Buckle up

Queensland’s premier food and wine region – the granite belt.

Homemade apple pie, wine and cheese – need I say more.

When the opportunity came to visit the Granite Belt region, I immediately pictured myself in a cosy cottage sipping on a glass of vintage wine next to a crackling fire. I must confess – this is exactly what I did, and it was perfection.

The Granite Belt is only a three-hour drive from Brisbane and runs through the heart of Stanthorpe, Queensland’s coldest town. Its unique climate and decomposed granite soils help produce award-winning wines and fresh seasonal produce.

Behind all its beauty is a passionate community full of friendly, family-run businesses and dedicated farmers committed to retaining its reputation as Queensland’s premier wine region.

Ridgemill Estate

The road trip was effortless; it was basically straight the entire way before we were welcomed by a giant red apple. The landscape changed instantly from a straight highway surrounded by infrastructure to open fields of vineyards, apple orchards and farming wildlife. We automatically soaked up the rural views and fresh air. 

From there we checked into our studio-style cabin at award-winning winery Ridgemill Estate. Our cabin was everything we could have hoped for – right next to the vineyards with a large deck overlooking the mountains. Inside was a king-size bed, fully-equipped kitchenette, free Wi-Fi, a fireplace and complementary bottle of wine.

The vineyard was established in 1998 and was known as Emerald Hill before current owner Martin Cooper took over in 2004, changing the name to Ridgemill Estate. Martin grew up in the Yarra Valley and has a rich history of creating wines. Working alongside wine-maker Peter McGlashan, locally known as ‘The Vine Whisperer’, they have explored alternative varieties of wines and won many awards

The wine trail

Despite being a beer drinker, I quickly learned that you don’t have be to a wine connoisseur to enjoy a wine tasting tour. At first, I attempted the ‘look, smell, taste and conclude’ approach before hearing the story behind each bottle. They were all unique flavours and specially-designed to pair with different meals.

Renowned for its alternative wines, The Strangebird Wine Trail features local wine-makers who have made it their mission to create alternative wines rather than mimicking those from other regions. As I tasted reds, whites, sparkling and chardonnays I was marking which bottles I would buy for my fiancé, mum, dad and best friend. Each taste reminded me of a different person, which is why each bottle is personally named after the grandchildren in the vineyard’s family tree.

Foodies heaven

After trying the wine, deep down I knew I would fall in love with the food. First stop was at Sutton’s Juice Factory – the place that everyone talks about. I ordered a piece of their famous apple pie with a side of whipped cream and Sutton’s spiced apple cider ice cream. The meal was huge, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

Next stop was Stanthorpe Cheese and as I walked into the store, I was greeted with rows of large cheese wheels, cheese boards and a cheese-tasking counter. Usually I’d go for a camembert or cheddar, however I couldn’t resist trying the blue cheese. Let’s just say five cheeses were purchased before we left.

Sam’s Farm was another highlight, where we stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables and then picked our own strawberries at the Strawberry Fields. While we ran out of time to eat our way through the Granite, the locals recommended trying Heavenly Chocolate, Jamworks Gourmet Foods, Mt Stirling Olives and Fudge and Varias Restaurant.

The last leg

When we returned to our cabin at Ridgemill Estate, the sun set, and the temperature dropped. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. Thanks to their instructions on how to light a fire I could realise my dream of sitting in a cosy cottage sipping a vintage wine next to a crackling fire.

I think it’s fair to say that most Queenslanders are drawn to the beach in summer and base their road trips along popular coastlines to cool down. Next time we are blessed with a long weekend – change your direction and head to southern Queensland. I can guarantee, you won’t regret it.