It's late afternoon and the Shoalhaven river snakes out before us and you can imagine this place in the middle of summer, one of their cheese plates, featuring local cheeses, some live music, a cool breeze, the sand still between your toes and your shoulders stinging just a little bit.
But today it's the middle of winter.
While the Shoalhaven is best known for its pristine beaches, amazing surf and national parks, it's slowly gaining a reputation as a wine destination.
Coolangatta Estate and Cupitts Winery are perhaps the best known, both received five stars in James Halliday's 2019 wine companion, but there's a growing number of wineries worth having a look at.
From Two Figs in Berry to Mountain Ridge in Coolangatta, winemakers, and wine drinkers, are discovering the potential of the region.
At Cupitts, the second generation is stepping up. Griff and Rosie Cupitt bought Washburton Farm in 2003 with the eye to running a small cattle farm. Rosie had studied oenology and decided she wanted to plant a small vineyard as well. Now, alongside their award-winning wines, there's a restaurant, brewery, fromagerie and accommodation on site. They still run some Black Angus cattle.
Sons Wally and Tom make the wine and beer. Libby, Tom's wife, has her hands over everything and is justifiably proud of the award-winning destination venue.
"The majority of the south coast wineries are all proudly family-owned and operated," she says. "You are more likely to meet the producers first-hand when visiting.
"At Cupitt's we host a daily tour and taste experience where we take you around the estate tasting wine in the wine cave usually with the winemaker, sample beer in the brewery with the brewer, visit the cheese room and kitchen garden. It is an immersive experience."
She says the area has great potential as a wine destination.
"There is some excellent wine to discover here," she says. "Also, our tourism industry is growing and wine and tourism have wonderful synergy. With its natural beauty, the south coast has always attracted tourists for outdoor activities, now as an emerging wine region, it also attracts tourists seeking out great food and wine experiences."
The Cupitt family crafts their wines from estate grown grapes along with grapes sourced from the regions of Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Orange and Canberra.
"Growing grapes on the south coast used to be more challenging with high rainfall and humidity," she says.
"The proximity to the coast is a major contributor to the unique character of our wines. The sea breeze helps to dry the moisture, but without the salt as we are far enough away from the beaches, and also plays an important role in moderating the summer temperatures giving us a relatively cool growing season. We have been fortunate to not be as affected by drought on our vineyards with all our vines dry grown."
With its natural beauty, the South Coast has always attracted tourists for outdoor activities, now as an emerging wine region, it also attracts tourists seeking out great food and wine experiences.Libby Cupitt
Jasper Valley Wines
152 Croziers Rd, Jaspers Brush
This cute and quaint winery near Berry is giving the big guns a run for their money. Jasper Valley Wines has a lovely, boutique feel and only produces a limited amount of wine per year. Visitors can sample popular red varietals of cabernet sauvignon, grenache and shiraz, as well as whites including chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc. Nestled among rolling foothills, the large vine-covered verandah provides a great place to sit and sip away. Featuring a beautiful outlook of green, wooded hills that stretch away into the distance, you can even catch a glimpse of the ocean. The owners of this small operation are ever the traditionalists so you won't be able to find them through a website. Instead, do things the old fashioned way and give them a call to book in your winery experience. The friendly and heartwarming Jasper Valley welcome all begins the second you pick up the phone.
43B Scotts Rd, Kangaroo Valley
Yarrawa Estate is a small, family-run vineyard that's tucked away in Kangaroo Valley. The property is surrounded by a beautiful lake and rolling hills that will take your breath away. This is not just your average cellar door, though, a visit to Yarrawa is wonderfully relaxed and friendly, where you'll be treated like a member of the family by hosts Sue and Mark Foster. The tastings literally take place in the Foster family's dining room! The rich volcanic soils of the vineyard provide an ideal environment for viticulture and the Jasmin Grace is a visitor's favourite. Produced from muscatel grapes, this fresh and floral wine features aromas of lemon blossom and a small hint of Turkish Delight. Pair this with a cheese and antipasto platter of homemade delicacies for an afternoon well spent at Yarrawa Estate.
B640 Princes Hwy, Berry
Wine, dine and stay, all in one place at Silos Estate and Wileys Creek. This working vineyard is just a stone's throw from Berry village and some of the winery's buildings date back to 1870. If you'd like a little escape to the country then Silos is the perfect place for your wine holiday. Visitors can have a tasting at the cellar door, enjoy a meal at the award-winning restaurant and then retire comfortably to the charming cottage accommodation. A must try while you're here is the Wileys Creek sparkling shiraz, a delightfully sweet and crisp red with a dry finish. Silos also provides a full-blown farmyard experience. The resident alpacas roam freely on the grounds and guests are more than welcome to feed the animals when staying on site. Silos also boasts a large electric vehicle recharging station.
