A WINE TRADITION: Jim Beh with photos of his great-grandfather and mother, who were some of Toowoomba's first settlers.
A WINE TRADITION: Jim Beh with photos of his great-grandfather and mother, who were some of Toowoomba's first settlers. Alexia Austin

How Toowoomba flourished from winery

BOOZE buses and Sunday sessions sound like modern-day antics, however Toowoomba resident Jim Beh is here to set the record straight.

Mr Beh's great grandparents were among some of the first Toowoomba settlers, who promptly formed a vineyard in the heart of town.

It was 1863 when David and Magdalena Beh, German immigrants, set up their three-acre plot over what is now Geddes St.

Over the following six decades, the pair ran a highly successful winery called Summit Hill. Their objective: to make Toowoomba famous for fine wine.

Article clippings from 1888 describe the frivolities organised by the wine-growing families in town; namely horse-drawn booze buses that travelled around the vineyards and "shocking" Sunday drinking.

A lack of support from the government of the day curbed Toowoomba's wine-producing potential, making it hard to compete with growers in South Australia.

Summit Hill produced award-winning Pineau, Maderia and Shiraz, putting out 1500 gallons of wine during its operation.

The winery featured in multiple articles and books over the years, including the book In The Grip of the Grape by John Moran.

When asked about his heritage, Mr Beh said he was proud of his family's achievements.

"Wine making has been in my family for hundreds of years," Mr Beh said. "It's amazing to look back and see all they did.

"My grandfather, and my father to an extent continued the legacy - I appreciate wine, but I don't make it."

The Behs' original homestead still stands on Geddes St and is now used as a childcare centre.

It is unknown when the establishment was converted for commercial use, however Mr Beh said the winery operation decreased after Magdalena's death in 1916.

If you fancy a drive, head down Geddes St sometime and imagine it as it used to be.



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