Nestled just west of Stanthorpe overlooking a 22 acre vineyard, award-winning Casley Mount Hutton Winery is inspired by the rolling green hills of European wine country.

The hidden paradise and local favourite, though, has not always been so picturesque. When owners Grant and Sonya Casley first discovered the land it was part of a sheep station. “There was nothing here. There was just a bare block of ground when we bought it. No power, no house, no water,” Grant said.

The Casleys had spent several years in England where Grant ran a silver refinery, and he recognised the grape growing potential of the land. Grant’s knowledge of winemaking stems from his background in science as a chemical engineer and his passion for wine. The winery is inspired by the vineyards Grant and Sonya encountered in England and France.

The couple planted French grape varieties to pay homage to their European adventure. “We are at an elevation of about 900 metres where we are, and that’s ideal for grapes — being at a high altitude you get a good, long, slow growing and ripening period,” Grant said.

Since its first vintage in 2000, the winery has won many awards. Casley Mount Hutton Winery was most recently recognised for Best Additional Cellar Door Experience by Gourmet Traveller for the personalised tours they provide each visitor. Sonya says she enjoys giving guests an insight into how the winery operates. “People are not coming in just to taste wine; we take people through the process of how to make wine and they love it. They just love the experience of seeing the oak barrels and where they come from and seeing where we store our wine.”

Asked why the business has been so successful, Sonya attributes the community of wine lovers in the region. “There is a really lovely group of people here who are all dedicated to the same thing and I think that actually improves the qualities of the wines. They all critique each other’s wines and get feedback.”

The Casleys share this spirit of sharing and are firm believers in supporting local grape growers. Three of their grape varieties are bought from a local grower, with one vintage from a local grower netting the winery a gold medal. Sonya thinks of their success as a broader community achievement. “I am a great believer in kindness brings kindness back to you,” she said.

As the winery continues to grow in local and visitor support, Grant and Sonya are looking to the future of the vineyard. They would like to continue to produce alternative wine varieties that are part of the Strange Bird concept on the Granite Belt. “We have a chenin blanc and I don’t believe anyone else grows it here,” Sonya says. “And it’s less than one per cent of the Australian vintage. It’s quite rare. We would probably like to look at another variety like that.”

The couple will continue to deliver the same hospitality that sees visitors return time and again to the Granite Belt’s little slice of Europe.

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