Arts & Entertainment

Pyrmont Festival 2019

R: Peter Gerber (Pioneer Brewing Co), Damian Shaw (Philip Shaw Wines), Emily Mann (Orange360), Nicole Samodol (Rowlee Wines) and Sam Beck (Cumulus Vineyards). Photo: Ann - Marie Calilhanna

By Rita Bratovich

It’s a celebration of wine, food, art, community, sunshine, fresh air and the unmatched visual splendour of Sydney Harbour; the ninth annual Pyrmont Festival takes place at the end of this month and promises to be as big and festive as ever. After the success of last year’s partnership, Orange 360 will once again team up with the Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce (PUCC) to deliver a 17-day symbiotic food and wine experience. 

The centerpiece of the festival program is the two-day headliner in Pirrama Park featuring a variety of stalls from local businesses and showcasing 18 wine labels, two breweries, and a boutique gin from Orange. Several producers from Orange farmers markets will also be coming to the park this year, including Second Mouse Cheese Co, with a range of soft and hard cheeses and an exceptional blue; The Salami Man, who do a mean cacciatori; The Orange Fermentory, who’ll give a gutful of probiotic vinegars; and The Cheesecake Co with their uniquely presented cheesecakes in jars. 

The popular beer garden will be pouring craft brews from Badlands and Pioneer Brewing Co (who grow their own malt and barley). If you’re on the park on Saturday, you can sit back with a pint and watch a live telecast of the AFL grand final. 

People who need more spirit in their glass can choose from a selection of dry or botanical gins from new distillers, Parrot Gin who’ll be making their Sydney debut at Pyrmont. If the harbourside location gives you a hankering for seafood, head over to the Oyster Bar and pick up a dozen or half-dozen natural, then grab a glass of light, cool Orange sparkling to wash them down. 

There’ll be an art garden exhibiting local artworks and hosting art classes and a large area with games and jumping castle for the kids. 

“This is one of the biggest food and wine festivals in one of the most beautiful locations around Sydney Harbour,” says Festival Director, Alex Gibbs. “As a festival it’s inviting all parts of the community to have a great couple of days […] We get everyone from families to people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s…we get people from the Lower North Shore, Eastern Suburbs, Inner West and South Sydney. And it’s because Pyrmont is a really easy place to get to.”

This is Gibbs’ second year as festival director, but he has been involved for the last six years, setting up the beer garden and representing the Wine Society. He’s seeing the festival evolve as a much more cooperative event. 

“This year we’ve had a lot more focus on bringing in Orange producers and Orange businesses just so we have a closer connection and representation of city and country – and I think this festival is going to be a stronger example of the respectful relationship we have,” he explains. He puts the success of the festival partnership down to mutual goals and principles. 

“I think why it works is because we’ve got similar values. So, the value that they create and the value that the Chamber and the event creates, creates value for the local community, residents, our stakeholders and local businesses in Pyrmont. It’s a win-win situation because it’s the same for Orange – it also promotes local businesses, wineries, and encourages people to visit Orange.”


The real synergy of that partnership manifests in the festival’s program of dining and tasting events. Bar Zini is pairing with Tamburlaine Organic Wines, and The Apprentice is pairing with SeeSaw Wines in two special dinner evenings. The Terminus Hotel is hosting an after-party featuring Printhe Wines; Pyrmont Point Hotel is showcasing Orange wines throughout the festival; Porter’s Liquor is holding wine tastings; Call Me Harris is hosting Sunset Bar on Friday nights; and Sydney Seafood School is giving seafood cooking classes. 

Caddie Marshall, General Manager at Orange 360 is very excited about the upcoming festival:

“We’re seeing this as a way of connecting in with the city and presenting the full suite of opportunities that there are here in Orange.”  

She was also involved last year and came away with observations that have informed her input this time around.

“I think the big learning was…Orange is a regional city and we’re surrounded by these wonderful historic villages […] and Pyrmont is very much a village within a city. So you have that synchronicity of understanding and the way the community works right from the get-go,” she explains. 

