While the Rutherglen region of north-east Victoria was fortunate enough to avoid direct fires, like many areas it has suffered from smoke and low tourism numbers.
In January, the popular A Day on the Green concert, featuring Cold Chisel and Birds of Tokyo, was cancelled at the last minute due to poor air quality.
Now, the region's winemakers have decided to go ahead with the annual Tastes of Rutherglen weekend, which showcases the best of the north-east region's wines and produce.
Conveniently held over the Canberra Day long weekend, from March 6-8, this year's festival is set to be one of the biggest and best on record with a revamped program.
Eighteen wineries will open their doors to visitors, with tastings, masterclasses and menus on offer across the weekend.
Damien Cofield, of Cofield Wines, says this festival takes on a different dimension.
"We don't often appreciate the value of regional tourism until we face a catastrophe like this," he said.
"The visitor economy is vital to Rutherglen and the north east, and we want to see it firing again as soon as possible.
"The timing is perfect for Tastes of Rutherglen; we have an opportunity to really fast track the recovery, and I would like to think we will see a huge show of support. "
He said he was looking forward to the festival as something of a respite.
"Vineyards give you enough to worry about in any given year, but this year has been something of a perfect storm with high temperatures, low rainfall, bush fires and the related loss of visitors. It's agriculture, you learn to take the good with the bad.
"The fesitval draws the sort of audience any wine region would love to have - foodies, typically pretty wine savvy and out to have a great time."
The festival kicks off on the Friday night with a Bubbles, Burgers and Beers event at Cofield, from 6-11pm, as well a Picnic by the Lake at Lake Moodemere Estate where there'll be live jazz and premium hampers available for sale.
Highlights of the weekend include Winemaker for an Hour, at Valhalla Wines, where guests will be treated to a hands-on, behind the scenes experience; or start the day with yoga in the vines at Scion winery; or cocktail making at Buller Wines, using their prosecco to make the perfect Aperol spritz.
Don't miss the Treasures of the North East Dinner at de Bortoli Estate, showcasing food and wine from the Rutherglen and King Valley de Bortoli vineyards.
Only a four hour drive from Canberra, entry to the festival is $20, with a shuttle bus service available from $27 per day. Designated drivers will receive complimentary entry as well as two free tea/coffee/soft drink vouchers.
More information and bookings can be made at tastesofrutherglen.com.au
- Fill Your Esky is a series from The Canberra Times highlighting regional producers and food and wine based businesses recovering from the bushfires. If you have a story you'd like to share email firstname.lastname@example.org