“You like wine? Then you have to go to Hunter Valley! You should book a tour.”
Since I landed in Sydney, a lot of people have been telling me where to go, and what I need to see while I’m down here. It’s proving almost impossible to do everything, as whenever I cross one thing off the list, two more go on. But wine? Wine I’ll always make time for. And so I followed the Groupon link sent to me, and booked my tour with Autopia.
Whenever I go to Stellenbosch, it’s a road trip. We pack padkos, good tunes and hit the road. Hunter Valley however, Australia’s oldest wine region, is over two hours’ (drive) away from Sydney.
We had been on the road for 2 minutes when a member of our group asked if we could stop for McDonalds, and I immediately felt a kinship. The drive itself was quite lovely, and we stopped at the Ozzy version of Wimpy, I guess, except that everything was organic. After a quick refuel, we headed back onto the road. Our tour guide, who had found out that I was South African, told me he’d seen photos of Stellies, and how beautiful it was, and promptly told me our experience would be nothing like that. Which was good to know, expectation-wise.
Our tour began with stops at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, and Binnorie Dairy, which included tastings of chocolates and then various cheeses – all some of my favourite things, and a welcomed start to the day. Thereafter, we began our first tasting of the day at the Hermitage Road Cellar Door and Winery, at the Hunter Valley Resort, which was definitely one of the more interesting tastings I’ve been to. Rather than being offered certain wines in an order, as the Cellar Door comprises of wines from 7 boutique wineries, we were given a list, and asked what we felt like tasting. Various wines were brought out and distributed amongst the group as people decided what they’d like next. It was casual and easy, and helped the group interact with one another more, and grease conversation. It was a good thing lunch followed.
Lunch was included in the tour, and I had a salmon salad at the Matilda Bay Restaurant. I don’t know why I chose it. I like salmon in theory, but it’s always very touch and go for me, but I’m glad I did – this salad was unbelievably good – a big portion filled with fresh ingredients, and was accompanied by bruschetta and salsa for the table.
After lunch we were given the opportunity to wander around the resort, and do a beer-tasting, if we cared to – As we still had 2 more wine tastings in store, I chose to pass. This was also where I understood our tour guide’s ‘warning’ to me – the area is certainly not as scenic as I’m used to. No mountains, very farmland-like, but it had it’s own charm, just not enough to photograph. Google tells me there are very picturesque wineries in the area, none of which I saw apparently.
Wined and dined, we travelled on to be wined some more. Our next stop was Mount Pleasant, winner of the James Halliday 2017 Winery of the Year. I don’t know James Halliday, but apparently he’s a big deal in the wine business, and the man clearly knows what he’s talking about – all the wines we tried were amazing, but sadly, grossly out of my budget. This tasting was more traditional, we started with the whites, then reds, then dessert wine, and if I could, I would have bought them all. Side note: Australians are mostly known for their shiraz. Possibly because it’s all they have? The red tasting was literally 2 shiraz’s, which were good, but, I mean, really?
By this point most of the group were starting to feel the wine kick in, except, of course, the Australians and South Africans. What a cliche. Nevertheless, we made our way to our final stop for the day – Allandale Winery. This one was probably my favourite because it was small, and felt more intimate. We sat outside as we drank, with the winery dog next to us. Plus I could actually afford the wine I enjoyed the most, which I still need to figure out how I’m packing to take home.
By this point, some of our group had actually fallen asleep on the table, and had been refused service, so with that, we bundled up in the bus and made our way home. All-in-all, a great way to spend a Saturday.
Got any Ozzy wine or food recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments below!