JUST three hours’ drive from Brisbane lies the Granite Belt Wine Country, where country lanes wind through vineyards, orchards and the namesake granite boulders which dot the landscape like crazy marbles dropped from on high.
A “Big” Apple standing next to the highway is the unmistakable sign we are entering the region that produces 99% of all Queensland’s apples. It also marks the site of the fabulous Vincenzo’s deli, which is packed with local produce and value-added products, cheeses and chocolates jostling for space with pasta and parmigiana.
“Where else can you do your shopping while enjoying a glass of wine?” laughs Vince, one of the amiable Italian owners.
Indeed, shoppers are browsing the aisles with an espresso in hand, as it’s a little too early for anything harder.
Vince explains he and partner Maria converted an abandoned apple-drying shed into one of the largest delicatessens in Queensland.
“It’s a hobby gone horribly wrong,” jokes Maria.
Vince and Maria are typical of the region’s resident foodies – some local like Vince, but many more drawn from further afield by a passion for food and wine, and the cooler climate.
The second highest wine region in Australia, the Granite Belt produces about 60% of Queensland’s wines. We visit several during our stay – Ballandean Estate owned by the Puglisis, now in the family for the fourth generation and the first vineyard to open commercially in 1970; Lucas Estate with its sweeping views; and the Robert Channon Winery, where former lawyer Robert is creating award-winning wines and staging opera and jazz concerts.
All this wine leads to thoughts of cheese, so next stop is the Granite Belt Dairy Farm House, where talented cheese-maker Karen Deeth creates farmhouse cheeses from the milk produced by her jersey cows.
All this food and wine has a soporific effect, so we seek out our first night’s accommodation at Diamondvale Lodge, the latest addition to the existing cottages at Diamondvale B&B.
The lodge provides much sought after accommodation for larger groups in four queen-size bed
rooms. It’s modern and stylish and includes full kitchen and bathroom facilities along with a central living area, a log fireplace and a large deck with barbecue.
A new day and new delicacies begins with a visit to the Bramble Patch and the bevy of berry delights that have been delighting customers for the past 12 years – jams, dessert sauces, vinegars sauces and chutneys, even berry and grape wines.
Then for revitalising coffee and more temptations at Ballandean Estate’s Gourmet Food Gallery, where gourmet creations by local food artisans are sold, including Mary Puglisi’s Greedy Me range of jams, chutneys and relishes.
In a day rich with more wine and food experiences we also fortified ourselves with the offerings at Mt Stirling Olives, another of the Granite Belt’s thriving producers who always process all olives grown on the estate’s 3500 trees within 24 hours of picking.
As the day drew to a close it was time to treat ourselves to another stylish accommodation encounter – the destination this time the boutique resort, 31therocks.
Again just a few minutes’ drive from Stanthorpe, the resort is set among 10 acres of bushland and provides accommodation in five villas. Ideal for couples and singles, the resort can be hired out to larger groups who want to stay together but seek some privacy.
Owners Phil and Beryl Moye like to refer to their getaway as a “doily-free zone” with stylish fit-outs, pot belly fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens.
If you can’t be bothered heading out to the selection of local restaurants or creating a masterpiece from the local produce collected during the day, take advantage of the in-room catering on offer.
Although by now, you would defy all odds to be hungry!
Getting there: The Granite Belt is located about three hours’ drive south-west from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
For information: www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au
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