Andrew Close of Mihi Creek; Narelle Malcolm from Guyra Visitors Information Centre (VIC) and Rafters restaurant; RDANI Project Officer, Kim-Trieste Hastings; Uralla VIC’s Patrick Dogan; Walcha VIC’s Gemma Clarke; Merilba Estate’s Shaun Cassidy; Armidale VIC’s Deborah Clark; and Thunder Ridge’s Susan Moore.
The New England Region has something new to offer visitors and tourists. A pilot wine tour in Australia’s newest official wine region has shown great potential.
Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) moved to help the wine tours take route, by ensuring the potential for the region’s tourism industry is appreciated by those working on the front line of the tourism and visitors industry. RDANI sponsored a special wine tour for staff from visitor information centres and motels in Armidale, Guyra, Uralla, and Walcha.
RDANI Executive Officer, Don Tydd said that the introduction of wine tours in the New England is an exciting development. “They will attract visitors to the area, serve as yet another activity that visitors can do in the region, and even provide a new way for locals to see and taste what is in their own backyard. There really will be flow on benefits for the region from wine tours,” he said.
The first tour has been driven by Thunder Ridge and Mihi Creek Vineyards, to the east and south of Armidale respectively, Merilba Estate, Kingstown and Walcha-based coach company, The Oxley Explorer.
Thunder Ridge’s Susan Moore hosted the first stage of the tour. “We wanted to allow our local visitor information centre staff and moteliers to experience the tour, the wines and cellar door hospitality that we have, first-hand. Now, they can help to sell the tour to tourists as an activity option,” she said.
Andrew Close’s Mihi Creek vineyard and cellar door was the final stop in the tour. The Southern New England Vignerons Association President said that the first wine tour breaks down the tyranny of distance for three wine producers. “Visitors may get to Glenhoya, Booroolong Road and Petersons but this is a way of getting them to taste quality wines and experience relaxed, hospitality a little further from Armidale,” he said. “We’re producing a high quality, low quantity product in the New England. We’re not suffering from overproduction. We are going from strength to strength.”
Merilba Estate’s Shaun Cassidy welcomes Armidale Visitor Information Centre Co-ordinator, Deborah Clark and other tour participants to his cellar door.
Shaun Cassidy of Merilba Estate, gave an educational talk on wine making and appreciation.
A gourmet lunch featuring local produce is part of the tour.
Peter and Susan Moore of Thunder Ridge, and Uralla VIC’s Patrick Dogan, and Uralla Shire Council’s Web Development Officer, Jane Cole
The coach tour traverses back roads, passing iconic New England scenery. A relaxed, yet full day includes a gourmet lunch packed with local produce, at the tastefully appointed shearing shed function centre at Merilba Estate. Walcha bus and coach businessman, Malcolm Macpherson was behind the wheel for the special tour. “The winegrowers involved approached me. We developed a tour, conducted a few trial runs with limited numbers, then approached RDANI to assist us in informing visitor’s centres and moteliers about our product – they were unaware of the tours and now know exactly what they entail,” the Proprietor of The Oxley Explorer said.
Winemaker and Managing Director of Merilba Estate, Shaun Cassidy considers the development of wine tours to be the latest step up for the region’s wine industry. “The wine tours help us to promote our product but also gives the region another product,” he said.
Mr. Cassidy offers expert advice at his cellar door. “As a winemaker, I find that people are keen to learn more about wine, how it’s made, how it should be consumed and what sort of foods it should be matched with. I’m passionate about dispelling myths concerning wine. It’s really about what you enjoy, and the winemaker must rise to that.”
There was unanimous praise for the tour experience from its participants. “It was a great day. I think these wine tours will provide a big boost to the tourism industry. For each of New England’s visitor information centres to be on the tour was a real experience. We’ll be able to advertise to visitors exactly what the tours are about. They even showcase the history of the region, visiting Gostwyck Church and Deeargee wool shed,” Armidale Visitor Information Centre Co-ordinator, Deborah Clark said.
Tours operate on every second Sunday or on request, departing from visitor information centres in Walcha at 9am and Armidale at 10am. Bookings are essential. Phone: 6777 2436.
Learning about wine making at Merilba Estate.
The ‘artist in residence’ at the Thunder Ridge cellar door was Bruce Shields from the Sunshine Coast.
At Mihi Creek cellar door, Andrew Close talks about his wine with Julie Keene from Armidale’s Cedar Lodge Motel.
The sun sets on a wonderful day