A RECORD number of food and wine lovers flocked to Tastes of Rutherglen at the weekend, buoyed by clear skies and no domestic travel restrictions.
Winemakers of Rutherglen executive officer Annalee Nolan said they expected final ticket sales to show up to 4000 people - many of them travelling from Melbourne - attended the two-day festival over the Labour Day weekend.
Ms Nolan said pre-festival online ticket sales were well up on past years.
"Leading up to the festival last year we'd sold 1400 tickets while leading up to this year's festival we'd sold 2000," she said.
"With strong sales at wineries throughout the festival we'd expect 4000 tickets all up."
Ms Nolan said Rutherglen accommodation was booked out for the whole weekend, boosting the local and regional economy.
She said a COVID-Safe festival this year introduced new features such as seated wine tastings.
"The seated tastings were new this year and offered a much higher quality experience," Ms Nolan said.
Ms Nolan said Tastes of Rutherglen's special events - such as dinners, breakfasts and cocktail parties - all sold out this year.
"Last year we launched a number of umbrella events to broaden the festival offer and people have taken those up," she said.
"All of those special events sold out."
Among the special events, Wahgunyah winery All Saints Estate hosted its 15th annual Dinner In The Vines for more than 160 people on Sunday night.
Hatted chef Simon Arkless (The Terrace Restaurant) and his team prepared an entree of cured Hiramasa kingfish; followed by roast lamb loin, slow-cooked shoulder, crisp belly with fondant potato and peas; and a Mount Ophir Estate Olive Oil cake with roasted stone fruit.
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The kitchen team prepared 50 kilograms of lamb and six Hiramasa kingfish while waitstaff polished more than 600 wine glasses and 900 pieces of cutlery.
All Saints Estate co-owner and chief winemaker Nick Brown matched the wines with dinner including the 2018 All Saints Estate Pierre, a carefully crafted blend of traditional Bordeaux varieties, named in honour of his late father Peter Brown.
All Saints Estate chief executive officer Eliza Brown welcomed the return of regional tourism in a stop-start year for the industry.
"Dinner In The Vines showed there is renewed interest from people to travel into regional areas," she said.
"They're seeking unique, high-calibre experiences to share with friends while enjoying fine wines and showing their support to Victorian producers."
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