Why bother with the Barossa? Experience Granite Belt magic
THE amazing thing about the Granite Belt wine country is there are so many people who haven't discovered it.
The simple message is you don't need to fly to the Margaret River, the Barossa or the Yarra Valley to enjoy a great weekend escape combining the best in food, wines and accommodation.
Am I saying that all the wines of the Granite Belt are as good as our premium wine regions? No, but I am saying that there are many being produced that could, and do, stand tall at any wine show.
Symphony Hill, Ballandean, Jester Hill and Robert Channon are just a few of the wineries that have excelled, and there are many more that are knocking on gold medal doors.
Let me make a short backtrack here, because it is wrong for me to just label Stanthorpe and its surrounding villages as a place to go to discover quality wines. I recently spent a week in the district visiting the leading wineries in an attempt to nominate a top six.
I did find the great wines, and that story will appear in later editions, but what I also found was a warm, friendly region that offers a captivating break for every member of the family. In fact, even those who refuse to put a wine glass to their mouth will fall for the region's charms.
Obviously to enjoy a stay you have to enjoy your accommodation first. No issues here, as there are numerous accommodation options available from the traditional motel style to bed-and-breakfasts and to small, picturesque cottage stays.
If you want something within a short stroll of the main street of Stanthorpe, you should look at Diamondvale B&B Cottages.
A picturesque bush track leads you into town from your cottage, which sits alongside the Quart Pot Creek in 12 hectares of natural bushland. Home-cooked breakfasts are delivered to your door by hosts Tony and Kerrin Cridland.
The recent addition to Diamondvale is a four-bedroom lodge, which is an ideal place for a family gathering or as a base for a group of friends during an exploration of the district.
There are also plenty of accommodation options if you want to stay outside of town, with many of the wineries expanding their businesses to bring old farmhouses back to life.
Tim and Michelle Coelli have done just this at their small Twisted Gum winery. The cottage sits among the vines and, if it's peace and serenity you crave, it's an ideal escape.
Twisted Gum has also just completed a renovated cottage that hosts daily wine tastings and monthly degustation dinners. An ideal weekend would be a stay at the vineyard that coincides with one of their "table for 16" dinners.
So with the wine and accommodation sorted, the big question is, what about the food? Well, the Granite Belt has come a long way in its gourmet offerings over the past few years.
Standing tallest is Ballandean's award-winning Barrel Room restaurant, which more than holds its own with some of Brisbane's best eateries.
Owners Matt and Bobbi Wells have embraced the fresh produce of the region with their menu, and finding a great matching wine isn't too difficult for diners with the leading Ballandean wine selection at their fingertips.
If you like your meal in giant proportions, then Anna's in Stanthorpe is the place to dine. It will test even the biggest eaters.
Other recommendations include the Homestead Restaurant and Varias. The Homestead is at the Granite Belt Brewery, which means if you are all wined out from your vineyard visits, you can taste-test your night away enjoying some flavoursome brews.
If you are looking to put together an afternoon cheese platter to enjoy with your recently discovered Granite Belt wines, visit Stanthorpe Cheese.
The final tip for your visit is the best one of all. Don't go to the Granite Belt without stopping at Sutton's Apple Orchard and Cidery.
Ros Sutton makes the best apple pies you have ever tasted. The pies are so popular that Ros can't make enough for you to call in and grab one to take away.
You just have to sit down and enjoy a generous slice with some apple ice-cream and fresh cream. Makes you hungry, doesn't it?
The writer was a guest of Southern Qld Tourism.