A Sydney based writer, director, actor. Loves going out and exploring what Sydney has to offer.
Published June 6th 2012
On a recent trip down South, my partner and I discovered a number of delightful wineries scattered across the Shoalhaven Region, a 2.5-3 hour drive from Sydney. We started with two wineries located on Bolong Road, in between Shoalhaven Heads and Bomaderry.
The first, Coolangatta Estate, is set in beautiful grounds with a winery, restaurant and accommodation. The Cellar Door is open 10am-5pm, 7 days a week. The winemaker who served us was chatty and before long we'd almost shared life stories as we went through some of the wines on the tasting list.
Coolangatta has taken advantage of the fact that the Australian climate can resemble the Mediterranean and produces two Spanish varieties: a Tempranillo and a Savagnin. We especially liked the latter, with its fruity, crisp flavours. We didn't eat there, although we were tempted. The restaurant uses local produce, resulting in a three-course menu that changes daily given the supply.
Atop a hill further along Bolong Road is Two Figs Winery, oozing charm with views of the countryside and interesting artworks lining the pathway. Unfortunately, the wines and winemaker failed to impress. I enjoyed their Shiraz, with strong berry flavours and their Sticky Fig dessert wine, which was sticky with a nectar taste and not too sweet to be overbearing as I find many dessert wines to be. The other wines lacked gusto and we didn't feel inclined to buy anything as the winemaker was not welcoming and said hardly a word to us. We've realised that the more hospitable the winemaker, the more likely we will buy. Two Figs is open daily from 11am-5pm.
Yarrawa Estate was my favourite winery. Based in the winemakers' house, we wondered at times where we were going as we drove a long distance up steep, narrow tracks. When we arrived we looked about confusedly until the winemaker appeared from his garage and directed us to the winery room. He was affable and we immediately felt at home. He gave us two glasses, a complimentary cheese plate and left us to serve ourselves from the array of wines as he had wood to chop before his wife got home. When another couple arrived he regaled us with stories and jokes, telling us about the Russian women who'd drunk most of his Walnut Liqueur the day before.
He and his wife have owned the property since 1997 and also sell fruits, nuts and preserves grown on the estate. The Cellar Door is open 10am-6pm Saturday, 12:30pm-6pm Sunday and weekdays by appointment. We left with a bottle of port, a rosé named after his granddaughter, marinated figs and pickled condiments.
The winemaker was lovely and laidback and we talked up a storm as we tried all the wines. The winery, open 10am-5pm on weekends and public holidays, also has BBQ facilities; if you bring the food, they'll supply the wine. We bought the Verdelho and Cabernet Merlot, a rich, deep wine which was my favourite of the day. They also make a lovely sparkling wine, Berry Bubbly, which we were told was a complete mistake, yet when it sold best of all the wines that year they decided to continue making it! My tip for Morrelli's is to arrive late: as it was almost closing time when we left, the winemaker gave us the rest of four tasting bottles to take home free.
This weekend the Shoalhaven Region will celebrate their Winter Wine Festival, held every June Long Weekend. Over three days the participating wineries, including those listed here, offer special deals and activities and there's even a hop-on-hop-off bus. If you prefer a quieter time where you can relax and chat with the winemaker, I suggest visiting the area on a weekday or another weekend during autumn or winter.