By Molly Taylor
REVELLERS are flocking to the Limestone Coast region in peak holiday season numbers according to a leading Coonawarra event organiser.
Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations kicked off at the beginning of October with over 60 unique food and wine experiences highlighting the region’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
The monthly event is considered one of South Australia’s best regional wine-based festival with each week and weekend featuring consistent themes.
Coonawarra Vignerons acting executive officer and events and marketing coordinator Heidi Eldridge said this year’s celebrations were so far a success with exceptional participant attendance reported by vendors.
“We have had a tremendous response from wineries and cellar doors seeing the visitation has been limited due to COVID-19,” Ms Eldridge said.
“The border closures have not deterred South Australians and locals from travelling and visiting region.
“We have had a few people suggest there was some people from Queensland and New South Wales who are in the region at the moment, which is fantastic.”
The festival was launched with its Coonawarra Golf Day hosted at the Penola Golf Course, involving 26 teams of winery experts, sponsors and also the general public.
Ms Eldridge said visitors had travelled from Mannum, Mount Barker and Adelaide with the intention to stay not just for the event, but for the whole weekend and explore Coonawarra and the whole Limestone Coast region.
“We are all about encouraging people to go from caves to the coast to the wineries. It is about making everything successful and it is one of the things we have focused on this year,” she said.
“One winery has said it has been busier than Easter which is fantastic to hear as it is a very measurable time of year and one of the busiest.
“Another has said it has been as good as our Cellar Dwellers period, which is another time when there is more traffic coming through than the average general weekend.
“I have everything from good to exceptional in the first few weekends which is fantastic.”
Recognising Penola’s limited supply in accomodation, Ms Eldridge said although it was encouraged for people to stay in Coonawarra, it was just as convenient to have a day outing instead.
“It is where staying in surrounding areas and then coming across, comes into play and we hope they can explore the whole region,” she said.
“The focus is to draw people from away, but that being set, there are just as many locals here too.
“If there were people in the area thinking about a wine tour or visit, it is a good time to do it because not only will there be those special tastings, they are offering pairings with cheese and wine, chocolate and wine, cabernet pies, produce platters, wine maker dinners and many optional extras.”
Ms Eldridge said the biggest impact COVID-19 had on the event was the structure around hosting events and limited visitation ability due to border closures.
“A lot of the bigger events have fallen away because the restrictions in place currently,” she said.
“There was great concern during July when Cellar Dwellers was held and borders were closed, acknowledging the amount of Victorian people who would usually visit.
“With the restrictions changing now, there may have been room for these events to go ahead, but instead there is emphasis on the intimacy and exclusiveness of events and acknowledging people need to book to attend anything which requires seating.”
Today, Coonawarra Vignerons will host its Regional Cabernet Decadence event featuring 14 Coonawarra wineries in a tasting which showcased the ageing ability of the region’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon variety at Raidis Estate.
Penley Pours with Fodder Feast will be held on October 30 involving a six course dinner paired thoughtfully with wines exclusively from Penley Estate.
On October 25, the final festival celebration weekend is themed En Primeur (barrel to glass) with wineries offering dedicated barrel to glass tastings.