2017 won’t go down in history as one of our best summers, with cooler than usual weather and an apathetic effort by the sunshine. So, waking up on Saturday 18th March, on the morning of the 2017 Gibbston Food and Wine Festival, was a bit of a worry.
The clouds were hovering low over Queenstown and it seemed set to rain. Nevertheless, around 1,600 individuals and families poured into the Queenstown Gardens to enjoy the festival. Beginning as a humble harvest festival eleven years ago, the event has evolved to become a regionally-driven celebration of local food, wine and music.
From 10am, the gardens were bustling with boutique wineries, craft breweries and food stalls. Around 11:30am, just as the kids’ face painting started, the sunshine decided to join in the celebrations. The clouds miraculously disappeared and festival-goers slapped on the sun cream (as well as the paint).
The Queenstown Jazz Orchestra struck a chord at around 12noon while other local musicians like the cheerful Music Vanuatu Band and the heartfelt Miki Brown were dotted around the Gardens. Wherever you sat, there was excellent live music. It was rather like a music festival, without the sweaty pushing and shoving crowds and much, much better food and drink.
Throughout the day, masterclasses were held with industry experts Greg Hay, of Wet Jacket Wines, Jen Parr from Valli and Paul Pujol from Prophet’s Rock. It gave serious wine lovers a chance to meet the wine makers and understand the nitty gritty behind the region’s best wines.
Entry to the event included a small tasting glass and three tasting tokens, which were swapped among friends like Pokémon cards. Wineries in attendance included Coal Pit, Kalex, Gibbston Valley and Peregrine, with all offering samples and wine for sale.
Beer lovers queued outside of Cardrona Distillery, Altitude Brewing and Cargo Brewery’s tents for refreshing beers crafted by our region’s best brewers.
The smell of Zamora’s delicious cooked meats hovered over one corner of the pond, enticing all who passed by to join the queue. The Empanada Kitchen proved a great ‘palate cleanser’ in between wines. Erik’s Fish and Chips, Taco Medic and other great local fare kept everyone nourished throughout the day and evening.
A grand day out for the youngsters, the atmosphere was family-friendly with plenty of activities on offer in the Patagonia Kidzone.
As the sun set and the day closed on the 11th annual Gibbston Valley Food and Wine Festival, it was especially heart-warming to see festival organisers taking care of our 150-year-old Queenstown Gardens. The team worked closely with Smart Environmental to ensure the event had a low impact on the Gardens and food stalls were encouraged to provide compostable plates and cutlery. In the future, the festival aims to become a zero-waste event.
A non-profit festival celebrating our local food, wine and beer, the Gibbston Food and Wine Fest is a true champion of our local culture. We can’t wait until next year’s event, though all the wine bought will (hopefully) tide us over…