Sholhaven Wine Festival to warm the palate

Amanda Cole is ready for the winter wine festival at Cambewarra Estate.Picture: GREG ELLIS

Amanda Cole is ready for the winter wine festival at Cambewarra Estate.Picture: GREG ELLIS

Thousands of visitors from Sydney and Canberra will mix with Illawarra locals this long weekend for an event that bucks the seasonal visitation trend in the region.

The Shoalhaven Coast Winter Wine Festival boosts tourism to the region in a traditionally quiet time of year.

In 2013, more than 7000 people visited participating vineyards and wineries to sample local produce and enjoy a day out in a picturesque part of the world.

And this year, the local wine association and event organisers Ian and Carole Johnstone, of JAi Events, are aiming for 10,000.

There are plenty of reasons why so many people visit the 11 participating vineyards, which include Yarrawa Estate, Roselea Vineyard, Crooked River Wines, Silos Estate and Wiley's Creek, Mountain Ridge Wines, Coolangatta Estate, Two Figs Winery, Cambewarra Estate, Cupitt's Winery, Fern Gully Winery and Bawley Vale Estate.

Winemaker Michelle Crockett said this year's 10th anniversary festival celebration followed a bumper harvest that was likely to produce a record quality vintage from what was becoming regarded as a premier wine region.

Each year, more Sydneysiders make the two-hour drive down the Princes Highway and many stay to make a weekend of the annual festival.

Many vineyards have just started to put their 2014 vintage in the cellar doors and Ms Crockett said the quality was high following ideal weather conditions.

The festival runs Saturday to Monday with local wineries opening their cellar doors from 10am to 5pm.

Many have brought in plenty of food and entertainment for a bigger festive atmosphere.

"We are having music, all day barbecue, tapas all day and we have got the first international love lock and vintage high tea," Louise Cole, of Cambewarra Estate, said.

Rajarshi Ray, of Silos Estate, said a four-storey high giant blue duck would be a big attraction at the winery, which would also launch its new outdoor cinema and feature winemaker talks.

Rosie Cupitt, of Cupitt's Winery, said music and a wood-fired pizza oven would be a big feature.

Shane Bricker, of Two Figs Winery, is renowned for a roaming jazz band and Roselea Vineyard is doing barbecue steaks.

Festival-goers can buy a commemorative glass for $8 at the first winery and that entitles them to enjoy tastings at all participating wineries.

Stuart's Coaches is running a hop-on, hop-off bus in the Nowra and Berry area.

For further information and to buy bus tickets, ring 4421 0332.

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