From chocolate connoisseurs to rum distillers, truffle hunters to cattle farmers, passionate producers abound in New South Wales. Here’s how to connect with five of the finest.
There are foodie tours. Then there are these foodie tours, operated by people as passionate about their products as they are about the countryside they call home.
When a rum distiller swoons over a negroni or a Darkinjung Elder introduces you to a native plant you’ve never heard of (let alone tasted), you may discover you’re embarking on a life-changing culinary journey.
Pastoral and proud: Outback Lamb
Fiona and Bill Aveyard know a thing or two about life on the land. The couple grew up on farms in the Tullamore region of New South Wales, 450km west of Sydney. Before them, four generations of family members helmed properties here, raising herds of cows and sheep.
Their sixth generation of helpers are primed: their children, Lily (aka “the chef”), Archie (“the farmer”), Evie (“the boss”) and Jim (“the joker”). You’ll meet them all – along with the family’s beloved kelpies – on a tour of their expansive Westpoint property.
You’ll never appreciate your lunch more than after walking through the fields here, observing the love that Fiona and Bill (and their young entourage) invest in to caring for the planet and their animals.
That Willy Wonka moment: Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory
A string of licorice 612m long? A piece of rocky road measuring 62.2m? If these sound like something Willy Wonka created, you’re not far off the mark. In the state’s southern Riverina region, the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is a magical slice of confectionery heaven: a place where experiments include giant chocolate “pizza” wheels, and organic red licorice made from real raspberries – no artificial flavourings, at the enduring insistence of the Druce family owners.
They’re hands-on here, operating chocolate freckle-making sessions and guiding visitors around the factory, where workers wave as they make blocks laden with marshmallows, macadamias and honeycomb.
Just as dramatic is the 1934 flour mill the business calls home – an on-site stone mill still converts the family’s organic grains into bread and pizza bases for your refuelling at the restaurant.
For the love of rum: Husk Distillers
is a full family affair, from husband-and-wife founders – Paul Messenger and Mandaley Perkins – to their three daughters. Then there’s the “recycling team” (aka the doe-eyed cattle) and Matilda “Tilly” Messenger, the excitable vizsla pooch and designated morning tea supervisor.
Together, with a little help from some of the best distillers in the country, they make spirit-ual magic in the form of their Ink Gin and Husk Rum. Both are an expression of provenance and place. The rum sings of the farm’s setting in the Tweed on NSW’s North Coast – the salty sea air, the fertile volcanic soil, the crystal-clear water. The gin packs a punch with native ingredients like lemon myrtle and pepperberry.
Much of what comprises each sip is grown on the family’s cattle and cane farm in the foothills of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), which you’ll explore on a behind-the-scenes tour with daughter Grace (favourite cocktail: the gimlet). Immersive, insightful and individual, each experience reveals the intricacies of the distilling process, and how Paul and Mandy put a distinctive Aussie twist on their tasty creations.
Indigenous connection: Firescreek Winery
The Central Coast of NSW around Terrigal is Darkinjung land, a place as rich in Aboriginal history as it is in flora and fauna. You’ll discover all on an Aboriginal Storytelling and Wine Tasting Tour around the Firecreek Winery vineyard with a Darkinjung Elder, meeting the wildlife thriving on this lush property and sampling native produce and botanicals that grow here.
Many of these are infused into the distinctive wines that husband-and-wife team Nadia and Francis O’Connell create – chilli citrus and blackcurrant and coffee are just two of the flavour combinations.
A cleansing ceremony and digeridoo serenade offer an immediate, soul-stirring connection to the land; the subsequent tour, and plant and wine tasting through organic gardens, offer ample reasons to linger in this postcard-perfect patch of the state.
Meet a fun-guy: Robertson Truffles
Few dogs are as doted upon as Bella, a gorgeous Italian Lagotto Romagnolo living with her labrador siblings on a farm in the Southern Highlands. For three months a year (June through August) she has her nose to the ground on the hunt for Périgord truffles, but the rest of the year she and Robertson Truffles owners Samantha Appel and John Phizacklea simply enjoy their patch of paradise, a 2hr drive south of Sydney.
They moved here for a tree change after falling in love with the land – and have never looked back, nurturing a grove of oak and hazelnut trees and the highly prized black fungus that thrives in their roots over winter months.
The couples’ passion for the property (and for their pooches) is addictive. Sam and John get their hands dirty with you across their grounds, following Bella’s lead to dig up ‘black diamonds’, all the while revealing the intricacies involved in growing this aromatic delicacy. Thankfully, you have the chance to sample your harvest at the end of the tour – an indulgent, truffle-infused meal you won’t forget in a hurry.