When I planned to spend Christmas Down Under, the images that came to mind were beach barbecues, Santa in board shorts and flip flops (or thongs as they’re called in Australia), and kangaroos hanging out in the sunshine. I’d heard stories about shoe-melting temperatures and a sun that scorches even the most conscientious sunscreen-wearer. But Port Douglas (one hour away from Cairns) had other plans for us…
On our first day, it was a little overcast and rainy, but we were able to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, which has been a bucket list item I’ve been looking forward to since I got my dive license at age 12. We saw many giant clams, Christmas tree worms (perfect for a festive, three-days-before-Christmas dive!), a shark, a couple cuttlefish and lots of gorgeous coral.
Going with Quicksilver Cruises was a great way for my dad and I to dive while my mom and sister (non-divers) had the choice of snorkeling or just hanging out on the boat. Do remember sunscreen, though, because even when it’s overcast, that Australian stereotype is absolutely true!!
The next day, we were greeted with a monsoon. Flooded roads, torrential downpours and cancelled activities. The rain was so bad, our car couldn’t even make it down the road to visit the famous Daintree Ice Cream Company… So you know I’ll be back to the area!
Not to fear though, because Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery offers wine tasting rain or shine. We drove about 15 minutes to Mossman where we met Trudie Woodall, who has been making wine for the past 12 years.
Her family’s efforts have been greatly rewarded with many prizes for their tropical fruit wines. They make 19,000 liters per year, which means lots of happy customers while still maintaining a boutique, family feel. With exotic flavors like passionfruit, mangosteen, jaboticaba, kaffir lime and black sapote, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Signs and ads all promised that this wine wouldn’t be sticky or sweet, and we wanted to try it for ourselves.
Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery offers free tastings of up to four flavors, or you can try all the flavors with a commitment to buy one bottle per person. After tasting, we found that the most difficult part was narrowing down our selection to one per person (our suitcases wouldn’t hold more than that!). Trudie was knowledgable and took plenty of time to tell us about each wine and the best foods to pair with them.
You’ll have to try it for yourself to appreciate how amazing the wine truly is, but here’s a top 4 from my mom, dad and I so you can understand just how diverse the wine they create really is:
Dad (typically a red wine drinker):
1. Jaboticaba- This wine is closest to grape wine and has a flavor similar to shiraz or cabernet. The fruit originated in Brazil and grows on the trunk of the tree as well as the branches. This wine pairs well with red meat, game, and spicy food.
2. Mango (dry)- This dry wine is similar to chardonnay with just a hint of mango flavor.
3. Dad chose kaffir lime, orange, black sapote and chocolate as his number 3. Sounds like cheating to me…
4. Purple Mangosteen- I fell in love with this fruit in Thailand, and Dad loved the fortified wine for its soft and creamy flavor.
Mom (typically a white wine drinker):
1. Kaffir Lime- This refreshing fortified wine can be used in salad dressing, over fish or ice cream, served straight over crushed ice, mixed with a splash of soda water, or used in your favorite drink. All parts of the fruit are used in making this wine except the pit: leaf, rind and juice mix together to create a tangy wine.
2. Mango (medium)- Unlike the dry mango wine, the medium mango wine has a sweeter, and more mango-like flavor.
3. Ginger- We agreed that this table wine tastes a bit like ginger ale without the bubbles. It’s great for anytime, but especially good with asian foods.
4. Black Sapote- Known as the ‘chocolate pudding fruit,’ black sapote originates in Mexico and has been described as tasting like chocolate, coffee, anise, molasses, and dates. Enjoy this fortified wine on its own or over ice cream.
Me (I enjoy both red and white wine, but tend to stay away from very dry reds):
1. Lime- This light wine is similar to sauvignon blanc and pairs well with Thai, Mexican or seafood. It was a close one between my #1 and #2, and I think this won because I’d love to try it with Mexican food.
2. Ginger- I loved this wine… it was light, refreshing, and had just the perfect amount of ginger zing to it.
3. Black Sapote- This wine reminded me of drinking tootsie rolls… which is always a good thing!
4. Kaffir Lime- After spending a month in Thailand, this flavor was familiar and I’d love to pair it with a good pad thai!
If you’re ever in the Port Douglas area (rain or shine) go see Trudie and sample the Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery’s inventive and tasty selection!