Quirky trip to find fine wines and vintage tins
BOB Holland knew he couldn't just sit still when he retired ... and his thoughts turned to winemaking.
Having bought their Crows Nest, Queensland property as a weekender in 1996, he and wife Robyn decided creating a vineyard and making their own wine "on a hobby basis to fill in a bit of time" was a good idea.
The hobby has since become a new full-time career, and includes cellar door wine tasting and sales, attending markets, running a gift shop, and providing morning and afternoon teas and finger food in the gardens.
But Bob admits it has been a steep learning curve.
Having planted vines from 1998-2000, the couple discovered lorikeets were enjoying more of the grapes than they were.
The grapes they did manage to salvage were never sweet enough to produce a good taste.
Having invested in netting, in 2005 they notched their first full vintage.
"That created a new problem, because now we had too much for me to handle myself ... so I had to pay someone else to make the wine for me," Bob said.
Having done that and completed their first goal of "producing a wine that was drinkable", they found they had a new problem on their hands.
"One tonne of grapes makes about 800 bottles of wine, so even if we drank two bottles a day we couldn't drink that in a year and we had a storage issue, so I had to build a cellar," Bob laughed.
By 2007, they had further fine-tuned the taste of their wine, but realised they couldn't just keep producing and storing bottles, so Bob began taking his Holland Wines to the district markets.
Still there was more to learn, including that people wanted a wider choice than shiraz and chardonnay.
Bob and Robyn have since dabbled in port, and now produce their own French-style rose, a light merlot called Ravishing Red, medium and heavy reds including a sweet red, an unwooded chardonnay and a sweet pink moscato.
They've developed a good following of return customers.
However, Bob said it was still difficult to get word out about the local winery and to encourage people to try its produce rather than buying interstate and overseas wine from the chain stores.
At generally $15 a bottle, he said, Holland Wines were a comparable price for a good quality wine.
"I know when you start a new business you've got to be patient, but I've got a good product, I just need people to try it," he said.
Under the new banner of High Country Hamlets, he believes the area is going to grow significantly in terms of tourism, and sees the winery as having an integral place in this food, art, accommodation and rural attractions destination.
And, Bob has another string to the Holland Wines bow which is attracting visitors in its own right.
The cellar boasts the largest display of Arnott's biscuit tins on public view in Australia - over 400 - some dating back more than 100 years.
"People are amazed by the designs and shapes," Bob said.
"A lot of people identify tins from when they were kids and it becomes a real talking point."
None of their success to date has come easily, and Bob said the drought had made things that much harder on both a production and sales basis.
"People are very money-conscious at the moment and they see buying wines as a bit of a luxury," Bob said.
"We didn't get enough rain this year to make a product ... the dam just has enough water in the bottom to be sure it doesn't crack, but that's all ...
"It's a critical situation for everyone with the water."
However, in good Aussie farming tradition, Bob remains upbeat.
"Things are going to pick up ... you've got to be positive," he said.
The cellar door is generally open from 9am-5pm, but with weekend markets - including Toowoomba's Cobb+Co and Queen's Park, Nanango and Murphy's Creek markets - the rule is "if the gate is open, so is the cellar door".
To avoid disappointment, or if your group is interested in wine tasting and finger food, phone (07) 4698 2277 or 0408 172387 before visiting to confirm, or go to hollandwines.com.au.
Crows Nest is a town in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. The town is located on the New England Highway, 158 kilometres (98 mi) from the state capital, Brisbane and 43 kilometres (27 mi) from the nearby city of Toowoomba. It is within the Toowoomba Region local government area. At the 2016 Census, Crows Nest had a population of 2160.