WE'RE gazing at close-set ranks of beautifully tended vines, marvelling how black sticks in the winter ground have suddenly sprouted leafy shoots since spring gave them new life.
Late summer and autumn is harvest season and a great time to visit Queensland's Granite Belt, where award-winning cool climate wines reign supreme.
Elevations up to 1000 metres and ideal soils ensure traditional grapes like Chardonnay and Shiraz co-exist happily with other, lesser-known European varieties like Fiano, Verdelho, Viognier (whites) and Tempranillo, Saperavi and Nero d'Avolo (reds).
Here in the Granite Belt it is chiefly small boutique wineries with an emphasis on quality, not quantity.
Another great reason to visit is the annual Apple and Grape Festival in late February and early March.
Throughout the apple season visitors can be seen lugging boxes of the fruit to car boots and stocking up on delicacies such as apple pies, pastries, juice, jams and condiments from places such as Sutton's and Jamworks.
Strawberries are also a big drawcard for farms like Ashbern's, where you can pick and eat your own, or indulge in an ice cream sundae.
If you're planning a visit to the Granite Belt here are some new attractions and experiences to seek out:
Anvil Hill: After years as a coal miner, Jason Simpson had unusual night time visions, moved to the region, bought a shed and adorned the walls with extraordinary art based on his dreams, mostly surrealist in style. But his other main interest is crafting superb forged cast iron cookware, works of art in themselves.
The Truffle Folly: Join specially trained dogs sniffing and digging for the precious fungus in the farm's private forest of 450 trees.
Bent Road Winery: The Granite Belt is renowned for its "Strange Bird Trail", featuring wineries that make and promote alternative varieties such as Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne. Some are even made in Georgian qvevri vessels, which are buried in the ground.
Tobin Wines: Founder Adrian Tobin holds court in the inviting cellar door bar most days where you taste his excellent hand-crafted vintage wine. He's a veritable goldmine of information about not only his own top-of-the-class wines, but viticulture and the Granite Belt.
Where to stay
Options range from basic camping sites to "bush luxury". Here are a few suggestions for something out of the ordinary:
Davadi Cottage: This three-bedroom cottage, beautifully renovated and furnished by Anneke and Oliver Cleary, is destined to be their family home when they retire, so everything has been done as a labour of love.
Earth & Soul: Escape to this secluded off-grid, rammed-earth cabin with a king-size bed and outside stone bath and a firepit. True bush luxe in the sounds of silence.
Cannon Creek Cabins: A welcome new choice for families or small groups, offering campsites and heated "sleep cabins" (non-ensuite); plus a custom-built communal guesthouse with gourmet kitchen, well-appointed bathrooms, large dining area and free wifi.
Azjure Studio Retreat: This stylish, multi-award-winning property has three spa studios and one villa designed just for couples, surrounded by nature in a forest setting. You'll never want to leave.