When living along the coast, it’s easy to forget the Queensland wonders that lie just a few hours west.
A weekend escape to Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt wine country was just the break my mum and I needed. It was to be a weekend of relaxation, indulgence in some of the state’s best wine and food, as well as some time for mother-daughter bonding. However, what we didn’t expect was to feel right at home and to be so welcomed by the locals.
We began our weekend at Heritage Estate Wines along Granite Belt Drive, Cottonvale and were immediately welcomed by Moira. Over coffee she explained the estate had renovated the beautiful old church.
We pressed on to enjoy lunch at Stanthorpe’s Little Cake & Coffee Shop. Showing remarkable restraint, we decided to keep some room in our stomachs for what was to be an indulgent day, so we only admired their tarts despite the popcorn and caramel, banana split and raspberry tarts (pictured) calling our names.
On the way to our accommodation, we stopped by Strawberry Fields to pick our own fresh berries, and stopped at Jamworks where Peter Ingall and his wife Sue create jams and preserves from home-grown and local produce.
Our hosts at Sancerre Estate, Stacey and Brad, made us feel like we were in a home away from home. We sat on the balcony with our bottle of wine from Heritage Estate and watched the sun set and illuminate the vineyards.
Stacey and Brad are new to the region and have only recently set up the cosy bed and breakfast. Similar to our day’s experience, Stacey told us that when they moved to the Granite Belt, although their neighbours lived on opposite sides of the valley, they soon came over to welcome them with wine and they immediately felt like they’d found a home.
At dinner that evening at Shiraz Restaurant, we went with Stacey’s recommendation and chose the fresh scallops, a signature dish of chef and owner John. The scallops tasted as if they’d just left the sea.
The next day on the Elevated Taste tour we visited Ballandean Estate, Golden Grove, Hidden Creek and Symphony Hill – all local producers of wine. At each venue we chatted with the winemakers, tried their varieties and the range of dishes that accompanied. It’s a tough job, but well-handled by Mum and me.
The highlight of the day was Whiskey Gully Wines where owner John Arlidge not only treated guests to his gorgeous champagne, but performed on the guitar while we indulged in lunch.
My personal highlight was seeing my Mum, who isn’t typically the biggest drinker or social butterfly, enjoying herself and laughing along with other guests over a glass of wine.
By the time the bus dropped us off home, we were a little giddy and couldn’t comprehend eating another morsel in the day – but we knew we’d have to make room for dinner at The Barrel Room.
Ballandean Estate’s Barrel Room is a family affair where premium wines and gourmet food have been served for generations – and in that time they have evidently mastered their steaks.
When we returned to Sancerre Estate that night, I felt a little sad to think we’d be farewelling Stacey and Brad so soon, after we’d been made to feel right at home.
It was then that Mum decided the Granite Belt had won her over and she would return for her wedding anniversary in November.
Our final day begun at the Wallangarra Railway Café, found at the end of the Granite Belt on the NSW border. On Sundays, locals flock to the tracks for the Border Railway Markets.
Over coffee we chatted about how much there was to do in the region. Despite our busy weekend, we still hadn’t visited a dozen places like Pyramids Road Wines or Girraween Estate in the National Park, so they were added to the bucket list for the next trip.
The last stop was Sutton’s Cidery. David and Ros Sutton have owned the apple orchard for over a decade and create organic products from their produce. We had the BEST APPLE PIE EVER and picked our own apples to take home. The couple are a warm, welcoming pair, and another example of the Granite Belt’s fantastic hospitality.
In a trip to the Granite Belt, you feel like a local, a neighbour and that you fit right in. The locals are not only passionate about their produce, businesses and community, but they’re willing to share that passion with you.
It’s a memory with my Mum I won’t be able to replace, and an experience I would recommend to any Queenslander who wants to appreciate the natural wonders of our state. Visit Granite Belt Wine & Tourism to plan your weekend getaway.
The author was a guest of Granite Belt Wine & Tourism.