I love living here on the coast with just an easy five minute walk to the edge of the thumping Pacific. But every now and then I hanker for a change of scenery.
The mountains beyond the M1 with their winding roads, rainforest glens and tall timbers, offer a reprieve from the coastal sand, salt and ocean environment.
On the last Long Weekend, (Queen’s Birthday in NSW), we headed inland for a quiet getaway into the cool climate, wine region of the Granite Belt. Our signed Coastal Framing ute took easily to the back roads, heading along the narrow scenic roads to Rathdowney, Woodenbong and into Ballandean. (Stanthorpe/Applethorpe).
The stone rendered ‘Vineyard Cottages” were ideal for a romantic weekend with its cosy warmth and electric blankets. With the bespoke, on site restaurant in a quaint little church, we enjoyed the open fire where we sipped wine and critiqued the not so great art work. The space was cosy and fondly reminiscent of our southern winters.
A little history……
It’s always a treat to find a new place and exploring this wine region brought back the nostalgia for us. Rex is a horticulturalist and vigneron by trade and growing grapes is his specialty. Back in South Australia, in the early 90’s, he changed career direction from being a partner in the almost 100 -year -old family Nursery business, to become a cellar hand in a newly established winery. It wasn’t long before he partnered with a well- known and reputable South Australian winemaker and set about planting and establishing vineyards in the area.
Rex established and nurtured forty hectares of grapes in both the Coonawarra, Joanna and Wrattonbully regions of the Limestone Coast. The terrain is known for the Terra Rossa soil, sand over limestone, which is a harsh environment often dotted with underground caves. With his extensive horticultural background, Rex was able to successfully grow Riesling, Pinot, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet varieties where they had never been grown before. When the grapes were in their third year, Patrick Tocacui the winemaker, and Rex the vigneron launched Patrick of Coonawarra as their boutique wine label and cellar door in the region.
Back to our romantic get-away…..
So with plenty of know-how when it comes to wine, we headed off for this holiday weekend somewhat cocky with the parochial belief that Coonawarra and South Australia is the one and only wine region for those full bodied and tannin rich red wines. Nothing could compare. However, after a few tastings, we were pleasantly surprised to discover those of the Granite Belt were not only well structured, but in many ways equally as good as those from our southern regions.
Around the Ballandean area, there is a great boutique collection of vineyards and wineries that are small and independent. As a collective, they come under the tourist trail known as the Strange Bird Alternative Wine Trail. The stories, history, talent and the finished wines are exceptionally good. Exchanging vineyard stories with the vignerons and wine makers are always a treat for us as we can talk the talk and compare notes from past experience.
As usual, when one travels the road with Rex, there is a detour. Homeward bound, we turned onto an unsigned, dirt road which led to the Queen Mary Falls. A picnic area with marked walks was inviting and after discretely swigging wine from the bottle and using a twig to cut some cheese and pate, (we were unprepared for a picnic other than we had our fridge in the back of the ute), we set out for a bush walk. How spectacular in this drought -stricken area to discover that the falls were abundant with water. The hour long walk around the cliff top leading down to the bottom of the falls where we were rewarded with the spray of the falling water, was exhilarating. Then the pay back came as we headed up the hundreds of steps on the other side, when my only motivation was to burn off those weekend calories.
The cool climate of the Granite Belt was an easy escape into a ‘winter hinterland’. I was easily able to immerse myself into the landscape and capture photos that were a respite from the more familiar bright light, coastal scenes. Grey granite boulders balancing on hill sides, eucalyptus, paddocks of grasses, horses and cows, vineyards and the beautiful garden of the cottages found themselves as digital files in my Canon 6D.
Find photographs and prints of the Coastal Framing Collection here at PINTEREST.
Many of us live on the coast and understand the beauty and significance of the coastal environment. We don’t have to travel far to find variety, diversity and inspiration.
With a change of location, we gather new stories, meet new people, find new energy and create memories that enrich our lives.
If you get the chance for a quick get-away, consider the Granite Belt wine region. Take a few days to be amazed. Don’t forget your camera and a good pair of walking shoes.
PS: And a wine glass or two, a knife and a plate for the cheese and pate!
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