Oganisers of the 2016 Shoalhaven Coast Winter Wine Festival are confident they hit the 15,000 visitor mark on the June long weekend.
That makes it the biggest festival staged on the South Coast. And the best thing about that is the impact it is beginning to have on tourism in the region.
The Illawarra Mercury visited seven vineyards on the first day and it was clear there was an even mix of people from Sydney, Wollongong and the local area.
The one thing everyone had in common was a smile. All were out to enjoy their day and their attitude really did create a festival atmosphere with people laughing, dancing and soaking up the sun in every location. That was repeated right across the three days.
Louise Cole at Cambewarra Estate said traditionally the festival started slowly on the Saturday morning and built up during the day with the biggest day being Sunday.
But this year by 11am on day one everywhere was busy as people arrived earlier wanting to make the most of the day and the whole weekend. Some were visiting up to five cellar doors in a day and others just wanted to stay at one.
At Two Figs Winery jazz band Hot Potato were a hit with everyone. There were 11 members this year and they always come back because they regard it as their birthday. Their first performance was at Two Figs Winery during the festival seven years ago and founding members said they loved how it had steadily grown since then.
Although steady is not quite the word vigneron Shane Bricker might use. He said he doubled the amount of food, amenities and staff every year and that still never seemed enough. “I always get it wrong,” he said.
But everyone was understanding and happy. They were just soaking up the atmosphere that comes from such a big happy crowd and were willing to stand in line. Mr Bricker said a combination of the fine weather and the growing reputation as word spread broadly about the fun nature of the annual festival on the June long weekend every year were among the reasons it was getting so popular. He expected that would just snowball and he was already planning how to accommodate even larger numbers in 2017.
At Silos Estate helicopter joy flights and owner Rajarshi Ray’s wine talks were very popular. Many just enjoyed lying back in the sunshine and listening to the music in all locations such as Mountain Ridge Wines, Roselea Vineyard, Yarrawa Estate and Bawley Vale.
Greg Bishop and Ben Wallis at Coolangatta Estate said Saturday was a fantastic start and fine weather kept the crowds coming all weekend. It was all helping put the Shoalhaven Coast wine region on the map as a great choice for a weekend escape.
Speaking to visitors from Sydney they were all impressed with the quality of the locally produced wine. At Crooked River Winery the Jackson family were proud of their staff who worked so hard to ensure everyone had a good time.