On the back of a Yarra Valley trip, it may look like I’m following a wine trail around Australia with this post coming from Stanthorpe, but I’m in this Queensland country town for a wedding. And what a fabulous wedding it was. I dub it the ‘food and drink fest wedding’ since the food, drinks and celebrating didn’t stop from Friday night to Sunday.
We stayed an extra few days to have a look around this Granite Belt town (pop’n 5000) that’s made a name for itself with its 40 wineries, Girraween National Park and apple orchards.
Perched 800 metres above sea level, Stanthorpe is cool and dry; little wonder that grapes grow well here. I discovered a couple of nice wineries tucked away down laneways and quaffed down some very drinkable chardonnays and verdhelos. Tempranillo is done nicely here, but the biggest surprise was finding that the Granite Belt is now producing Georgian Saperavi.
Stanthorpe wineries are not big commercial concerns so it was easy to speak with the owners who are very hands on: from planting to nurturing to harvesting to winemaking to selling.
Thirty years ago we met Angelo Puglusi at Ballandean when he showed us around his fledgling winery. Today, he’s the patriarch of a burgeoning wine industry in the Granite Belt. His Ballandean Estate winery is well known for its wines, restaurant and concerts. As Stanthorpe celebrates its Apple and Grape Festival from February 28 to March 8, it’s people like him who must feel a tremendous sense of pride for the part they’ve played in putting Stanthorpe wines on the map.
Stanthorpe’s been home to Italians since WWII when they arrived as migrants and prisoners of war. Germans and French arrived here earlier though, before WWI. Yes, Stanthorpe’s past is an interesting one. Even our WWI diggers get a look in. Blocks of land were set aside on the outskirts of Stanthorpe for these victims of mustard gas attacks and in a nod to the Western Front, the villages of Amiens, Pozieres and Passchendale evolved and this was where these men recovered.
Prolonged drought over four years and recent bushfires have brought property owners and businesses in the region to their knees – until the last three weeks – when the heavens finally opened. The town that had run out of water and was forced to truck it in at great expense was finally blessed with liquid gold. Parched and cracked ground is now a carpet of green. Better than that, the town’s water supply, Leslie Dam near Warwick has two years worth of water.
The town centre is bright and cheery with displays of flowers and street art.
Girraween National Park with granite as far as the eye can see, offers good hiking.
The drive to and from Stanthorpe is a green one now that the rains have returned.
Stanthorpe makes a good weekend trip from Brisbane. And we’re glad we had the chance to visit… and celebrate a wonderful wedding.