Most musicians would baulk at the idea of running their own festival with its implied imperatives of food, wine and bottom line. Not so cellist Chris Howlett who, with Jodi Marsh of Sanguine Estate, had the crazy idea of puttin’ on a show at the Hunter family’s vineyard just outside Heathcote. That was in 2011. The first Sanguine Estate Music Festival was held in February 2012.

Morning tea at Sanguine Estate Music Festival. Photograph © Elizabeth Quinn

Eight years on, Howlett’s ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy has paid off, with a full house at this year’s festival, which ran from May 3 – 5. Even before the finale, farewell concert, all the tickets for next year’s event had been sold. Loyalty to brand Sanguine has earned regular festival-goers the first option to tickets and their own collective name. The Sanguinistas are a faithful bunch of well-informed music lovers whose willingness to explore uncharted musical territory broadens the programmatic options for festival directors Howlett and fellow cellist Howard Penny.

“The trust people have in Howard and I is something we never take for granted,” says Howlett. This year’s program included works by...