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November 28, 2023

Hills cherry season off to bumper start in lead-up to JaumaFest

James and Sophie Erskine will open the gates to their Adelaide Hills organic cherry orchard and winery for the third annual JaumaFest – a grassroots two-day festival of pick-your-own cherries, food, dancing, natural wines and a diverse live music program.

  • Words: Ben Kelly
  • Photo: Ramsay Taplin

Lenswood cherry orchard and vineyard Jauma Farm wil host the third annual JaumaFest on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17, for a community-focused family celebration combining live music and pick-your-own cherries.

Farm owners James and Sophie Erskine are happy to report that the cherry season is off to a fantastic start, despite this week’s downpour.

It’s a relief given last year’s crop did not come into fruit in time for the 2022 festival.

“It’s been an awesome start to the season. This rain might cause one of our varieties to split in the next couple of days, but because the varieties stagger in ripeness, the rest of them will be fine,” says James.

The festival is a small, grassroots event held on their orchard and vineyard, where festivalgoers can pick cherries, enjoy live music, and peruse a Christmas market while enjoying James’ natural wine label, Jauma Wines.

There will be a small assortment of food stalls including Africola Canteen, Wild Woodfired Pizza, Goodness Coffee and a pop-up ice cream stall from Stirling’s Hokey Pokey.

West African multi-instrumentalist Bortier Okoe headlines the Saturday live music lineup, with supporting artists including singer-songwriters Anya Anastasia and Erin Buku.

Rob Edwards headlines Sunday night, alongside Naomi Keyte and Wake in Fright.

A happy James Erskine with a promising crop of cherries.

“You taste your way through the orchard while you’re cherry picking, and then you pay for your box that you take home at the end,” says Sophie.

“It’s a really beautiful practice and really slows you down and connects you to each tree.

“It’s like a hunting game. The cherries are hidden beneath the leaves and you have to go slowly, so it’s good for the nervous system.”

James and Sophie started JaumaFest in 2021 as a celebration for the wider community to experience the couple’s ethos for wine, produce, life and the childlike joy of cherry picking.

“It’s quite intimate with about 300 people each day. It’s a lovely small, safe festival that’s good for kids, but also fun for adults to get dancing into the evening,” says Sophie.

“It’s really inclusive, diverse and safe for everyone.”

Having previously forged a career as an awarded sommelier, James changed tack to earn an Honours Degree in Agricultural Science (oenology) and founded his natural wine label Jauma in 2010.

In 2018, James and Sophie purchased their Lenswood property – an organically certified cherry orchard.

“We didn’t plan on having a cherry business when we bought the farm, we were going to remove them to plant grapes. But we realised that the cherries were magnificent and we had a great opportunity,” says Sophie.

“The culture of pick-your-own took us by surprise and has continued to grow as a cultural activity.

“We only removed half of the orchard to plant vines and cherries have become such an important part of our lives.

“We should get our first crop of wine grapes next year.”

With their region of the Adelaide Hills being at the heart of Australia’s natural wine movement, Jauma is one of the respected brands to lead the lo-fi charge, exporting wine to the world.

The farm also sells cherries to top restaurants including including Africola, arkhe, Hey Jupiter and MotherVine.

“Because we don’t have a cellar door, JaumaFest really is an opportunity for people to come here and drink wine and enjoy being in the Hills at a festive time of year,” says James.

For those unsure how to pronounce Jauma, don’t feel bad – for many years James was pronouncing it wrong.

It started when he visited Spain on a research scholarship in 2008, and met a fellow winemaker named Jauma – a Catalan name which is the equivalent of James.

“I asked him what his name meant, and he said, ‘it’s your name in Catalan!’” remembers James.

On return to Australia, James named his wine brand Jauma. But, 10 years later, he re-visited Barcelona, where he learned he hadn’t nailed the pronunciation.

“I had been calling it ‘Yauma’ but all the producers were calling me ‘Jauma’, and I realised I’d been saying it wrong for 10 years!”

For more information on JaumaFest and to purchase tickets, see Humanitix.

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