Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Weekend Escape, Hunter Valley Part I


Rolling meadows and undulating slopes, long dusty trails and an endless horizon of vineyards; the October labour day long weekend found us right in the middle of NSW wine country- the Hunter Valley. To call it picturesque would be stating the obvious, its charming rural chic and tranquil ambience lingers with you long after you leave the place.

We were in the Hunter Valley for G’s sister’s wedding at the Peppers Creek Vineyards in Pokolbin. And we couldn’t find a better excuse to make a quick getaway to the countryside but for a wedding. We arrived a day earlier just so we could visit some wineries and sample the best this region had to offer, and sample we did.



We left early Thursday morning in order to avoid the peak hour traffic and decided to take the scenic route, which fortuitously enough was empty. We passed though quaint little rural towns like Laguna and Yallambie and there were signs almost every 500 metres for locally grown produce, like strawberries and oranges and fresh eggs being sold at family farms. I was tempted to plead with G to stop at the strawberry farm, but because we had left so early, I doubt they would have been open.

We did make a short pit stop at the a large tourist map near Wollombi, just so we could check that we hadn’t completely driven off track and would end up taking the extremely scenic route. We figured out we were not far from Cessnock and just as we did, to my delight we were greeted by two very cute horses, who were very friendly this early in the morning. They started towards us and came right up to the edge of the fence, I was quite surprised at how forthcoming they were to strangers. And because the current horse flu epidemic only affects those of the equine variety, we were in no danger of catching anything and weren’t hesitant in giving them a right old pat.



There’s something festive and convivial about walking into a cellar door, perhaps it’s all of that alcohol being consumed at the premises and the hospitable way they readily pour you a glass of whatever you please no sooner than when you have made yourself comfortable at the bar. I love it. And have you noticed how everyone is so chatty at the cellar door bar? Everyone is loose, happy and boozed up and that's what makes it a great place to be at. I've never seen anyone leave a winery with a frown on their face, never.

But on the other hand, if you are more than eager to try to your hearts content a winery’s range of vintages, then you have to be just as willing to buy some of that which you have tried. It’s not obligatory, and no one’s there to twist your arm after the tastings, but I can’t help but feel that it’s somewhat expected.


Our first stop was the De Bortoli winery as it’s the first one before you make a left at Broke Rd, where most of the other vineyards are. After perusing the cellar door’s wine list we went home with some white and some red.

So these are some of the goodies that we came home with:
De Bortoli 2006 Syrah Roussanne
De Bortoli 2007 Semillon
Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon
Tempus Two 2007 Moscato
Roche 2007 Talawanta Rosé
Lindeman’s Pophrys
Seppelt Tokay DP37
Audey Wilkinson Liqueur Verdelho
Tulloch 2006 Verdelho
Tyrrell’s 2007 Traminer Reisling
Tyrrell’s 2007 Cabernet Merlot
Tyrrell’s Special Aged Tawny

We also bought up at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company and the various cheese shops around Pokolbin, although we either scoffed it all up or it melted beyond recognition in the car before I could take a photograph of them.


Of all the wineries we visited, I think Tyrrell's Vineyards (pictured above) were probably the most magnificent looking. Endless rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see, a myriad of green stems covering blocks and blocks of land. It's hemmed in by a small creek at the bottom and if you look further, you you will find that the property is set against a backdrop of these grandiose looking mountains. You couldn't ask for a better view. Unfortunately the day we visited Tyrrell's was so hot and windy, we took just a few snaps an hurried ourselves into the cellar door.

And, the best cellar door I have to say was the imposing sprawl of the Tempus Two winery. The cellar building looks almost like a shrine to wine, as you walk up the cathedral-like steps into the ultra-chic cellar bar that houses, all of the Tempus Two and Roche Wines and two restaurants. Wall to wall wines meet you as you enter the uber-stylish and spacious bar and if it weren't for the helpful staff, we wouldn't have known where to start.

Coming up next... Part II: The Wedding and Reception


Sylvia said...

I love vineyards and of course his wines.I went to Mendoza a couple of years ago and I enjoy a lot. By the way I appreciate a lot Australians wines specially Shiraz and chard like Penfolds Adelaide hills. Beautiful photos

Eva said...

Although I've been in Hunter Valley a couple of times now, I can't wait to go again... The atmosphere is just as you described with people being very welcoming and never pushing you into buying more than you had already planned. That said, I still have some bottles leftover from the last trip...;-)

Blue Zebra said...

OMG how exciting and incredibly beautiful an area! I am having a case of serious envy here! Hunter Valley sounds and looks gorgeous and what's not to love about Australian wines :D ;)!

I bet the wedding itself was mondo cool. But glad to have you back! BTW, I sent you an email so check your box! :D


Gloria said...

You are absolutely inspired I know!!! The pictures are wonderful and lovely, and the horse, so nice.Where I live were vineydars before, and close to here are so lovely vineyards, we have good wines too. Lovely pictures.xxxxxGloria

aria said...

such beautiful pictures. i lobve rusty old barn houses. looks like a lovely visit to the valley :)

chocolate girl said...

your blog has refreshed me this morning...thank you. i will be back for some more lovely vinyards :)

VeggieGirl said...

oh my goodness these photos are SPECTACULAR - I agree, Tyrrell's Vineyards definitely do look magnificent. I can't wait for part II :0)

by the way, I can't believe I missed your post on the strawberry creme brulee - looks fantastic!! I'm so glad that you feel inspired in the kitchen again!

Kate said...

I've never been to one yet , and these pictures give me all the more reason to visit some...!Lovely photographs :)

charis said...

thank you for sharing your getaway. i'm feeling soul vacationing as well :)

lindsey clare said...

ooh i love the hunter. i went for the first time earlier this year, and had a great time. did you get to visit any of the smaller wineries at all? there's some really gorgeous little places... if you're going up again sometime i'd recommend Tinkler's, Ernest Hill and Macquaridale as some of the loveliest.