Whether with food, on its own, over a conversation with friends or a loved one or just to unwind after a long day; a good glass of wine, in a real wine glass, can be a treasure to behold and taste.
Travelling in Asia I found that finding a good glass of wine was something of a complicated task. I tried once and from then on decided to stick to beer or cocktails. I was on Lembongan Island, off of Bali and had an amazing thought that a glass of wine while walking down the beach would be the perfect treat after a hard day of biking around the little island. In theory yes, in reality the wine, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired. So by the time I got to Australia, had experienced Goon (cheap boxed wine…) and saw the opportunity to explore the Hunter Valley which is known for its wine I couldn’t resist.
I choose Kangarrific’s Hunter Valley Wine Tour. A full day wine tour exploring the region with three wine stops, a cheese, chocolate tasting and a visit to a wildlife reserve where I got to see my first Kangaroo and Koala and a beer tasting at the end if we were interested.
We hit the road at 7:30am as it is a solid two hour drive to the valley and our first stop was the nature reserve. The kangaroos hung out under some trees checking us out as much as we were checking them out. If you have ever seen the movie “The Gaurdians”, well the Easter Bunny whose voice is Hugh Jackman is pretty much a Kangaroo. I felt like I was looking at multiple Easter Bunnies who at any moment would say “G’day” with a strong outback male Aussie accent. They looked so chilled, lying on their sides as if at the beach or standing with their paws lying on their stomach regarding us with curiosity. One little one, had been hand reared by humans and thought itself to be one of us so she expected lots of attention but had a bit of a hard time integrating with the others, especially at breakfast time. They were fed in a clearing so we could watch. The best part of this was seeing 20 kangaroos hop past you at speed to make breakfast. Despite that I know they hop on their feet, some part of my brain believes that they should use their tales like Tigger. I also got to pet one of their resident koalas. One was sleeping and one was dozy and eating. They spend something like xox hours a day sleeping and feel like squishy teddy bears and look like one as well. Adorable!
The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company was our first culinary stop. I was a bit disappointed as they didn’t explain the process of how they make their chocolates but only a little as were given a delicious sample of all their varieties and then I had a look at their fudge! I decided on a salted caramel peanut fudge. Oh wow was it scrumptious! Sweet and savoury in a perfect ratio! Vanilla fudge with a rich swirl of salted caramel topped with salted peanuts. I almost didn’t need the wine. Almost.
Our first winery was Lambloch Winery. We were sat on the back verandah which over looked their vineyard complete with a beautiful old oak tree. It was all very picturesque especially as we sat and tasted their selection of wines from Dry to Semi-Sweet. In all the wine tastings I have ever been too they normally start with white and move to red but these guys mixed it together and while I was skeptical (as if I know enough of wines to be skeptical) it worked. It was a good start to the day! If I remember correctly the ownership of the winery was changing hands very soon after we had left so there was going to be a change over of wines but I think more just the names then the wines themselves.
By this time, somehow it was already time to turn our attention to our stomachs and head to Tempus Two where we would have our cheese tasting at the Smelly Cheese Shop, which specialises in soft cheese – pesto feta, sundried tomato and garlic feta, labna were three of the ones we tried. Do another wine tasting at the winery and buy our lunch. There were several food options available but I went with the burger option at Tuk Tuk Hunter Valley. A recent addition at the Tempus Two site. Our guide vouched for the burgers and they were worth vouching for! Delicious and meaty. After we had our fill we rolled into the Cellar Door of Tempus Two. Our server was helpful, explaining the wines and being more generous in his portions than our previous stop. The thing I remember most from this stop was the packaging. They had some beautiful wine bottles. In particular their Pewter Series complete with pewter labels.
Into the happy zone, we went to our last wine tasting of the tour and my personal favourite. Ernest Hill Wines. A family run estate where all the wines are named after dead relatives. Our wine guide was a cheerful talkative older man and we sat out on their verandah chatting away as if old friends letting us try a few of their special wines on top of the regulars, which worked out well as more than half of our group walked away with one of the wines. Their dessert wines were gorgeous but I bought a bottle of their “Crackin’ Rose instead as I thought I would have more opportunity to drink a rosé instead of dessert wine. Equally yummy, it is made from Shriaz Grapes and is a lovely summery wine. It was such a treat and change from my current drink of choice in Australia- Goon.
We had mixed wine, cheese, chocolate and burgers over the course of the day so might as well add a bit of beer to the mix! Our final stop was on our own expense but we got a discount rate as we were on tour and it was a good stop. The Hunter Beer Company is a micro brewery based in Hunter Valley which was started in 2003 and is one of the smallest breweries in Australia. Bar Captian, Jack, informed us about the beers on tap such as No Pants IPA. Aptly named as that is how you’ll end if you drink a lot of it, we were told. It was on the stronger end of things, and was one of the many beers they brew in house. I tried the Blueberry IPA and the Ginger Larger. Both were delicious but the blueberry was my favourite, it even was slightly purple in colour.
Unfortunately our day ended then and we had to head back to Sydney. Each of us remarking how it was a shame we couldn’t stay longer at our last destination as it was such a good way to end the day and we were all feeling more sociable by this point. Two hours later, after a small doze in the back of the van, we arrived in Sydney and were taken as close as possible to our doorsteps. Saying my thank you’s and goodbyes I headed back to the Blue Parrot, joining everyone out in the garden to have a glass of my treat, sharing my enthusiasm for the wine and kangaroos.