‘Pirate’ Winemaker Notches 20 Years
Sue Smith admits with a laugh the recent description of Warren Smith her winemaking husband as ‘more of a pirate than a winemaker’ was cheeky, though not far from the truth.
The description afforded by wine writer Des Houghton, referred to the winemaker’s ‘mischievous smile’, ‘distinctive grey flowing beard and the glint in his eye as he pours me another red’. Such a description given in Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region would be more than sufficient for the postman to identify Warren, a popular character, who with wife Sue in 2019 notched up 20 years at Pyramids Road Wines.
Motivated by a change in lifestyle and leaving the busyness of the Sunshine Coast behind, the pair both formerly teachers traded life in the classroom for the vineyards in 1999, with a move to the Granite Belt. Warren and Sue converted what was once an old stone fruit orchard into vineyards and after many years in the establishment phase, they opened the cellar door at Pyramids Road Wines.
“One of our proudest achievements is that we built it all from scratch. We didn’t just inherit an established vineyard, we hand planted and established everything from the beginning ourselves,” explains Sue.
They started with traditional varieties of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a patch of old bush grown Black Muscat grapes, which Warren resurrected by mowing them down with a chain saw, re-trellising and training them onto a cordon wire.
The winery was sparse in early times, with just a milk vat, a crusher, a manual basket press and a couple of barrels, yet the small operation was rewarded with early award-winning success. Their first success is also one of their most notable memories as they look back over the 20 years.
“It was 2003, we had just opened the door at our cellar door and we won the Dick de Luca Memorial Trophy for Best Queensland Shiraz. It was a real shock to win so early on in the piece,” recalls Sue.
Though the winery’s following and success has grown across the years, the winery staff remains a team of two, with Warren and Sue carrying out all tasks of the wine growing and wine making operations.
“Small scale production means most operations are hands-on, from pruning, training, picking in the vineyard to basket pressing, bottling and labelling in the winery. We started out with a 5 year business plan and threw it all out the window after a few years, because it’s a lot of hard work and just the two of us working on it,” explains Sue.
Travellers can drop in to the picturesque winery, along the road enroute to Girraween National Park, where the giant twin granite Pyramids lure hikers and lend their name to both the winery’s road and the winery name. But you can be sure it’s more than a drop-in trade this winery has earnt in 20 years, with a reputation for quality wines making it a wine destination for both new and many returning wine fans.
The Pyramids Road wine list of Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and their very popular Rose, is accompanied with some less common varieties: Verdelho, Mourvedre and Petit Verdot. Known on the Granite Belt as ‘Strangebird’ Wines, rare wine varieties have become a signature experience of wine tasting on the Granite Belt, with exciting new varieties appearing by the year.
Describing the changes seen in 20 years of winemaking on the Granite Belt, the couple reflect on seeing tourism growing a lot stronger and observing many younger families moving to the area for work.
A visit to Pyramids Road Wines to share in the milestone 20 years is a must in 2019 and you can be sure you won’t forget the beard, or the winemaker behind the beard. This year in August, they will celebrate with two events…
Find Pyramids Road Wines
24 Wyberba Lane (off Pyramids Road)
Wyberba, Granite Belt, Queensland
Ph: 07 4684 5151
Dozens of Wineries Nearby!
The Granite Belt is littered with more than 40 cellar doors. Download the Granite Belt Strange Birds Alternative Wine Trail Map to view dozens of cellar doors nearby, or search cellar doors here.