Get out of the city this October, as the Limestone Coast's Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations returns for a month of food and wine events and family entertainment.
The Limestone Coast’s biggest wine festival is happening this October
With much of Australia (and the world) now off-limits due to travel restrictions, South Australians are turning their attention within our own state for a much-needed, post-iso holiday.
In the state’s South East, the Limestone Coast is set to host its annual Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations next month, with unique tastings and special events running throughout October.
A highlight of the Limestone Coast’s event calendar, the month is designed to showcase and celebrate cabernet sauvignon, the Coonawarra’s signature red wine.
Hosted by Coonawarra Vignerons, a not for profit organisation that promotes and facilitates the growth of local winemakers and growers, the month-long festival includes tastings, live music, food and family events.
With October offering up five weekends, organisers have themed each one to appeal to a wide variety of tastes.
The first weekend, themed ‘long weekend’, will see the Coonawarra Golf Day and Family Fiesta kick off the month-long festival, coinciding, as you might expect, with the October long weekend.
The following weeks will see themes around blending wine, the region’s heritage, new release wines, and the festival will culminate with a ‘showtime’ theme – a nod to the weekend that would have been the Penola show – and will feature food, wine and music.
Visitors will enjoy a wide range of activities over the course of the month to ‘celebrate, educate and activate their senses’, including a sparkling cabernet breakfast, vertical tasting fights, chocolate and cheese wine pairing, a cooking class, make-your-own-blend activities, a golf day, dining experiences with winemakers, and live music and outdoor games on picturesque winery lawns.
CoonawarraVignerons’ acting executive officer and events and marketing co-ordinator Heidi Eldridge stresses the importance of the festival to the region’s economy.
“It’s become a really important month for the region, with visitation increasing year upon year,” she says.
“Traditionally, Cabernet Celebrations was hosted on one weekend, but with so much more to offer, it made sense to expand the festival to allow more people to attend with a greater variety of events.”
Eldridge says this year 24 member wineries are participating in the program, which boasts more than 60 events, offering everything from bespoke tasting experiences at Coonawarra cellar doors, to lunch and dinner events alongside the winemakers.
“Our wineries really take it as an opportunity to showcase not only their world class wines, but the region’s burgeoning food credentials,” Heidi says.
Brian ‘Prof’ Lynn is co-founder of Majella Wines and has taken part in the festival since its inception in the early 1990s.
“A long time ago we were looking at, what does Coonawarra do well?” Brian says.
“We grow and are known for producing world-class cabernet, so let’s do a festival of cabernet. That’s really how it started.”
Coonawarra is known for its terra rossa soil and favourable climate conditions, elements that lend perfectly to the art of wine growing.
With 39 wineries and more than 24 cellar doors along a roughly 20-kilometre stretch of road, the area has earned the nickname of ‘Australia’s red wine centre’.
Just a four-hour drive from Adelaide (or a slightly longer trip on the Stateliner bus service), the festival weekends are a great excuse to check out the variety of vineyard retreats, cottages, hotels, motels and caravan and camping facilities in the region.
A shuttle bus service running between Penola and Coonawarra on weekends means travelling the ‘Coonawarra Strip’ is easy. The Coonawarra Wineries Walking Trail, which explores six of the region’s wineries along a scenic 5km nature trek is also a highlight.
Heidi is hopeful travellers from Adelaide and around the state will make the trip down this year to discover what Coonawarra and the greater Limestone Coast has to offer.
“Don’t be put off by the distance,” she says.
“The four-hour drive may seem like a lot, but once you hit the road, you’ll arrive wondering why you hadn’t visited sooner!
“It’s certainly worth the trip when you get to the Limestone Coast.”
For families coming down to the South East, Heidi suggests visiting the Naracoorte Caves, only 20 minutes from Coonawarra, and the gorgeous coastal towns of Robe and Beachport, which are just an hour away.
“And with the commencement of Spring and the warmer weather setting in, it’s a wonderful time of the year to come and enjoy what we’ve got to offer in Coonawarra,” she says.
For more information on the Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations events, see the website.