Cambewarra Estate Winery
520 Illaroo Rd, Bangalee
Planning a special gal pal gathering? Look no further and make your way to Cambewarra Estate. A morning spent indulging in a whimsical high tea among the vines is a wonderful experience for hen's weekends, mother-daughter catch ups or memorable birthday celebrations. Get ready to channel your inner Alice in Wonderland because the tea settings are just picture perfect and the surroundings are reminiscent of a beautiful fairy tale.
Let's not get too carried away here though and forget about the wine. Treat yourself to a glass of the refreshing Petit Rouge rosé produced with luscious South Coast chambourcin grapes. The musky and raspberry tones are a fabulous accompaniment to the restaurant's deli and cheese platters.
Cambewarra Estate is fantastic for anyone travelling with a pooch too, as the winery is pet-friendly.
And you might even be lucky enough to visit during one of the many live music events, where the property provides a stunning backdrop for an outdoor stage.
Mountain Ridge Wines
11 Coolangatta Rd, Coolangatta
Mountain Ridge Wines is more than just a working vineyard, the top-notch cafe and restaurant menus make this winery a number one pit stop to engage all the gastronomical senses. The setting is beautifully picturesque, with the grounds perched upon a ridge of Coolangatta Mountain, offering up stunning views of the Shoalhaven.
It's a very special place to relax on a holiday with a well deserved glass or two. Sustainability is at the forefront of all practices at Mountain Ridge and all grapes are handpicked and bottled on the 75-acre property.
For those who get the chance, plan a visit during a "Music Sunday" at the winery. Happening once a month, it's a great way to spend an afternoon soaking up live tunes, great vibes and delicious wine.
Coolangatta Estate Winery
1335 Bolong Rd, Coolangatta
Who can argue with more than 160 trophies and more than 2000 awards at regional, national and international wine shows? These are the types of accolades that make Coolangatta Estate a must visit Shoalhaven vineyard. White wine lovers will enjoy the highly acclaimed 2009 Wollstonecraft semillon.
In addition to the extensive list of award-winning drops, Coolangatta Estate is a great place of historical interest as it is officially the site of the very first European settlement on the South Coast of NSW. Guests can even take a step back in time and stay in one of the original cottages that were once occupied by Alexander Berry and his staff. The vineyard's views of the surrounding escarpments are just spectacular and all water babies will love the fact that stunning Seven Mile Beach is only a few minutes away.
Two Figs Winery
905 Bolong Rd, Berry NSW
Red wine enthusiasts unite and make sure to gather at Two Figs. With a number of reds that have recently won awards, this boutique Berry vineyard is sure to tantalise the taste buds. For those who are more inclined towards the fuller bodied wines, sample the 2013 Barrel Select shiraz or the 2015 Dallas shiraz, both winning trophies at the 2016 Small Winemaker's Show and the 2017 South Coast Wine Show respectively.
Or for something a little bit lighter, have a taste of the soft but spicy chambourcin, a grape varietal that absolutely thrives in the Shoalhaven's balmy climate. Combine your tasting with a delicious cheese plate and head outside for some incredible views of the Shoalhaven River. Two Figs is an excellent place to relax and soak up a spectacular South Coast sunset, all year round.
Cupitts Restaurant, Winery, Brewery and Fromagerie
58 Washburton Rd, Ulladulla
Cupitts is a one-stop shop for an indulgent gastronomical experience. You can pretty much find everything you need on-site and there's even wonderful French provincial cottage where guests can rest their head at night. So a visit to Cupitts is all about treating yourself to a little bit of luxury.
This makes the vineyard a perfect getaway destination for couples celebrating a special occasion or wanting to unwind and reconnect.
Cheers your better half with a glass of the award-winning Dusty Dog shiraz while dining on some fresh local seafood or sample a homemade cheese platter on the deck while basking in extraordinary views towards Burrill Lake and the Budawang Ranges. Located in the rolling hills of Ulladulla, the vineyard is also close to the charming country town of Milton and famous Mollymook Beach.
Bawley Vale Estate
226 Bawley Point Rd, Bawley Point NSW 2539
Bring the entire clan to Bawley Vale Estate - it's much loved for its family-friendly vibe and cosy country feel. Farmyard animals happily roam the grounds and visitors can even bring their own dogs too - just make sure that your pooch stays on a leash.
The resident cocker spaniel and the lovely goats always put a smile on the children's dials. The vineyard sits on a hill overlooking the grounds and a lake below and is just a few minutes drive from Bawley Beach.
Enjoy a refreshing afternoon swim and follow it up with a glass of Bawley Vale's delightful sparkling rosé as the sun comes down.
- Karen Hardy travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.