The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Wine Tasting in the Hunter Valley

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on March 12, 2010

After an enjoyable overnight in the Australian Blue Mountains, the Husband and I headed back to Sydney to pick up his brother Jeff.  We had hotel reservations in Hunter Valley, approximately 2 1/2 hours north of Sydney, and once we confirmed that our room would accommodate three (King bed and pull out sleeper sofa), we were on our way!

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Jeff drove, making a bit easier for the Husband who hasn’t completely adjusted to left side driving yet 🙂

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First up, we checked into our hotel at the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens.  After our stay in the Blue Mountains, we weren’t sure what to expect and we were amazed when we walked into our room.

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It was huge! And beautiful and just perfect for wine country… large comfy bed, good size pull out couch which they specifically made up in anticipation for our arrival.IMG_3653

The entry way was welcoming and we found wine glasses and a mini bar, with room for us to place our own bottles and cheese for later.

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The bathroom was spacious and modern.  The shower had the overhead shower head that feels like rain 🙂

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We had our own private patio…

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Plus a field to look out on that we shared with our neighbors.

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It was all just beautiful.  We quickly got settled and headed out to the wineries as they close at 5pm (which we didn’t know!) and it was just around 4pm.

We decided to stop at Peppers Creek first. Unfortunately, the Cellar Door Tastings and Sale Room was not easily findable, so we headed out quickly to try to get at least one or two in!

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Tyrrell’s Wines was a success! As soon as we pulled up, their easy to follow sign directed us to the tasting room.

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The man providing the tastings was super friendly (as we’re finding all Australians to be) and informative.  He taught us about the differences in the wines we were drinking (I really need to take a class or two!) and tested us to see if we could tell the differences.  I tasted two of their Chardonnays and learned the difference between those in oak barrels and those in stainless steel barrels (I preferred the stainless steel).

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We tried a handful of whites before moving on to reds, the Husband’s favorite. IMG_3689

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Jeff bought a bottle or two, I believe one of which was a Verdehlo, which I’d never had before, and we were on our way.

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Next up, we tried Tempus Two, a very modern looking winery.

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Here, I learned of the Grenache grape, a red grape, which was divine.  A bit sweeter than a lot of reds, but not tart.  We picked up a bottle or two here as well.

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With a little bit of time to spare, we tried to check out one more winery but made it too late.  An employee at the winery we were turned away from, however, suggested that there would be tastings until 6pm at the Hunter Valley Gardens, within walking distance of where we were staying.

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We sampled a few and I bought a bottle of Chocolate Port.  So good! Unfortunately, due to how heavy our luggage is, I’m not sure it’ll be coming home with us, but I’ll be on the lookout back in the states.

With most restaurants not open until 6:30 or 7pm, we decided to open up a bottle or two in our room and enjoy a cheese platter we picked up at a store at the Tempus Two winery.  Our cheese platter included a triple cream brie, a cheddar, a camembert, and more then enough crackers.  Both, the triple cream brie and the cheddar, were amazing!  Very flavorful and the triple cream brie was exactly as described – creamy! IMG_3734 IMG_3743 IMG_3747 IMG_3749 IMG_3755

Both the Verdehlo (picked up at the last place) and the Grenache Shiraz went very well with our cheese platter.

The next morning, the three of us enjoyed an Australian full breakfast at the hotel before heading out for the day.  First, we headed over to the Hunter Valley Gardens, adjacent to our resort.  It had a little shopping district with cute stores such as the British Lolly Shop.

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There were gardens to explore, but since they cost a bit of money, we enjoyed the scenery we could find ourselves.  Including lots of large spiders!

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And of course flowers… IMG_3802

We planned to visit one or two wineries before taking a more scenic route through Hunter Valley back to Sydney.  Jeff is a member of a wine club, so we decided to head to that winery first.  After driving in circles for an hour or so 🙂 we finally found (it was only about 5 minutes from the hotel!).  At least we saw a horse and carriage during the roundabout drive. IMG_3813

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Finally, we were there! The Vinden Estate Winery and Vinyard.

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This place was amazing and exactly what we were looking for.  Not having visited wine country before (besides two wineries and vineyards about an hour outside of Charlotte), we’ve always imagined but never experienced was the winery experience could be like.

This winery had a beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards.  The weather was absolutely perfect that day, as well, which made it all that more grand 🙂 IMG_3854

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Jane, the lovely lady who ran things, sat with us at our table and took us through our various tastings.  The wine that was most memorable was their Alicante Buschet (sp?).  It’s apparently a wine made in only a handful of wineries worldwide.  I believe it’s like a Rose, but instead of being a red grape with a white inside, it’s red both inside and out.  It has a very sweet nose, but surprises you with a much drier taste (but not too dry!).  I actually wasn’t impressed with the tasting, but Jeff bought a bottle for us to enjoy on the patio and I came to really enjoy it.

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Jane was an absolute sweetheart and really helped make our experience as wonderful as it was there.  If any of you ever find yourself in Hunter Valley, we highly recommend you visit  the Vinden Estate.IMG_3889

After enjoying a few hours at Vinden Estate, I made the executive decision to not visit any more wineries and be on our way.   About halfway through our drive, Jeff wanted to take us to a small town bar and restaurant for lunch.  It was quite a sight to see!IMG_3911

On one side of the building was the bar where Jeff grabbed us each a beer. IMG_3913

On the other side was where we could order food to be taken out to the patio to be enjoyed with our beers. IMG_3914

This pub is famous for their Jungle Juice, what the Husband and I found to be very, very sweet wine (free tastings!).  So sweet, that we didn’t finish our small tasting. IMG_3915

We found a  spot on the deck and continued to enjoy the beautiful weather.

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Our food was ready not too much longer and we were impressed with how much there was! At the bottom left, I ordered the Spinach and Ricotta Burger.  I imagine many of you assume what I did – that it was a burger with spinach and ricotta on top.  However, it was a spinach and ricotta patty with lettuce, tomato, and beetroot.  Very tasty!  To the bottom right is the Husband’s Cheese and Tomato Toasted Sandwich, known better to us Americans as a grilled cheese and tomato 🙂 Top center are (potato) wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce to the right (quite common and delish we’re finding).  Last but not least, to the top left is the Pluto Pup, which we found to be a corn dog.

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All in all, a very filling meal 🙂 After lunch, we headed back out onto the gravel one lane road through the countryside.  It turned out to be about 4 hours driving back (compared to our 2 1/2 driving up), but it was quite worth it.  The scenery was beautiful – the Husband took tons of photos.  Here are just a few to share with you for now…

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IMG_3982 One more day in Sydney, before we head up north to Brisbane via an overnight train 🙂 See you soon!

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