FOODIES gathered at Joadja Distillery last Friday to celebrate the launch of the first Southern Highlands Food & Wine Cluster, a new initiative to promote the region's produce.
The idea behind the clusters is to gather food and wine producers into geographic groups, making it easier for tourists and locals to gain an overview of one area of the Highlands, and then come back to visit another cluster in the future.
It also encourages cooperation between the individual producers within the cluster.
Eventually the Highlands will be split into nine clusters, covering more than 100 artisan producers.
The Joadja cluster was the first to launch.
The Southern Highlands Food & Wine Cluster concept was started by The Loch's Brigid Kennedy, and is supported by the Moss Vale and Rural Chamber of Commerce and pioneer of food trails in the Highlands, Jill Dyson.
"This cluster features farmgates where you can meet growers, multi-award winning cellar doors, chefs specialising in the best regional produce and stays that offer an authentic taste of Highlands country living," Ms Kennedy said.
The producers within the Joadja cluster are the new Howards Lane cellar door, Artemis Wines, Cuttaway Creek Raspberry Farm, Bendooley Estate, The Loch, Tertini Wines, A Taste of Alpaca, Feast@McVitty, Your Farmer, Joadja Wines and Joadja Historic Town.
"There is a growing interest in eating local fresh food and this is a great way for visitors to the Southern Highlands to discover what we have to offer in each area - and we love it because it supports our local producers too," Ms Dyson said.
The other clusters to follow are Mittagong and northern villages, Bowral, Robertson, Fitzroy Falls, Moss Vale, Sutton Forest, Canyonleigh and Berrima.
The Joadja cluster map can be downloaded from southernhighlandsfood&wineclusters.com.au