The timing could not have been better for the Young district than a visit from Ed Halmagyi of Channel 7’s Better Homes and Gardens, whose food segment on the district aired nationwide on Good Friday night.
If you didn’t live there you’d immediately want to be there as this showcase of some of the Hilltops’ finest produce was filmed, post rain, showing Ed and his team traversing a tranquil green-tinted countryside taking in orchards, farms, markets and very happy looking livestock.
There was the Young and Region Farmers Markets, Gary Steenburgen’s family butchery and stunning “Clifton” homestead where Fast Ed produced some Hilltops Honey and Yandilla Mustard Oil to produce barbequed lamb racks.
According to Ed, Young is a tasty town and the jewel of the NSW Tablelands.
Post broadcast, throughout Easter, there were social media slaps on the back, recipes shared and parcels tossed in car boots as online orders came in thick and fast.
The show was the plum in the pudding for the region’s popular fruit and wine producing couple – Pete and Cath Mullany of Ballinaclash – who in a year of massive blows, now have two reasons to smile a bit more than they usually do.
As Fast Ed turned out a delicious French Prune Custard Cake atop a table at the couple’s roadside cellar door business, the tastebuds of a nation collectively swooned.
But not just any cellar door. Ballinaclash have also, this month, been named a Star Cellar Door on Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s list of Australia’s Best Cellar Door Awards.
Celebrated wine writer Peter Bourne was quick to lavish praise on the Mullany enterprise which year-round delivers wines, preserves, sauces, jams amid their fruit growing enterprise that includes grapes, cherries and stone fruit, a pick-your-own orchard, farmgate shop, alongside the award-winning vineyard and cellar door
Cath Mullany told About Regional this week, the award was the realisation of a long-held objective of the family to offer a good cellar door.
“It was a lovely award to get but actually the whole area did really well – Grove Estate, Freemans and the Young Tourist Centre all got awards,” she said, “and it was with Tumbarumba as well – who have been through tough times with the fires – we’re in good company”.
Ballinaclash indeed tops the 2020 Young/Tumbarumba wineries in the annual listing compiled by Australia’s best wine writers, with Grove Estate awarded the Best Large Cellar Door Award, Young and Hilltops Region Wine Cellar the Best Small Cellar Door and Additional Cellar Door Experience and Freeman Vineyards the Best Tasting Experience.
In Tumbarumba, Courabyra Wines was awarded Cellar Door with Best Food and Johansen Wines Cellar Door with Best Accommodation.
Paradoxically, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those cellar doors temporarily remain closed to the public.
“It’s a bit ironic because we have Fast Ed and Gourmet Traveller Wine telling all of Australia to come visit us when we can’t be open,” Cath said.
But she said it’s a good time for her, Peter and son Ned to think about how they can further diversify their 55-year-old third-generation family enterprise.
“We were originally just cherry growers – that was very stressful – not that now it isn’t,” she said laughing, “we’re just putting all our stresses in lots of different baskets”.
The year-round business now boasts a commercial kitchen at their shed allowing the Mullanys to increase the range of Ballinaclash products made from their own fruit, including jams, sauces, homemade cherry pies and a mouth-watering range of that very underestimated dehydrated fruit, prunes.
“We’re passionate about this area producing fantastic food and wine and want to promote that and build a business as much for our area as for our family,” she said, “and we can see a future in it only by diversification”.
And they have location on their side, with the orchards and produce-lined farm shop sitting on the Olympic Highway just south of Young.
“Hopefully once people feel confident about moving around again we can leverage off all this good publicity,” she said.
“You can never rest on your laurels,” she said, “it’s a wonderful accolade but we’ll still be working as hard as we ever had.”
See also Genevieve Jacobs’ story on Ballinaclash: https://aboutregional.com.au/cherry-harvest-is-a-sweet-one-on-the-south-west-slopes/