Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter in the Hunter Valley

A few times a year I venture an hour and a half north of Sydney with a group of close friends to taste a few local wines.

We were luck enough to have private accommodation this time around which was free and the money we saved on lodging we very easily spent on purchasing wine.

After arranging a small bus to take the 6 of us around for 4 hours I have decided this is a reasonably cheap way to get around. Even on a long weekend it was only $350 for a bus that could easily hold a dozen people. We used Newcastle Limos.

Whilst I don't proclaim to be a wine connoisseur or expert, I do enjoy drinking white, red and sweet wine.

This is how our afternoon played out.Ω

As we've visited alot of the mainstream wineries in the area we wanted to try some new ones. Although the smaller boutique cellar door we always stop in at, Ballabourneen Wines was first on the list.


Their catch cry, "great mates making great wines" is perfect fir for the personality of this family run winery. The wine here is always very good but the beautiful people who lovingly take you through the list are genuinely in love of their craft.

You can sit out on the deck overlooking the vines and the property whilst the cute resident dog, Matilda, hops around on 3 legs greeting people as they arrive.

The standout wine we tried was the 2010 Alexander the Great Shiraz. Also the most expensive on the list at $50. Definitely worth visiting for the hospitality coupled with great wine.

The next stop was Gundog Estate.


This was once again somewhere we hadn't visited before. And also another situation where the enthusiasm for their love of wine complemented the great product.

We were seated at a table and went down the list. Whilst the ladys name escapes me, I think she was the only female working at the time. She was so excited to tell us about each wine and what she would or has eaten with it. This was really good fun as we don't take wine as serious as some.

The Muscat was delicious and we were given some chocolate to show us the difference in flavour when matching other types of food with different styles of wine. Obscure but it was an interesting experience.


We chose this venue for a few reasons, firstly this was a dirt road up until only a few years ago so you wouldn't normally go down this way in a hired bus. Also they recently won a bunch of awards including international accolades for their semillon. The cellar door is full of cool sporting memorabilia and trophies from their decorated wines.

This is a great opportunity to try hunter semillon from various years (I think we tried about 6) which gives you a good understanding of how this variant wine changes over time. They served us up some crackers for the white and Easter eggs for the red. The family has been on this property since the early 80's so they share some nice stories with you.


What a sensational view. This place is one of the really nice places to sit out on the deck and drink wine. The quite modern and minimal cellar door was nice and they some nice wines although I did think some of the shiraz was quite expensive. The 2009 Loch was $125 a bottle and not for tasting but we managed to sneak a taste which was very nice of them. It was a nice wine and would be fantastic to drink in a few years but a lot of money for 1 bottle. Perhaps some people have more money than me?

We had to pay $5 for a taste of the 2010 "The Loch" which was understandable as they only make a small run and the wine was $76 a bottle. They gave you a decent 50ml and a larger red glass to taste. This is worth the stop to take in the view but the wine although nice I think it is a bit expensive.


This winery was so quiet. We didn't wait once to get a tasting in at any of the venues we visited all day. It was only a short drive from the main road. They seem to be a bit more experimental so the wines were different but still top notch. You will understand when you try them.

The staff couldn't wait to tell us about the bus that is about to tour around the country serving up the wine in a pop up bar called Next Generation Hunter Valley "One More For The Road" Tour. A nice touch and something different to give this winery a nice point of difference. We'll probably check this out when it comes to town.


Since our last visit they have renovated this cellar door and it's pretty impressive. It looks great, but.. There is a cover charge of sorts. It now costs $5 per person for wine tasting. I can understand why they do this. Throughout the day we've heard horror stories of football trips, hens nights and big groups taking advantage of the tasting ritual. The $5 is refundable but we are with a member so it is waived for the 6 of us.

Will this roll out to other cellar doors in the future?

The Kester Shiraz is the flagship here and is fantastic. We've got some early 00's stashed away which hopefully will be a good drop soon. I will let you know.


Last stop was Bluetounge for a case of beer to get us ready for dinner and more wine. They have stopped bottling their ginger beer which was one of the reasons we detoured here. A bit disappointing as I always liked the ginger beer. They apparently ship it out in kegs only now. The beer garden was very full and everyone was having a great day drinking beer in the sun. I think we'll make a point of stopping here for lunch next time.

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