We just had a fantastic, relaxing weekend in Stanthorpe. The surprising thing was we virtually had the entire camp ground at Sommerville Valley to ourselves, only one other set of campers, and as much peace and quiet as we could handle. Yes, the drought is having an impact but it is a green drought, the occasional sprinkle of rain does that. The dam is critically low but there is still water in it at the moment. The fires were horrific and for many producers it might prove a final straw, but on the bright side, it only takes a little, occasional rain to rejuvenate country after a fire, and witnessing that is a special natural experience in itself. If you want to experience nature itself rejuvenating it is not a bad time to visit. Places like Girraween and Storm King Dam may not be at their best but they do still offer a unique seasonal experience. The drought may be continuing but the little recent rain has triggered a little greening, meaning the area is not a scene of devastation of apocalyptic proportions.
Some people might have seen this weeks story on the ABC’s Landline program about Stanthorpe’s horror season, having visited the area and spoken to locals I can vouch for the fact they are doing it tough. The area relies not only on its agriculture but its tourism. Stanthorpe and the Granite belt have always been a major tourist hub but now, combined with the bad seasons, they are dealing with a dramatic drop in tourist numbers. Businesses across the board are suffering. The agriculture industry is down on income, so they are no longer pumping money through the local economy. A drop in tourism will be a devastating further blow.
Travelling around Eastern Australia in the last twelve months I have been struck by the number of small rural centres that are becoming virtual ghost towns. We can do small things to stop that from happening to an absolute gem in Queensland’s backyard. We can keep visiting, if we don’t businesses will close. We can, where possible, purchase from businesses struggling in the region. Buy your wine from the cellar door and your olives from the farm gate. Have a coffee in Stanthorpe’s main street and pick up a Christmas gift or two from a local retailer. There are few places as friendly and welcoming as Stanthorpe, all the more remarkable given the struggle the region is dealing with.
It was just a happy accident that there was an art trail open studio event on during the weekend which was an additional bonus to our weekend adventure. That same event is running over two weekends, so will still be running next weekend,26th and 27th of October. It is an opportunity to see and purchase some lovely works, talk to artists, or take a class. If you get the chance visiting next weekend while this event is still on would make for a great weekend trip.
The other thing about our weekend in Stanthorpe was the weather; lovely warm days followed by beautiful cool nights. I loathe the heat so cool nights are paradise for me and I had an amazing nights sleep. G informed me that it was quite cool by normal human standards but he also enjoyed the cool night, snuggling in the pod. We put the winter dooner back in the pod for the weekend and I am glad we did.
These guys make some pretty amazing wines, award winners in fact. I must confess I am no expert on wines but I absolutely love their Rosé 2019, a bit drier than a conventional rosé, but I could happily spend a lazy summer afternoon drinking this delightful wine. The other wine we went home with was their best seller; Verdelho Bubbles. Absolutely delightful. I regret only purchasing one bottle, but that gives us an excuse to go back soon and get a couple more. (I notice their website offers free delivery in most states, if you order a dozen and that includes a mixed dozen). Both of the mentioned wines would make fantastic wines for summer/Christmas parties, or any time really.
We also grabbed a light tapas lunch at the winery at their Singing Lake cafe, the food was fantastic. I am a big fan of good tapas so that’s another reason to go back. The cafe had a lovely view as the name suggests and they were also participating in the art trail event with an exhibition by Louise Jenkins. I really liked Louise’s charcoals, especially a semi-abstract called ‘Fire in the bush’. She also had some lovely jazz musician charcoals and some interesting abstracts. My own budget doesn’t stretch to buying art at the moment, but if it is in your budget there are bargains to be had as artists have reduced the prices on works. The link should take you to Louise’s gallery page on face book and she is happy to post out any purchases.
The second winery we dropped into was Rumbalara, its one we have visited before, the real reason for visiting was not so much for the wines, but for a special liqueur they make called Impi Cream, which is a chocolate and cream based liqueur. It is a favourite of G’s. If you like things like Baileys or Kahlúa, you would like this. G actually prefers Impi to Baileys which is very similar.
There was a mob of roos down off the hills happily picking at the edges of the winery and between the vines. My thought was they better not start snacking on the grapes or kangaroo steaks will be appearing on the cafe menu. It made for a rather idyllic scene.
My personal favourite business on the Granite belt is Mt Stirling Olives, excellent olives and olive oil and the pod needed to be stocked with some of the smaller bottles of infused oils, so that was a must visit. Check out their web page, they have linked to a FAQ page debunking some of the myths about the drought and bush fires in an effort to get people to visit the area again, please check it out!
The other product I needed to pick up was some of the Nonnas Spaghetti Sprinkle, a kitchen essential in our house and I needed one for the pod. Just a good Mt Stirling Olive oil and and the spaghetti sprinkle can turn any pasta into a fantastic quick meal. The small bottles of infused oil are a perfect addition to our mobile galley and fit nicely into the pod kitchen.
Finally we went for a wander down the main street in Stanthorpe, stopping for coffee and cake at one of the cafe’s and popping into one of the gift shops Gracious Giving where I found some great little soaps. I have posted before about giving up shower gels and moving away from plastics, so I try and pick up things like hand made soaps free from palm oil whenever I can. Chatted to the owner, about the current economic challenges they are facing which are daunting. If every visitor dropped in and bought something as simple as one of the soaps it would make a huge difference to them right now. The soaps are a bargain at less than $6, all natural ingredients and they smell divine.
Jamworks is another business worth a visit for the awesome jams and relishes.
There are so many great producers and businesses on the Granite belt all worthy of support and with Christmas fast approaching it is a great time to begin shopping for gifts and those special food items for entertaining. We had such a great weekend we thought we would go back again in a couple of weeks, so many things to stock up on and while you can order a lot of the Granite Belt produce on line it is much more fun to actually visit. Here at Gum trees and Galaxies we are thinking about doing a bit of a small Christmas hamper blog giveaway of some of our favourite culinary items and pod essentials so watch this space, details to come.