A new “must-do” for visitors to Sydney, who enjoy diverse and stunning scenery, small artisan producers and boutique hotels, quaint cafes, delectable seafood, and amazing wines, the Shoalhaven is coming into its own. Yet it has thankfully managed to maintain its rural elegance and charm, and relaxed friendliness – not to mention the good old corner pubs, and all in less than a two-hour drive
Travel down from Sydney via the coast through Wollongong and you’ll be met with pristine beaches, azure oceans and surf for both the novice and thrill seeking “surfies”! Supplement that with terrific food and wine and you’ll find some of the best fish and chips in the country at some of the small unpretentious cafes dotting the beach sidewalks.
The inland route will take you through Bowral, Australia’s “boutique” town with rambling country mansions, bakeries, cafes and antiques galore. You’ll drive through The Kangaroo Valley, where the eucalyptus and rainforest clad mountains give way to rolling lush green hills that gently flatten and turn to a white expanse of sandy beaches.
Nestled in the mountains you’ll find quaint cafes serving Devonshire teas (fresh baked scones, jam and cream), artisans galore and as you head into the hills, you’ll notice a new revival has hit – wineries whose vines run with the hills onto the water’s edge.
The maritime climate and geology of the Shoalhaven Coast creates a tendency for white wines to be fruit-driven and well-balanced in style with crisp natural acidity that almost reflects the limestone soil’s “lime-iness” Yet it is the delicate combination of this maritime climate, cool coastal sea-breezes, small production, relaxed and focused vision that brings wines which speak their locale – you can almost feel the ocean breeze as you sip them. Even the reds having that palate-kissing, crisp finish that goes so well with food. This trait also allows them to keep their alcohol levels at or below 13% without sacrificing rich body, strong tannins and complexity.
I discovered Coolongatta Estate Winery when looking for a bed for the night. Scattered throughout the property, these lovingly restored convict built rooms are just a short walk from the Estate’s cellar door, restaurant, golf course, tennis court, games-room, croquet lawn, BBQ areas and solar-heated swimming pool. And just minutes to the beach, it’s a wonderful base to explore.
When I tasted their Savagnin (a grape native to Southern France and now grown in Spain), I didn’t want to go any further, it was so delicious. This wine has peach and citrus characters on the nose. The palate has texture and body with ripe apricot and lime showing through finishing with crisp citrus acid.
It seemed to me, the perfect wine to feature with my Spring into Summer wine teaser, a Pistachio and Artichoke Dip.
Artichoke is one of “those” foods. Like asparagus, it’s one of those veggies that challenges the palate when we want to enjoy it with wine. Containing a rare chemical called cynarin, a type of organic acid, artichokes tend to make some wines taste sweet, others bitter. My solution is to add nuts, and perhaps something dairy, to soften and round out the “acidity and tannins. Here’s an artichoke dip you can serve with crackers or crudités, spread on crostini or even smeared on a steak or fish after grilling!
Pistachio and Artichoke Dip
2 cups cooked artichoke hearts
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pistachios
3-4 leaves basil
Pepper and salt to taste
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process to a paste. Taste and adjust with lemon or salt to taste.
Wine Pairing – Coolongatta Estate Savagnin 2012.
Sally James ~ Program Co-Creator, Producer & Host
Slow Living Radio, CRN
Sally James is an award-winning Australian chef, author, educator, television presenter and an ambassador for Australian food & wine whose books and recipes have won international acclaim for food & wine pairing, health and creativity. Sally is the author of eighteen books, including her best-selling Simply Healthy—winner of the prestigious World Cookbook Awards, Versailles, France, 1999 for Best Health Cookbook, Fresh and Healthy–Winner of the 2001 IACP International Cookbook Award in the Health category, Simply Sensational, a finalist for the IACP Award in 2003, and the Australian Heart Foundation Cookbook.
She has been a guest chef and lecturer for the American Heart Association, the Culinary Institute of America, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, COPIA, Draegar’s and Publix Markets, the American Institute of Food and Wine, and Johnson & Wales Universities across the United States. James continues to do guest appearances on television and radio in the US and Canada, including a recurring guest spot on ABC television’s popular View from the Bay in San Francisco.