Sampling Summer in the Hunter Valley
Summer is coming.
Translation: I’m excited. There are all sorts of activities that are better in summer than they are in winter, except maybe snowboarding but I’d say summer still has the overall edge.
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the warm weather by taking a wine tour of the Hunter Valley. The last time I visited the Hunter was for the marathon. This time was considerably more fun, if not a smidge less of a personal victory.
I took all sorts of notes and had delusions of grandeur about pitching the wine tour story to a non-blog publication, but let’s be real – I don’t know what there is to say about wine that hasn’t already been said.
You guys probably don’t care if the Chambourcin was a reddy-pinky color and tasted like grape peels (direct quote from said ‘detailed’ notes). If you do, shoot me an email and we can talk.
The bottom line was that it was a good day. A little messy, but good. And we kept it classy by drinking wine out of glasses and not boxes so it wasn’t *quite* as reckless as my early days in Australia, even if that’s what it reminded me of.
First, some potentially interesting facts gleaned from my journalistic notes:
- You should decant wine 1-2 hours before you drink it. I am not sure if this applies to both red and white. I also know that I will never do this nor will I notice the difference in taste.
- Old port warms you from the inside out. Young port burns. Both taste like liquid raisins.
- Merlot is the most expensive grape in the world due to its proportionately low yield.
- The secret for pairing wine with food: Anything that chases you goes with red. Anything you chase goes with white.
Whew. Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, let’s have some visuals.
We started here, at one of the oldest wineries in the Hunter.
Okay, I made that up. I have no idea how old the winery is, but it did recently win the world’s best white with its 2005 Bin 9000 Semillon. At $65 a bottle, this wasn’t opened for our tasting group, despite our clear demonstration of wine knowledge through phrases such as “This one’s got some legs” and “I guess I’d have to decant my wine before I left for work in the morning so it’d be ready when I got home.”
As we waited for our first tasting to start at McGuigan’s, our guide asked us if we wanted to visit the vodka distillery.
That’s how we ended up taking test tube shots of flavored vodka at ten a.m.
We also got a tour of the facility and learned lots of stuff about vodka, but I forgot to take my notebook out of my bag that time. So here are some more photos.
Bluetongue Brewery Café
After the vodka distillery, we charged further away off the wine path by hitting a brewery for lunch. Almost everyone ordered a sampler paddle of the beers, so the table got crowded real quick. I removed mine from the paddle and promptly forgot which was which because three of them are remarkably similar in color. The Hermitage Road Wine Tasting Cellar is adjacent to the restaurant, but it’s more of a shop with tastings than an actual winery.
This was my favorite winery. Probably because it was getting towards the end of the day and I pretty much loved everything about the world and the people in it by this point. Unfortunately, my notes are of little help, with scribbled phrases such as Portuguese variety, zesty passionfruit, and faked them out.
I don’t know. But it was a smaller winery and the Irish guy running the tasting was nice. Also generous, as we sampled no less than ten wines at this stop.
Smelly Cheese Complex
The final stop on our tour before the 45-minute return to Newcastle was at what I call the Smelly Cheese Complex. There are a number of shops and wineries to choose from, including the Smelly Cheese Shop. It was crawling with cheese aficionados, so I bought an ice cream cone and went straight back outside. It was the right decision.
By then, a chill had returned to the air, reminding me that it’s not quite summer yet. We hustled into the van and busied ourselves with talking in outside voices the whole way back to Newcastle.
All in all, low on journalistic integrity but pretty high on fun.