A place to wine, dine and gallery-hop
Venture to the NSW southern highlands in November for a taste of the good life
THE NSWsouthern highlands has a reputation for its beautiful cool-climate gardens, its thriving art community (2011 Archibald winner Ben Quilty lives here and John Olsen is often spotted out and about) and, increasingly, for its cool-climate wines.
Through November, the Wine, Arts & Roses festival draws together these three attributes. Following the Art Studio Trail — on which local artists working across multiple disciplines open their doors to lookers and buyers — the whole highlands is mapped by region.
Each has its quota of wineries, galleries, studios and gardens, making it easy to take in a bit of everything.
Fifteen boutique wineries will be open during three weekends in November, offering rich pickings if international and national wine-show medals are your starting point.
Grape varieties include pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and limited amounts of specialist varieties such as Italian arneis and nebbiolo.
Though the first vines were planted at Joadja in the 1840s, commercial winemaking in the highlands is still a relatively young industry.
However, as vignerons further explore the virtues of slow-fruit ripening, minimal irrigation and hand-tending of vines, their vintages are developing a regional character. Finding your favourite limited-edition gem is half the fun.
Even within the discrete, mapped regions, there’s much doubling-up of themes. Two wineries, for example, have spectacular open gardens. The 5th Chapter Estate, where owner Cindy Manassen is the winemaker, features a beautiful mix of English, French and Japanese planting styles created in just 12 years by resident horticulturalist Peter Hastings.
At Greenbrier Park Vineyard, established in 1985 by one-time Hungerford Hill director Robert Constable, the Georgian manor house is surrounded by elaborate English-inspired gardens. Others — including Centennial Vineyards, Southern Highland Wines, Mount Ashby Estate and McVitty Grove — have good restaurants. The much- applauded Biota Dining and Peppers Craigieburn, both at Bowral, will add pop-up galleries for the duration of the festival.
Harpers Mansion will open its garden and the National Trust property will host a still-life painting competition (all works for sale), to be judged by Philip Bacon, the late Margaret Olley’s dealer, and Barry Pearce, head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW.
On the first weekend, November 5-6, the Eclectica 2011 art show — its online catalogue lists paintings, photography, sculpture, garden art and collectables — will be held on the Frensham School campus at Mittagong.
From there it’s a short walk to the Sturt Gallery and its award-winning shop brimming with exquisite ceramics, jewellery, glass and finely crafted timber furniture.
Even with exceptional organisational skills, it would be near-impossible to visit all 35 studios on The Art Studio Trail, many featuring the work of multiple artists. Your tastes may differ from mine, but here are some recommendations.
At Duck Pond Cottage studio at Burradoo, felter Margaret Connor’s one-off garments and accessories are more highfashion than craft, as are the jewellery and textiles of Carol Bairnsfather and Kathy Guerts.
For ceramics, Tracey Mitchell at Mittagong, Deborah Burdett Studio and Hillside Pottery; for botanical art, Gallery Chiron at Robertson; and for all things quirky (even homewares), art photographer and artist Robert Billington’s studio is the place.
A number of the artists exhibiting are already represented in Australian and overseas galleries, so canny investors may find bargains. Some studios have Eftpos facilities, but negotiation, as ever, favours cash. southern-highlands.com.au eclectica2011.com.au
The 5th Chapter Estate features a lovely mix of planting styles