The Queensland College of Wine Tourism (QCWT) is quietly creating a standard in food, wine and education amongst the northern hills around Stanthorpe.

QCWT first opened the doors in 2007 with a new concept for creating education and infrastructural support around the burgeoning food, wine, tourism and hospitality sector in the Southern Downs region. The contemporary building sits overlooking vineyards, orchards and the New England Highway. The entrance is through a stone corridor where you are met with a warm, welcoming mix of clean architectural lines that are complemented by red leather couches, slate grey floor, polished wood, wine barrel wood and stainless steel. The foyer gallery style is somehow more suggestive of warm order rather than institutional aloofness.

The college is not only proud of its beautiful campus but also boasts the Varias Restaurant and Function Centre which has been described by food critic Des Houghton as having “a disciplined kitchen”. Although this reflects the skills and experience of executive chef Andrew Simpson, it is still high praise for a crew of mostly apprentices and trainees. Varias has won a number of Queensland Tourism Industry Council Awards and is a popular destination for weddings, conference groups and locals.

The menu is seasonally focused, inspired by the region’s bountiful harvests when sourcing local produce. Stanthorpe is not just apples and grapes anymore as the diversity of produce available is exciting and includes everything from peaches to apricots, strawberries to watercress, herbs, cheeses and olives, garlic to green vegetables and organic lamb, beef and pork – all readily available locally.

Banca Ridge Winery and cellar door is also onsite, integrated through a barrel room glass viewing wall in the foyer gallery. The Banca Ridge operation, as a part of QCWT, delivers a range of educational winemaking experiences from senior high school students participating in the Young Winemaker Program through to Winemaker for a Weekend (vintage season only). Weekends are open to the general public who wish to indulge in the winemaking experience. The program covers hands-on grape picking, crushing grapes and wine tasting educational talks. The Saturday night private banquet at Varias for groups is followed by yet more superb food for Sunday lunch. When driving through Stanthorpe, or visiting for the weekend, make a stop at QCWT for a memorable dining experience. Open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday.

Words by Mel Forbes   |  Images supplied by the Queensland College of Wine Tourism