None of my friends would be surprised to know that I love a good glass (or hey let’s be honest – bottle) of wine. I’m no expert mind you, but there is no better way to educate your palate than to spend some time in a wine region, such as the Hunter Valley, sampling the local products. Just like a beginner learning to ski, it takes a few days and a few lessons to get into the groove of things. Before you know it you’ll be identifying the pepper/berry/vanilla accents of your favourite drop!
My sister and I flew into Newcastle airport at Williamstown very early in the morning and hired a car to make the hour trip to the Hunter Valley. Our first stop was the Vintage Hunter Wine & Visitors Centre to get a visitor’s guide and map to devise our plan of attack for the three days. We decided not to join any organised day tours and instead planned our own adventure.
Having done this a few times before at different wine regions, I highly recommend checking out a couple of winery tours. If possible I like to try a bigger more commercial facility and a smaller boutique operation to compare their set ups and gain the most information. Tours help you to find out a bit about the history of a region, growing conditions and which grapes do best. Each winery tour I go on seems to add something unique to my knowledge base and some will offer tasting ‘classes’ to help you know what you’re talking about.
Each day we started with a winery tour then stopped for lunch before dumping the car and hitting a few more wineries. We stayed at DenMar Estate on Hermitage Road, so on Day 1 we took advantage of the onsite cafe and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch with a bottle on Semillon that had been included as part of our accommodation package.
After driving to our winery tour (Tyrell’s) on Day 2 we then decided to see how many wineries we could squeeze into an afternoon, by walking along Hermitage Road from the Blue Tongue Brewery (where we did shots of beer, just to mix things up a bit), back to our accommodation. The end result was five wineries, one cheese shop and a brewery in a 5km walk. At least we walked off some of those calories we consumed!
On our last day we checked out the Hunter Valley Gardens village and shops, enjoying the delights of the old fashioned sweet shop, before joining one last winery tour (McWilliams). After a late check out we lunched at the newly opened Twine Restaurant, where we particularly enjoyed the tapas tasting plate for our entree. With a late flight home we had certainly made the most of our weekend away.