A big part of their involvement in the festival is to encourage people to visit Orange, so in addition to food and beverages, they’ve invited Duntryleague Golf Course, Orange High School, and Spinifex Recruitment to have stands in Pirrama Park. 

“We have some amazing opportunities where you can be earning a city wage with a country lifestyle and affordability,” says Marshall. 

As a further incentive, they’re holding a competition to win two passes on the Vino Express and spend an all-expenses-paid, fully curated three-day weekend in Orange during the Orange Wine Festival. The trip includes accommodation, wine tasting master class, cellar door visits, long lunches, wine rambles, sparkling Sunday breakfast, and tickets to the night markets. 


There are over 80 vineyards in Orange, and over 30 cellar doors, and virtually all these growers and makers are members of the Orange Region Vignerons Association. 

“We look at helping our members grow better fruit, make better wine and promote Orange wine to consumers,” says President, Nicole Samodol. Orange is an official cool climate wine region. To be classified as part of Orange Region, a vineyard needs to be situated at 600m or more above sea level. The landscape in this region is unique, with Mount Canobolas providing rich volcanic soil, and an elevation range that allows certain grapes to be grown – varieties that are becoming popular. 

“Lighter styles that work better with food, like pinot noir, chardonnay, sparkling varieties, those cool climate shirazes. Not the heavy, big reds that Australians grew up on,” explains Samodol. “People’s tastes are changing […] We’re a premium wine region and the trend is for people to drink less but better.”

Samodol is a third-generation winegrower whose family in Croatia grew and made sparkling wines on the Adriatic coast. She is now the owner of Rowlee Wines which produces classic varieties like riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, and also two Northern Italian varieties – arneis and nebbiolo. 

Rowlee Wines is typical of what gives the Orange region its distinctive charm and appeal.

“We create beautiful wines on small family-owned and run vineyards,” says Samodol. “When people come to us, they often meet the owner, the grower, the maker. We’re not large and corporatised, we’re involved throughout the process – from the growing, to the making, to the selling to the marketing.”


Richie Bayliss of Slow Wines Co seconds that. 

“We’re a family-owned business and I’m the eldest child, and I’m…I guess I’m the director of the company,” he says. His parents first planted grapes in 1990 after having raised cattle and sheep for many years. 

“It was a small operation to start with. We didn’t actually make anything under our own label for about 10 years,” says Bayliss. The vineyard expanded to 12 hectares and in 2013 they contracted the highly regarded winemaker, Will Rikard Bell. 

“His philosophy to making the wine is letting the grapes do the talking, letting the wine sort of evolve naturally without too much human intervention […] And that’s how Slow Wines came about, like, it’s two years from bud burst to bottling for most of our varieties.”

As is typical for a vineyard, Bayliss and his family focus on growing premium fruit and they then get an expert to produce the wine. The final product will depend on the harmony and respective skills of each. 

“You can’t have one without the other. You can’t make good wine without good grapes and you actually need a very skilled winemaker to then look after those grapes and give the grapes a chance to really express themselves – where they come from and how they’re grown. What we call the ‘terroir of the site is expressed through the wine that ends up in the bottle,” explains Bayliss.

At an elevation of 960 meters, Slow Wines is one of the highest vineyards in Orange region. They make mainly aromatic white wines – classic Alsace varieties like riesling, gewurz, pinot gris and Burgundy varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir. Last year, their 2016 family reserve won a trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the Orange Wine Show and has set a benchmark. 

Slow Wines was at Pyrmont Festival last year, but Bayliss is taking part this year for the first time and really looking forward to it. 

“These sort of things are a great way for us to get our product known and meet a few of the people and talk about our story and have them look for us next time they head out to Orange.”

Sep 20 – Oct 6. Various Venues.

Sep 28-29. Pirrama Park, Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont. Info:

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