Vignerons in the Broke-Fordwich sub-region of the Hunter Valley are a welcoming bunch who like to think outside the square.
A Little Bit of Italy in Broke is a case in point. Held annually in April, the weekend-long festival is an Italian-inspired celebration of fine food, wine and hospitality in a quieter and more laid-back corner of the valley. Eleven venues will be opening their gates to the public on April 7 and 8 and offering cooking classes, workshops, demonstrations, dining experiences, tastings and vineyard tours.
Susan Frazier, who owns and runs Whispering Brook with her husband Adam Bell, has been involved since the festival started 13 years ago. This time around chef Matt Dillow will be preparing traditional Italian dishes at the venue, which will also host an Italian-inspired millinery collection and workshop as well as a vineyard and olive grove tour.
But first, the name of the property. It’s not just pleasing to the ear, it has geographical significance.
“Wollombi Brook runs through the village of Broke and the back of our property and it’s lined with casuarinas, or she-oak trees,” Frazier explained.
“When the wind blows through those trees it makes this wonderful whistling sound.”
This year A Little Bit of Italy in Broke has partnered with the Singleton Cancer Appeal and glass sponsor Zafferano, with $2 from every Zafferano glass sold going to the appeal.
“This event brings all the wonderful lifestyle elements that the Italians are so famous for, which is enjoying the good life and taking a moment to really savour food and wine in picturesque surrounds with great conversation,” Frazier said.
“It is something that has really united the whole community. We are our own sub-region: we’ve got the army camp that separates us physically from Pokolbin and, geographically, this is an area of outstanding beauty framed by mountain landscapes. Also, we are all family-owned, artisan boutique businesses.”
There will be a gourmet Italian barbecue, organic cheese and olives at Ascella Organic Wines; Italian picnic hampers at Greenway Wines; wood-fired pizza and gelato in the Tuscan-inspired courtyard at Krinklewood; and pasta and soup at Lavender Ridge.
Mount Broke Wines will be offering traditional pizza, antipasto and tiramisu while Tinonee Vineyard Estate has gone for gelato and macaroons. The Barbalance family will make Italian sausages at Somerville Wines and dinners will be served at Catherine Vale Wines, Margan and Nightingale Wines.
For those who love cooking and creating as much as eating, there are gnocchi-making classes; salami presentations; the Margan harvest and cooking school; and Italian cooking demonstrations.
Transfer buses will run on Saturday only through Rover Coaches. For the full program of events, go to italyinbroke.com.au.