Run by locals, the Lovedale Long Lunch is a Hunter Valley institution that continues to power on

When you think of iconic events in our region there’s a few that come to mind. Across Newcastle and the Hunter we’re spoiled when it comes to the yearly food, wine, and music line up.

One event that has stood the test of time, evolving and adapting even through the toughest of circumstances, is the Lovedale Long Lunch. Celebrating its 30th birthday in 2024, this year's event was another one for the books.

Launched in 1994, the concept was simple. Get a group together, organise your transport and spend the day exploring six boutique cellar doors in the Hunter Valley’s Lovedale area.

While the event has evolved throughout its 29 year history, its soul has remained, with the same six cellar doors – Allandale Winery, Emmas Cottage, Gartleman Wines, Saltire Estate, Sandalyn Estate, and Tatler Wines – participating each year and being the driving force behind this fabulous event.

Speaking with Carlie Keith of Emma’s Cottage, Carlie explained it’s a massive undertaking for each of the businesses to coordinate the event, but they wouldn’t do it any other way.

lovedale long lunch hunter valley nsw
Lovedale Long Lunch vineyard operators. L-R: Mercedes Mendoza, Kurt Nilon, Tanya Nicole, Carlie Keith, Riley Hodgetts and Matt Dillow.

“With us all being local business operators it really stretches us, but we’ve always felt strongly about the event staying local. From the music to food, and the services which help make the weekend run smoothly and safely, we don't want to outsource to organisations who don’t have a connection to the area.” 

Matt Dillow from Gartelman added: "There is a lot of time and effort put into organising this event behind the scenes, but the benefits are numerous, not just limited to the amazing weekend of fun, food, and wine, but since its inception in 1994, the event has helped to promote and raise the profile of Lovedale. People talk about Lovedale Long Lunch all year round, and it helps to keep Lovedale on everyone's minds.”

It’s a divide and conquer approach when it comes to the marketing, sales and public relations, ticketing, security, music, transport, and food as Mercedes Mendoza of Saltire Estate explains:

“I think our patrons would be surprised to learn that we coordinate this festival in between growing grapes and running our cellar doors. It's an enormous amount of work and we collaborate very closely to put on a great weekend.”
“It works because we are a genuine team, one that I'm very proud to be a part of.”

Equally important to the organisation of the Lovedale Long Lunch are the volunteers that each of the venues work closely with in the lead up and throughout the event. The NSW Rural Fire Service and local Rotary groups like Rotary Club of Singleton on Hunter are on hand across the weekend providing support in all shapes and forms.

Lovedale Long Lunch Hunter Valley
Trevor, Lorraine Nelson, and Candice Darr (Millfield Rural Fire Brigade) Andrew Levick: Rotary Club Singleton on Hunter and Meg Adam: (Estate Coordinator, Emmas Cottage)

Mercedes goes on to say: “I hope that our patrons come back each year not just because we offer a great event but also because they see the love and care that goes into Lovedale Long Lunch every year not just from the hosting venues, but the hundreds of people who contribute to the event.”

With 2022 being a very soggy one, and Covid cancelling 2020 and 2021, the event has had its challenges, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds coming and growing from the initial 500 attendees seen in 1994. 

So why did the Lovedale Long Lunch first start? Riley Hodgetts from Allandale Winery explains:

“Lovedale is a bit off the beaten track and is primarily made up of small businesses. The core idea of this event is to bring attention to our little area as a worthwhile sector of Wine Country for any traveler to include in their itinerary. The benefit is seeing that happen when attendees return to our cellar doors during the other 363 days of the year when the event isn’t on.”

As for why the Lovedale Long Lunch has developed its cult following, Kurt Nilon from Sandalyn Estate knows why.

“I feel it’s because the event showcases what the Hunter Valley, in particular, Lovedale, is all about! Great food, great wine! It highlights the fantastic restaurants producing delicious food paired with outstanding wine from the Lovedale region. Throw in some great tunes accompanied by the wonderful company and it’s a no-brainer!”

For more information and to keep up to date with Lovedale Long Lunch 2024 visit www.lovedalelonglunch.com.au