Giraween National Park sits on the highlands behind the coastal plains. It's granite country with a series of impressive exposed outcrops which just beg to be climbed. My son and I headed there for a weekend in the bush. Strangely it was the first time we've managed to do this. He's in his mid twenties. We walked, talked, shared some mutually ill-informed versions of history, lit a fire, cooked a pudding in a tin and slept well despite our inflatable matresses both deciding to expire. It was cold. Seven degrees overnight, so sleeping on bedrock was a challenge. The stars made up for it. We both sat agog, a sky full of incomprehensible beauty above us and we understood how insignificant we were. And then we realised that we had nothing to drink with our meal that evening. We were in wine country so off we went at 3:30 in the afternoon in search of a local drop of nectar.
Adrian Tobin is a wine maker outside Stanthorpe in Queensland, three hours outside the capital city Brisbane. His small boutique establishment caught my eye as my son and I did a late afternoon trawl of local vineyards sampling local produce and looking for a bottle of something to drink over our campfire meal.
Perhaps it was the hundreds of metres of hand built rock walls that lined his property which impressed me. Here was someone who was intent on leaving his mark. His scribbly brand was almost unintelligible. Something whirred inside my head. Something said 'that's unusual'. 'why would you be so flamboyant? 'would that squiggle sell wine to the passers-by?' That and the Tobin name. Irish. Hadn't I heard that before?
Only a week ago I'd been at a big country funeral in Warwick nearby where the Brosnan and Booth clans had gathered in big bodied, ruddy complexioned numbers to farewell one of the town matriarchs. Marie, the wife of the late local national party member; Marie the owner of the cake decorating shop in the main street where everyone invariably ended up for a chat; Marie the dairy farmer's wife and related to half the district. Surely there was a Tobin in the mix.
This was our third winery and I had already bought one more bottle of wine than I needed. The sun was getting low in the perfect sky but three seemed to be a good number of vignerons to visit with your twenty something son on a bonding weekend. So I made a sudden swerve off the bitument and headed towards a shiny corugated iron shed. As we alighted from the car we passed a seven foot tall figure of a woman cast in steel. She was guarding the entrance; her skin was textured giving her a sense of other-worldlyness; a seven foot mermaid without her tail.
Adrian Tobin stood behind his neat as a pin tasting table, wine glasses set out meticulously and casks lined up perfectly to the right. He was a man in his 60's I'd have guessed. A very athletic 60's. A man who worked more than he drank. In an instant, in the way things happen when your intuition is alive and alight, I knew this tasting was going to be more than a barmaid trying to sell me a bottle of anything she could convince me was exactly what my taste buds were salivating for.
We talked. About everything but wine for two or three minutes. He was a man with a passion for more than wine. He knew the landscape, the history of his block, the geology of the nearby Sundown National Park. "You can walk in faster than you can get a four wheel drive through."
That calligraphy whispered to me. "This man is an artist of some sort." "You're not related to the Tobin boys in Brisbane are you?" My brain was starting to piece a few bits of information together. It wasn't the Warwick connection. No, it had to be the Tobin brothers.
"Yes, as a matter of fact. I'm their father." And at that he proffered his gnarled working man's hand and introduced himself: "Adrain Tobin." "Matthew and Daniel are my sons." "So you'd know my good friend Mary" I offered. "A great mate" he said and so the story rolled on.
"I helped them set up their business" he went on. "I'm a third shareholder, but I got tired of the contracts and the administrative business. I needed to be an artist again. So this is my art. Wine. I knew I had at least one more project in me so I bought this vineyard 10 years ago."
Now the seven foot "magic woman" made sense. Matthew and Dan run a foundry and art business in Brisbane (UAP - Urban Art Projects) which has grown to become a force internationally with some wild and seriously large commissions from Dubai, China, the US and their home country, Australia.
"Open that before you stoke up the campfire" Adrian advised as we turned for our car having bought one of his premium wines - "Jacob Tempranillo". Let it air for a bit."
"Nah" said my son. "No point. I don't drink red wine."