James Halliday's 2017 Australian Winemaker of the Year is coming home to Wollongong.
Sarah Crowe will be in town to visit family and be the special guest at a Caveau Restaurant wine dinner on July 19.
Since moving from the Hunter to Yarra Yering in the Yarra Valley in 2013 she has enjoyed enormous success producing what are regarded as some of the best wines in the country.
Wine dinners with leading wine makers are becoming a regular event at Caveau. And started being more frequent after the restaurant changed hands 2.5 years ago.
And they are attracting food and wine lovers from outside the region.
When Bruce Tyrrell attended a wine dinner in 2018 he described the food matched with Tyrrell's Estate wines as good as anything he had tasted in Australia.
That won't be a surprise to Wollongong diners who know the restaurant has been awarded 14 chefs hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide over the years. And two since Simon Evans and Thomas Chiumento took ownership to continue the impressive record.
Mr Evans and Mr Chiumento love the excitement and challenge the wine dinners create just as much as their guests. And enjoy creating new dishes for every dinner.
"We match food to the wine rather than the other way around," Mr Evans said.
"We taste the wines and then work out what will work best. Sometimes there are parts of dishes we have done before. But mostly we create new dishes with ingredients and techniques to match the particular wine".
For Ms Crowe's July 19 homecoming dinner Caveau has gone all out to create all new dishes never seen on the menu before.
"Our Illawarra customers keep coming because they know there are going to be new dishes every time," Mr Evans said.
"Her sister and parents live here so there has always been a connection," Mr Evans said.
"I have always really loved her wines. When we took over getting her here was always something we really wanted to try and do. Then she won Winemaker of the Year shortly after we took over and that made her quite busy.
"She has been putting out some of the best wines in Australia over the last five years from the Yarra area. She is really impressive. We are really excited to get her down and some of her family will be here as well".
Mr Chiumento said one of the reasons for trying to host wine dinners with leading Australian wine makers every month was to not only serve the local market but entice people to visit Wollongong.
"We want to shine a light on Wollongong and how far the hospitality scene has come in the last five years," he said.
"There are a lot of people in Wollongong trying to do a lot of things to really give it a boost and have it seen as one of the interesting places to go. We want people to know they should stop in Wollongong because there are some pretty amazing restaurants, bars, cafes and people doing some really good stuff.
"People are making a big effort. In a way there is probably more going on down here than there is in Sydney".
He said they do wine dinners a little bit differently to everyone else.
"We ask the winemakers to go to the different tables during the night. Between courses they approach a table, have a chat and answer any questions people have".
Mr Evans said most wine dinners came about as a result of him or Mr Chiumento meeting the winemakers of the wines they choose to serve.
"I went to Yarra Valley a couple of years ago to meet Sarah at the winery. We like to build relationships like that and then plan dinners. We only do wine dinners with people we like and we stock".
Mr Chiumento said after each wine dinner they generally take their special guest out to some of the bars around town so they can experience the camaraderie in Wollongong.
Caveau's Yarra Yering wine dinner - July 19
- Morton Bay bug poached in wattleseed and macadamia milk, wild leaves, blood lime - matched with the 2017 Chardonnay
- Magpie goose, parsnip, borlotti beans, sea parsley, saltbush - matched with the 2016 Pinot Noir.
- Braised wallaby tail, smoked mushrooms, pepperberry, pickled muntries. Matched with the 2016 Dry Red No. 2.
- Emu cooked in aged beef fat, charred broccolini, Illawarra plum - matched with the 2015 'Agincourt' Cabernet - Malbec.
- The Pines 'Pearl' cows milk 'cheesecake' - matched with the 2013 Dry Red No 1.