A place to wine, dine and gallery-hop

Ven­ture to the NSW south­ern high­lands in Novem­ber for a taste of the good life

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - The Food Issue - GAIL HEATH­WOOD

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

5TH CHAP­TER ES­TATE WIN­ERY

The 5th Chap­ter Es­tate fea­tures a lovely mix of plant­ing styles

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