Kerry Heaney and Shelley Winkel enjoy a Sutton’s apple pie.
Kerry Heaney and Shelley Winkel enjoy a Sutton’s apple pie.

Festival fun on the Granite Belt

THE FIELDS are green, and the welcome is wide as the Granite Belt opens its arms to invite visitors to enjoy the Stanthorpe Apple & Grape Festival from February 28 to March 8.

It's been two hard years in this 50-kilometre stretch from Stanthorpe to Ballandean with the double whammy of drought followed by bushfires. Finally, in February, the rains came and eased the pressure a little on the limited water resources.

Talk to the farmers, producers and winemakers here, and you'll hear that it's been tough.

However, on the Granite Belt, it is true that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

You won't find a better time to visit this beautiful patch of country to sample the locals' food and drink their wine.

 

Strawberry desserts at Ashbern Farms.
Strawberry desserts at Ashbern Farms.

 

At Sutton's Juice Factory, David and Ros Sutton's pies are bigger than ever. A slice of their apple pie (it's big enough for two) will rekindle childhood memories and have you dreaming of apples.

It's the same when you pick your own strawberries at Ashbern Farms and reward yourself with one of the caramel strawberry sundaes.

There are 40 cellar doors in this high-altitude region, which ranges from 800 to 1200 metres above sea level.

Many, like Robert Channon Wines, have cellar doors where you can taste the full range of wines and chat with the owners and winemakers. Paola's The Winemaker Kitchen at Robert Channon's is where Argentinian-born Paola Andrea Cabezas Bono serves up her distinct style of tapas.

For another taste and sip of the region, stop at St Jude's Cellar Door & Bistro at Ballandean, where owner Robert Davidson serves up delicious food and a selection of Sirromet wines. Ridgemill Estate also has an extensive cellar door and award-winning studio accommodation.

At Granite Belt Brewery, owner Geoff Davenport will explain the craft beer-brewing process followed by a tasting paddle in their beer hall.

The great outdoors beckons strongly in the Granite Belt, with the wonders of the granite-bouldered Girraween National Park high on most travellers' lists to explore. There are multiple walking tracks, from easy (Bald Rock Creek Circuit and the Granite Arch) to challenging (summit of First Pyramid and the 10-tonne balancing boulder).

 

Melissa Thomas at Washpool Skin Wellness.
Melissa Thomas at Washpool Skin Wellness.

 

When it's time to dine, head to Essen, a small restaurant in Stanthorpe, for dinner. Here you'll enjoy a mix of home-style cooking with an Austrian theme, along with some standout gourmet treats.

The Barrelroom at Ballandean is a restaurant inside the winery at Ballandean Estate. Diners sit next to the giant wine barrels and enjoy a local product-focused menu.

Wondering what you might bring home from the Granite Belt? A stop at Jamworks Gourmet Foods & Larder will see your larder filled with jams, pickles and relishes. Just walking into Washpool Skin Wellness is a sensory experience. The shop is filled with artisan soaps, lotions and gifts that you will find impossible to resist, plus you can do a soap-making class.

Stay a couple of nights at the cute Apple Blossom Cottage in Stanthorpe. When you leave the region, make a stop at Sam's Farm Fresh Fruit & Veg to pick up some locally grown produce, including free-range eggs.

Find the Granite Belt on the New England Highway just north of the New South Wales border. It's less than three hours' drive from Brisbane.

 

 

Grape crushing is a fun festival highlight at Stanthorpe.
Grape crushing is a fun festival highlight at Stanthorpe.

 

What's on at the Apple and Grape Festival

It's one of Queensland's longest-running festivals, and it celebrates the region's harvest. This year they will also be celebrating a little rain!

The fun kicks off on Friday, February 28, with a street party followed by busking championships and Banchetto Italiano, a very long, five-course Italian lunch. Active types will enjoy That Dam Ride around Storm King Dam.

Midweek events include cooking demonstrations and concerts leading up to Apple Day on Thursday, March 5, where you'll discover that apple peeling is a competitive skill. If you can't beat Kerrie Stratford's 6.1-metre apple peel record that she has held for 15 years, start practising now.

The Stanthorpe Seasonal Feast Markets on Friday, March 6, include a community grape crush, Granite Belt wines and food.

On the festival's main weekend, March 7 and 8, Stanthorpe comes alive with the Heritage Bank Food & Wine Fiesta, markets, food displays, railway train trips, and the grand parade.

Find out more at appleandgrape.org.


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