Granite Belt, Queensland, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE WINERY

The Granite Belt, in the Southern Downs region of Queensland about three hours south of Brisbane, may have some 56 wineries and 50 cellar doors but the place where the industry took root so to speak was Ballandean Estate Wines. In 1968 Angelo Puglisi planted the first wine grapes and produced the area's first Shiraz, on a vineyard his grandfather had bought in 1932. While the Granite Belt is relatively unknown, its high altitudes and well-drained granitic soils deliver classic cool climate wines and some interesting Mediterranean varieties, including fiano. Call into the cellar door for tastings or perhaps picnic in the vines where you're likely to bump into Angelo tending his crop or wife Mary in the Barrelroom restaurant. See ballandeanestate.com

THE ONE HISTORIC SITE

It's hard to believe the 19th century mansion Glengallan, considered the finest house of the new Queensland colony, was a ramshackle ruin until 20 years ago. Built in 1867 by wealthy Southern Downs pastoralists, Glengallan was left to rot for 70 years until a dedicated band of locals lobbied for its restoration and secured a $2 million grant. Much of the money went to reinstalling the huge southern verandah that had completely fallen off. A guide will recount the Glengallan story of "bloom, gloom and return from ruin" on twice-daily tours. A delicious high tea of sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes (served from Wednesday to Sunday) is a bargain at $35. See facebook.com/GlengallanHomesteadandHeritageCentre

THE ONE FOOD & WINE PAIRING

Heritage Estate Wines owners Robert and Therese Fenwick know how to immerse guests in wine and good times. Their Vine+Dine lunches take place in the enormous cellar door-meets-museum, which began life as an apple barn. The foodie event starts with a glass of bubbles and a stroll through the vines, followed by five courses and matching wines rounding off with a glass of Moonshine Madness (coffee liqueur) to accompany the chocolate coffee torte. Those who enjoy a dress-up will love the eight-course 'five senses' black-tie dinners, held monthly, where guests don evening gowns and tuxedos to enjoy fine fare while watching vintage films and entertained by a string quartet. See heritageestate.wine

THE ONE BOUTIQUE HOTEL

xxGranite One & Only Granite Belt wine region Queensland QLD ; text by Caroline Gladstone
(handout - supplied via journalist, no credit, no syndication)  Abbey Boutique Hotel Warwick QLD 

Once a convent and girls' school, the Abbey Boutique Hotel is now heaven for romantics and history lovers. Each of its 12 rooms is individually themed; some with four-poster beds and chandeliers, others with fireplaces and stained-glass windows. The favourite Bavarian room, was the girls' dormitory and later the nuns' chapel; the Mercy Suite (name for the order) was converted from four nuns' cells to a huge room with private verandah. In keeping with its heritage listing the 1891 Gothic style convent has a few rooms with private bathrooms 'across the hall' just as the sisters would have experienced. Those after a more rustic stay among the grapevines should head to the Kurrajong Barn & Cottages - kangaroos often visit in the morning. See kurrajongbarnandcottages.com.au and abbeyboutiquehotel.com.au

THE ONE ANCIENT WINE METHOD

Not heard of a qvevri? Me neither. However Bent Road Wines use these terracotta vessels to store the grape 'must' (pressed grape juice, skins,stalks and pips) and bury them a metre in the ground. Similar to the Roman amphora, these vessels come from Georgia where wine has been made using this method for 8000 years. Winery owner Glen Robert imported 14 qvevri from the former Soviet republic and has used the ancient technique for seven years. His Petit Mort label wines are fashioned in a "candid and rustic style" with minimal intervention. Tastings are held in the 1901 wooden church, which Glen bought on Gumtree, and converted into a cellar door. See bentroadwine.com.au

THE ONE (OTHER) BIG APPLE

Long before vines were planted, Stanthorpe and northern Granite Belt villages grew apples, pears and stone fruit. In fact the region's one million apple trees produce a sixth of Australia's crop. Third-generation growers Nicoletti Orchards run apple-picking tours where folks can collect basketfuls including the new varieties, Kalei and Kanzi. The other must-do is to get a photo of yourself trying to take a bite out of the Big Apple, which has stood outside Vincenzo's Cafe & Deli in tiny Thulimbah since 1978. Head indoors to eat some of the best Italian food around or shop at the deli for wine and local produce.See vincenzoscafe.com.au/ See nicolettiorchards.com.au

THE ONE DINNER-AND-A-SHOW

Diners get more than a nine-course meal when they book a degustation at Whiskey Gully Wines' Beverley restaurant, a former colonial homestead among the vines. Co-owner John Arlidge, who with his wife Denice cooks the food and grows the wine, will also turn on a show. Depending on the mood he'll choose one of his dozen guitars from the wall and strum a medley of blues and rock tunes. The couple has run the winery for 25 years, producing the region's only colombard (a white wine) and a batch of politically-named red wines: Parliamentary Blend, Yes Minister Cabernet Malbec and Black Rod Shiraz. See whiskeygullywines.com.au

THE ONE TRUFFLE FARM

The Granite Belt's renowned crisp winters, morning frosts and hot dry summers are perfect for the cultivation of truffles, which grow in a symbiotic relationship with certain trees, particularly French oak. Folly Truffles harvested their first crop of the popular black Perigord variety in 2020, 10 years after they established their truffiere - the largest in Queensland. Visitors can partake in winter truffle hunts with resident sniffer-dog Barry, or learn about the farming techniques on weekends on Tea with the Truffle Farmer tours. See thefollytruffles.com.au

ONE MORE THING

xxGranite One & Only Granite Belt wine region Queensland QLD ; text by Caroline Gladstone
cr:Tourism & Events Queensland(handout - supplied via journalist, no credit, no syndication)  Granite Arch rock formation at Girraween National Park

Girraween National Park. Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

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You can't leave the region without seeing the huge granite boulders that give it its name. Bushwalkers should head to Girraween National Park (35 km south of Stanthorpe) to see granite outcrops, rock arches and clumps of bulbous stone. Take the 3.5-km walk to photograph the precariously poised Balancing Rock, or hike to the top of Mount Norman for spectacular views. If you're after a brief photo op, head to Donnelly's Castle, a cluster of rocks with hidden passageways and tight crevices (which bushranger Thunderbolt used as a hideout) near the village of Poziers. See parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/girraween See granitebeltwinecountry.com.au/listing/donnellys-castle/

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