Thomas and Kate Honnef, have eked out a multi-award winning wine, food and tourism business at Ocean View Estates.
A member of the Queensland Tourism Awards Hall of Fame, Ocean View Estates is a local success story born from passion, perseverance and Thomas’ German winemaking heritage.
“My grandparents and my great grandparents had a vineyard and winery along the Mosel in a town near Koblenz, and my mum and dad come from the wine growing Rhine region,” says Thomas, Chief Winemaker and Owner. “Dad was always brewing, fermenting and making something when I was a kid, so it’s a little bit in my blood,” he chuckles.
On the gentle slopes of the estate where dairy cows once grazed, Thomas applies his viticulture know-how to Ocean View Estates’ Chardonnay, Viognier, Shiraz and Ruby Cabernet grape varieties.
“We started very small,” says Thomas. “In 1998 we picked some sites to do a trial plot up the back section of the property on a nice northern site and planted some vines. They looked like they were going pretty well, so we built the first winery shed which was used to then make our first wine in 2002.”
Celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year, Ocean View Estates now produce 30 tonnes of grapes and 30,000 bottles of their estate-produced wines annually; all grown, made and sold onsite.
“For us, [our production] is about quality and flavours rather than driving quantity,” says Thomas. “If we need to get more wine in such as Merlot or Verdelho which we don’t produce here, we’ll buy it from local growers in Stanthorpe and the South Burnett region.”
With a history in biochemistry, Thomas understands the delicate balance of art and science that winemaking demands.
“There’s a few little unique things on this site for growing grapes that helps us produce some really beautiful fruit, especially our vignettes which are our flagship line.
“Being only 30 kilometres off the coast and 450 metres above sea level, we get a very high level coastal influence and lose five degrees temperature. Because our temperatures aren’t as high and spikey as down on the lower country or out west a bit further, our fruit ripens a touch slower and that helps us to retain flavour.”
But it’s not all about the wine. In 2007, Ocean View Estates became a fine dining destination with the opening of their full-service, à la carte restaurant, and last year a second dining space - The Binary – opened for functions. Overseen by Head Chef Tony Tierney who grew up in “Australia's salad bowl” the Lockyer Valley, guests enjoy haute cuisine made from local produce.
“Our dishes have a modern Australian Japanese influence,” says Tony. “My dad is from Ireland, so I try and incorporate a bit of the Irish influence as well. It’s very European cooking.”
In 2016, craft beer was added to the estate’s Cellar Door menu, when Thomas’ and Kate’s daughter, Hannah, took on the role of Head Brewer.
“We started this whole project of Ocean View Estates with the question, why would anyone want to come up here and taste, or drink or buy our wine?” says Thomas. “We knew we had to create a point of difference and an experience, and that’s what we’ve done.”
For more information visit www.oceanviewestates.com.au.