Wine country comes alive during winter
I HAVE spent quite a bit of time around the Granite Belt wine country and there is no doubt that it is beautiful all year round.
But it is in winter when this place really turns it on.
As my travelling companions and I step out of the car on a brisk Friday evening in the small village of Ballandean, 15 minutes south of Stanthorpe, we are greeted by the smell of wood smoke.
The fresh June air threatens to dislodge the few remaining vine leaves which stubbornly hold their spot among the region's sprawling vineyards.
As we escape the night and retreat to our accommodation we hastily light a roaring fire and settle in for a weekend of food, wine and great company.
After an indulgent sleep-in and a hearty breakfast we decide the next morning to make the most of the glorious winter sunshine by doing a winery tour by foot.
There are plenty of wineries to choose from in the region, so if you spend time with friends like mine, it might be best to avoid transport in anything with an engine. However, there are plenty of bus tours available.
We have chosen the popular Ballandean Estate Winery and Barrel Room Cafe for our first stop.
Lunch in The Barrel Room is a true delight as the smell of oak wafts off the old port barrels and plates full of Italian, soul-warming winter delights fill our bellies.
We drag ourselves from our food induced coma and head to Golden Grove Estate to sample some of the region's alternative Strange Bird varieties.
These are wine varieties which have been enjoyed in European countries for generations and are only just beginning to take off in Australia as impeccable accompaniments to food.
We settle on a bottle or two of the Durif to compliment our dinner of rosemary and garlic roast lamb with winter vegies.
Our last stop is a highlight. Adrian Tobin from Tobin Wines is highly regarded not only in the Granite Belt wine district, but all around Australia.
He always greets his customers to his cellar door with a grin and nothing pleases him more than watching his wine delight his visitor's senses as he discusses the finer points of a top drop.
We returned home to a fire-warmed house and a roast dinner, setting the mood for a night of raucous laughter and friendly banter over a board game or two before retiring to bed with purple stained lips and future plans of our next visit.
After all, winter has only just begun.