We wanted to get some insider information so we sat down with Ben Wallis, the man behind Coolangatta Estate in the north of our region. It is one of the NSW South Coasts most awarded vineyards and a definite pit stop along the Shoalhaven wine trail.
What's it like to live in the Shoalhaven?
I love it here! I was lucky enough for my parents to move in the area when I was young. We grew up in Bomaderry and spent our weekends exploring the rich natural beauty and diversity of activities that the area has to offer. Understandably, what’s not to love about that!!!
How did your business start?
Coolangatta Estate has been open to the public since 1972. My wife's family (the Bishops) have been here since 1947. An opportunity came along a little over 10 years ago to work in the wine side of the business so we took over and the rest is history.
Tell us a bit about Coolangatta Estate and what makes it so special.
Firstly, the history. The property dates all the way back to 1822. It's the birthplace of the Shoalhaven as we know it today. We still have the original convict-built village (now accommodation) that is the focal point of the property. The public is welcome to visit and walk around the grounds of the village to take a step back in time. Secondly, it's quality. The vineyard continues to produce wines that are now being recognised as some of the country's best. Being an entirely estate-grown producer also provides that special treat for visitors. The fact they can see the vines that the fruit came from makes the connection a little more special.
What do visitors love about the winery?
The history of the property is definitely a massive attraction. They all love to hear about the significance of this piece of land. I think it's a combination of the location and the quality wine too. Being able to taste the different varieties that we grow and also see the backdrop they are grown in is a really beautiful experience.
What's a memorable interaction you had with a visitor to the Shoalhaven?
We had some guys from the U.S. catch the train down from Sydney and then get on a bus from Bomaderry. They turned up in the pouring rain and spent a few hours here. It turns out they were only in Sydney for 4 days but made sure they visited because of what they'd heard about us. That was pretty special for us considering all the effort they made!
Any words of encouragement to future visitors?
We have so much on offer at the property, visitors can really make a day of it here. We have the history, the wine and food. On top of that, we also have the Bigfoot and Segway tours operating from the property as well as disc golf now. There really is something for everyone here!
What’s your favourite way to relax?
I love going out and enjoying the region with the family. We do a lot of outdoors activities from all the coastal attractions and the walks and trails to be enjoyed in the parks. We have all this on our doorstep - how could you not want to explore it?
Sum up the Shoalhaven in three words.