Wine lovers toast “wonderful” Walkabout

The 2022 Winery Walkabout made a triumphant return over the weekend with around 10,000 people flocking to the region to reunite with their friends and celebrate great wine. Photo by Ann Killeen. See story and more photos on pages 4 and 5.

More than 10,000 people descended on Rutherglen over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend for the much-anticipated return of Winery Walkabout.

After a two-year hiatus, spirits were high and costumes were loud as 18 local wineries opened their cellar doors to embrace both wine connoisseurs and novices keen to taste the yearly vintage.

The party was pumping at Cofield Wines with nearly 5000 people passing through the gates over two-days.

Event Coordinator and Wine club Administrator Taylor Sturzaker told the Free Press that the team at Cofield Wines couldn’t be prouder with the outcome of the entire weekend.

“We had a fantastic weekend with great entertainment from the incredible band Smac,” Ms Sturzaker said.

“It was so wonderful to see everyone dressed up in their colourful and creative costumes, sipping our beautiful wines and enjoying all that Rutherglen has to offer.

“Our sparkling burgundy breakfast was popular, but the band really was the highlight. We cannot thank them enough for providing such great entertainment.

“Saturday was quieter and more of a family-orientated day while Sunday was huge with around 4000 joining us for a great day. We would like to thank all the ticket holders for being part of celebrations at Cofield Wines.”

All Saints Estate and St Leonards Winery were also a hive of activity with both venues offering festival goers fabulous wine tastings, great entertainment, and delicious food.

All Saints Estate Marketing Manager Holly Formosa said they were thrilled to see people flocking through the gates for the return of the popular event with both venues reaching capacity.

“It was so exciting to host everyone at our venues once again,” Ms Formosa said.

“It was just a great feeling to welcome back wine and food lovers to All Saints Estate. We had beautiful acoustic music from Issac Main. Our lovely new pizza restaurant Bonnie was booked out well in advance, with 250 people each day. But we also had a delicious barbeque from Black Barrel Barbecue who specialise in American-Style slow smoked meats, including a variety of ribs, brisket and pulled pork. They did an incredible job, and the food was just spectacular. All Saints also catered to those serious about their wines with Estate tastings in the castle.

“Over at St Leonards, on the banks of the Murray River, we catered to a much younger demographic, so it was really important for us to have a really great vibe. We had music from DJ Blake who played both days, lawn games and delicious burgers and hot dogs.

“Our most popular wine was our Cabernet Franc, which is a medium bodied lighter style red which is a bit alternative and a perfect wine for youth to try.

“Thousand Pound Wine Bar in Rutherglen also did 80 covers each night so it was a really big weekend for all our staff.”

And while numbers may have been down on previous years across the entire event, Ms Formosa said they were pleased with the turnout.

“Being closed for so long coupled with staff shortages, it was a really good number for us to work with and offer a great experience,” she said.

“We were at maximum capacity on both days with 1000 guests at All Saints each day and 500 at St Leonards.

“While we love the social aspect with people getting all dressed up and having a good time, what was also promising is seeing wine enthusiasts come and be really engaged, asking questions and buying wine as well.”

Leila Brear spots her friends. Her excitement perfectly encapsulates what Winery Walkabout is all about. Photo by Ann Killeen.

Robyn Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Wines said it was fabulous to welcome back wine lovers and party goers to region.

“We loved welcoming back everyone to Winery Walkabout at Pfeiffer Wines,” Mrs Pfeiffer said.

‘It was a great crowd and everyone was really happy and enjoying themselves. Happiness breeds happiness.

“We had a real-life bride and groom who got married, I’m not sure where, but their wedding reception was with their friends attending Winery Walkabout. They’ve probably just saved themselves $35,000 dollars which they can put on a deposit for a house!”

Mrs Pfeiffer said Saturday was a quieter day, which is typical in any given year for Winery Walkabout.

“Saturday was perfect for those who enjoy a quieter day and want to avoid the large crowds. It was still a very good day however,” she said.

“On Sunday was dress-up party day and heaps of people came with their friends. It was a much busier day which we knew it would be because of the bookings.

“That’s the wonderful thing about having the bookings. You can plan and prepare. It’s a great system and allows the event to run smoothly.

“Our staff did a fabulous job and were able to really enjoy themselves. We cannot thank our team enough for their help as well as all the friends and families who came and enjoyed themselves at Pfeiffer Wines over the weekend. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

Meanwhile Sunday’s Rutherglen Rotary Country Fair was well attended with thousands of people making their way down Main St Rutherglen supporting local and regional businesses.

Rutherglen Rotarian Peter Fursdon said the crowds were consistent all day.

“It was great to have the Country Fair on again. We had around 200 stalls which is certainly smaller compared to previous years, however, the feedback was great, and it was fantastic to see the town buzzing.”

Apex Rutherglen held their annual Grape Tread with local politicians getting in on the action including Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes, Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie and Karen Gaffney, wife of Indigo Shire mayor Bernard Gaffney. Ms Symes was crowned champion.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie gives grape treading a red-hot go.

Ms McKenzie said she had lots of improvement to make after her first-time stomping.

“What a fabulous day being invited to participate in the Winery Walkabout and Country Fair in Rutherglen today and taking part in the Celebrity Grape Stomping event,” she said.

“Thank you to all of the community and volunteers, and a shout out to Indigo Mayor Bernard Gaffney and Ken Jasper.

“The pandemic cancelled the walkabout over the last two years, so it was fantastic to see it return. People from all over the state have arrived for the weekend to support locals.”