Art is Blossoming in the Granite Belt
WORDS: Phil Hawkes PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied
“ Even if I knew that tomorrow
the world would go to pieces
I would still plant my apple tree” – Martin Luther
Close your eyes and picture this: a landscape showcasing over a million apple and pear trees in blossom as they greet clear Springtime days; a chorus of chirpy birds providing musical accompaniment; bees buzzing about their important business; and green grapevines fruiting abundantly ready for next year’s harvest. It’s a scene of bucolic bliss, picture postcard stuff.
“Sundowner apple blossoms are the first that come out on the Granite Belt and by about the first week of October the whole area will look like a winter wonderland,” says David Sutton, farmer and owner at Sutton’s Juice Factory, Cidery & Farm Cafe.
But there’s a lot more happening around the Granite Belt during and after blossom time:
LET’S GET ARTY CRAFTY
The cultural scene is blooming too, with this year’s Art & Craft Trail (GBART) culminating in a huge, very arty weekend 29-31 October under the motto “Art is for everyone”. It certainly is, with every conceivable taste and hobby catered for…including family fun. A browse through the GBART website points the way to diverse, hands-on activities such as oil, acrylic and watercolour painting, pottery and sculpture workshops, Indigenous art, collages, candle making, silver jewellery, knitting on a 100 year old machine…and many more, conducted by local artisans.
Founded by art therapist Rosy Chapman, the weekend is planned as an “engagement” event…no you don’t have to promise marriage to anyone…but an opportunity to engage with and learn from enthusiastic crafties whose passion will inspire visitors to “have a go”. www.GBart.org.au
Music, food and wine are a natural part of life to enjoy at the Granite Belt… during GBART there will be a variety of culinary options and cellar door tastings focusing on the region’s famous cool climate wines, including stops at wineries along the unique Strange Birds Trail with some interesting “alternative” varieties such as Saperavi, Fiano, Pinotage, Verdelho, Sagrantino and others. www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au
Foodies are well catered for, too. If you saw the French movie La Grande Bouffe a few years ago, you’d remember the story about a group of gourmands who gather together one weekend to eat themselves to death. Well, around the Granite Belt you’ll find some excellent degustation dinners and lunch events which will tempt gourmets without such a dramatic end result. Using fresh local produce and a well cultivated Italian culinary philosophy, you can saddle up for a wonderful six course Spring degustation dinner at Ballandean Estate (Saturdays only) in their cosy Barrelroom restaurant. Or if lunch is your thing, At Our Table is a unique experience where you’ll be a guest of the Puglisi family, tour the vineyard, taste the wines and enjoy them paired with modern Australian/Italian cuisine (Mondays from 23 Sept).
Another gastronomic treat awaits at Whiskey Gully Wines where Denice and John Arlidge really turn up the heat with a superb six course, European-style degustation dinner (Saturdays) plus matching wines and the coup de grace…live entertainment. If you’re persuasive, John may honour you with some musical interludes on his collection of classic and rare guitars. www.whiskeygullywines.com.au
Not to be outdone, Heritage Estate Wines is continuing its extraordinary Five Senses degustation dinners (Saturdays, monthly) bringing more than a touch of class to the whole region, with formal dress recommended. Enough said, the website tells its own story. www.heritageestate.wine
Lunchtime specials are not forgotten either, with the popular Medley of Mains mini-degustation at Varias Restaurant, part of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe. Matching wines are from their own vineyard, Banca Ridge. Available Tuesdays through Saturdays. www.qcwt.com.au
DO THE TRUFFLE SHUFFLE
A unique new experience near Ballandean is The Folly Truffle, where you can join in the fun of truffle hunting with specially trained dogs sniffing and digging for the precious fungus in the farm’s private forest, currently 450 trees expanding to 1,800 by 2024. This is a 3-generation family business already supplying top local and Brisbane restaurants and after a tour you’ll be invited to sample some food prepared with truffle butter, with tea or coffee. Forget the South of France… this is where the highest quality product is now coming from…in Queensland. Just ask the dogs.
A BERRY NICE IDEA
The Stanthorpe Berry Festival in November will be a sweet way to celebrate with kids and partners, strawberries leading the pack. Festival experiences will include masterclasses with the makers, live food demonstrations, eating competitions, interactions with the region’s craft brewers, live music sessions, taste testing and more. www.berryfestival.com.au
HIT THE SACK
The Granite Belt is well served with accommodation choices from camping to “bush luxe”, including some exciting new options:
- Straw House Farm B&B at Dalveen already has two established straw bale cottages, unique in the district but with the trend to mini-cabins catching on, a so-called “tiny house” has been added. Built on the bones of a 20 tonne wheat trailer, this is 21 sq.m of comfort and luxury, with Sheridan bedding, an ensuite, a kitchen and a deck at the edge of an old vineyard where the wildlife and farm animals (alpacas, hairy coos, goats and galloways) will stop by for a chat. Bring the (human) kids and a copy of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” for extra talking points. strawhousebnb.com
- Earth & Soul Retreat for a couple or single escape into a world of contemplative bliss in this secluded off-grid, rammed-earth cabin with a fully-equipped kitchen, a king size bed, bathroom and outside stone bath and a firepit. True bush-luxe in the sounds of silence. earthandsoulretreat.com.au
- Cannon Creek Cabins, a welcome new option for families or small groups, offering camp sites and heated “sleep cabins” (non-ensuited); plus a custom-built guest house with gourmet kitchen, well-appointed bathrooms, large communal dining area and free wifi.
For further information visit