Drought. Bushfires. Floods. Sadly, Australia has gone peak Dorothea Mackellar this summer. Heroically, the people touched by disaster keep on keeping on. Miraculously, they laugh because if they didn’t they’d weep. The call to #bringemptyeskys and #holidayherethisyear has gone out. But we need to buy more and stay longer. One region fighting the good fight is South East Queensland’s Granite Belt – aka Granite Belt Wine Country.
One of Australia’s food bowls, the Granite Belt is renowned for apples, stone fruit, and wine. Only 3 hours from Brisbane or the Gold Coast, the region is perfect for a weekend away with wine tasting and national park hiking top of the list. Last weekend we road-tripped with a group of travel writers to explore, taste, sip, and to marvel at its unique landscape. We also listened to strawberry and apple growers, soap makers, brewers, winemakers, restaurateurs, and chocolatiers. Earthly and heavenly all at once.
25 apples in every pie
Sutton’s enormous apple pies are legendary. Manager Deb Gavin tells us it takes 25 Pink Ladies to make each pie. (That’s apples, not employees). This variety holds its shape better and is sweeter than a Granny Smith. Slabs not slices of these full-figured beauties are served with whipped cream topped with Sutton’s Apple Syrup and a scoop of Spiced Cider Ice Cream. Big enough for two to share.
Getting schooled on wine – Queensland College of Wine Tourism
Peter tells us the college is a joint venture with the state government and USQ and aims to engage schools with industry training in wine science and hospitality. Nearby Stanthorpe High is the only school in the Southern Hemisphere that grows and crushes grapes. The wine is also served at Vanias – the onsite restaurant.
Wine tourism is a relatively new concept on the Granite Belt and Peter says, “it’s all about making boutique wine and selling it to people as part of a wine experience”.
I love to have a beer with Phil and Dee and so will you
You can sample craft beer and eat your fill from the hearty menu. And, you can also stay in one of the Tennessee-style, cedar log cabins on the property. The cosy, rustic cabins are ringed by towering eucalypts that are home to some all-knowing koalas up high. Laconic wallabies and the occasional ambling echidna also call this patch home. An idyllic spot mid-week or for a long weekend of Granite Belt exploration.
Ridgemill Estate – Elegance in a glass
Tasting here is a learning experience and most importantly fun. Taste a Black Dog or the Mongrel. And don’t forget their Saperavi – an 8,000-year-old Georgian grape with red skin and unusually dark flesh. The birds like this one so much that the first harvest only produced 17 bottles. It’s one of the Granite Belt’s *’Strange Birds’ and also one of James Halliday’s favourites.
Essen – Grow local, eat local
St Jude’s Cellar Door and Bistro – the new home of the long lunch?
Strawberry fields forever
Robert Channon Wines – where Paola makes the wine and cooks too
And now for something completely different- WashPool Skin Wellness
The Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Festival is back on February 28-March 8.