Festive start for Gourmet Week

A lively crowd dance into the night to the beats of DJ Ruby Chew at Greg Cooley Wines. Photo: James Swanborough
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The good times rolled into Clare, for the opening festival weekend of Clare Valley Gourmet Week.

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Now in its 40th iteration, the festival is one of the state’s longest-running and beloved gourmet food and wine events of its kind – pairing wineries with chefs and restaurants.

Perfect weather saw buses roll across the scenic tracks of the valley, taking in cellar doors both big and small, even leaving room to celebrate those producers who keep their secrets close at the opening night’s ‘Cellars without Doors Degustation’ event at Watervale Hotel.

While the open air and picturesque surroundings which were enjoyed through the weekend are a large part of the appeal for many, Watervale Hotel co-owner Warrick Duthy said the event gave a real opportunity for wineries that don’t have a cellar door to get some access to the market.

“Some of those are grape growers who have other jobs and make a few wines on the side, others are winemakers who get paid by one company and have their side hustles, and that’s part of what we like to celebrate too,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who have investment in the Clare Valley – about 44 wineries in the region, and about a quarter of them are small guys without cellar doors, so I think it’s a great opportunity as well for people who are coming up for the weekend and have the opportunity to go to all the wineries that here is a place we can actually see half a dozen wines they won’t see elsewhere on their travels.”

The weekend saw music, food and wine mix for a delightful atmosphere amongst those who chose to attend any of the many winery cellar door events.

Kilikanoon Wines cellar door manager Garrett Ryan said the unique feeling of the festival was an enticing prospect for visitors to the region.

“It’s been really positive, everyone has been really well behaved, weather’s been fantastic and the mood has been spot on for what we think of for Clare Valley Gourmet, cold weather, warm fires, the atmosphere here, good food and fine wine,” he said.

“Clare Valley is a little further (from the city) than other areas, but it’s a blessing because it means people can come up for the weekend and experience more.”

Phil Blair, who has been coming up to Clare Valley Gourmet Festival from Adelaide for the past ten years, said there had been improvements to this year’s festival weekend which had been positive for return visitors.

“The bus loops have changed around a bit this year, which is great because previously it was that you tended to see a lot of the same big wineries, but this year there has been more sense of discovery for us,” he said.

Mr Blair was also quick to sing the praises of the ‘Sailing Club’ venue, which was a first time venue at the Clare Showground’s red brick pavilion, making good use of the outdoor seating area which had been completed since last year’s festivities.

“We are staying down at the caravan park, so to be able to conclude the day with the bus rolling up to Clare, with everyone centralised to a venue like this really makes for a great atmosphere.”

Anna Baum, executive officer of Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association said it was fantastic to see so many people out and about enjoying the Festival Weekend of the Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week.

“The weather held out for us, with visitors and locals enjoying the sunshine at the many wonderful events put on by our local wineries, restaurants and community,” she said.

“There are still a myriad of events on throughout this week and over the weekend, and it is not too late to join the festivities as we continue to celebrate forty years of Gourmet.”

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