Sanguine Estate Music Festival
Sanguine – confident, cheerful, hopeful, optimistic, positive, upbeat.
The Sanguine Estate Music Festival was all these things and so much more. From the minute visitors rounded the bend to come into view of the building that was to become restaurant, concert hall, art gallery and winery, there was a feeling of anticipation and excitement.
As the sun set over the rows of grape vines, pre-concert drinks and canapés from Monsieur Pierre of Kyneton were consumed with great enjoyment by festival goers who had travelled from Melbourne and interstate to be a part of what proved to be a very special weekend.
The Welcome Concert took place in the barrel room, converted into an intimate performing space with the addition of a small stage and a large grand piano. Tiny electric candles flickered from the tops of barrels that were artfully arranged around the room for maximum acoustic effect. Introductions were made by the festival directors Jodi Marsh (Sanguine Estate General Manager) and Chris Howlett (cellist with the Melbourne Piano Trio), and by Artistic Director Howard Penney. The Hunter family, made up of Jodi, her brother Mark (the winemaker) and parents Tony and Lyn, are the owners of Sanguine Estate and close friends of both Chris and Howard, and the feeling in the barrel room was one of inclusion in an event born of friendship, and the love of good music, food and wine.
This inclusiveness remained throughout the three days of the festival. Howard Penney is a wonderful teacher, whose ‘Inside the Music’ session on Saturday morning introduced those audience members with scant knowledge of the ‘dictionary’ of music into a fascinating lexicon that they could use to help them relate to the musical feast that followed over the next two days.
Did someone mention feast? The food that was served for the duration of the festival was of a consistently high standard, from the home-baked baguettes that accompanied the perfect Brie de Meaux and ham off the bone at the welcome supper to the just-out-of-the-oven Anzac biscuits served with morning coffee. Picnic lunch boxes included fresh wraps, salads, fruit, nuts and lemon tarts. The Gala Dinner on the Saturday night was a visual and gourmet delight, the table centrepieces incorporating elements of the festival that had all come together in such perfect harmony: sheet music, dried twigs and leaves from the vines, and bits of rock from different parts of the estate.
Throughout the weekend, the attention to detail was faultless, particularly for an inaugural event. Three levels of weekend pass were available, with varying degrees of luxury: the ‘Estate’, the ‘Reserve’ and the ‘Iconic’. The ‘Iconic’ Weekend Pass included accommodation, but for those who arranged their own, there was plenty to choose from in Heathcote and surrounds. A shuttle bus service was available to all concert-goers staying in Heathcote and as far away as Bendigo (a good half hour’s drive from the estate) which was a godsend for those who enjoy a drink(!)
Now is probably a good time to mention the wine. Many of the attendees were introduced for the first time to the delights of the Tempranillo grape, a user-friendly variety that can be drunk before, after and at all times in-between. The Rosé was Vulture’s drink of choice for much the same reason. The chardonnay, a particular favourite of festival co-director Chris Howlett, is light and crisp and was matched superbly to the salmon gravlax served at the Gala Dinner. The Sanguine Estate reds are fine examples of the types of shiraz and cabernet blends that are so suited to the Heathcote area, and every festival goer was given a bottle of the festival shiraz, signed by the performers, to take home as a memento.
The feeling throughout the weekend was of being amongst family and friends who all shared a love of good music, food and wine. Guests, hosts and performers mingled freely throughout the three days of the festival; “one big backstage pass” is how Howard Penney described his hopes for the festival, and this was exactly how it felt for the 120 audience members lucky enough to be a part of this very special event.
The dates for the 2013 Sanguine Estate Music Festival have already been set. March 8 to 10 2013 will see the coming together once more of friends, new and old, with a line up of the familiar and the surprising. Vulture’s advice is to book early; the word is out and those fortunate enough to have been a part of this year’s festival will want to return and bring their friends.
According to the Sanguine Estate publicity, ‘sanguine’ means glass half full. For the 2012 Sanguine Estate Music Festival-goers, the glass was more than half full: their cups really did runneth over.
For those of you keen to start planning for next year, we recommend the following sites to have a squiz at:
Sanguine Estate Winery and Vineyards:
77 Shurans La Heathcote VIC 3523
5 Mackenzie St
Bendigo VIC 3550
Heathcote Wine Tours
0408 843 214
Melbourne Piano Trio
143 Mollison Street