Following the good advice of our host at 'Backpackers by the Beach', we splashed out ($55 each) on a one-day tour of the Hunter Valley Wine Region. With hindsight this was definitely a better option than trying to do it independently, especially in one day. We joined a tour on a Friday, the day before expected hordes of weekenders from Sydney. Having the luxury of being able to compare this experience to our honeymoon in the Champagne region, we lapped up numerous samples, and presumably a cover charge was included in our tour price. In one winery we supped 16 samples. In others we tried alcoholic fizzy strawberry juice, butterscotch schnapps, espresso liqueur and a fantastic chilli liqueur! I thinks it's fair to say the casual approach, generosity, and sense of humour from the Aussies wiped the floor of French pomp and ceremony. Admittedly, none of the Pinot Noirs matched Bouzy rouge, and the Sauvignon Blancs (with juice shipped in from the Melbourne area) were disappointing, but we had a great time!
Our tour guide took us around Kevin Sobels winery, Tamburlaine Organic Wines, Golden Grape Estate, Mount View Estate and First Creek. In between visits we stopped for lunch, cheese tasting, and chocolate tasting. Just outside the First Creek winery in late afternoon we caught our first sighting of Kangaroos, which are allowed to roam in the wild through the vineyards.
Each vineyard has carved their niche in the valley, with the highlights for me being the following:
- Kevin Sobels Winery
- "Sweet 'n' Luverly" (sweet and soft red wine) was very special
- Best Merlot of the day - easy drinking for all occasions
- Desert wine "sticky" was also special
- White Port was fantastic/absolutely brilliant
- Blend of Chardonnay and Semillon fortified with a brandy spirit - can be drunk with a squeeze of fresh lime
- Tamburlaine Organic Wines
- Best wine: Chardonnay desert wine (honey), muscat desert wine (sultanas) or framboise (liquid jam!)
- Rose called "Petite Fleur" was very nice
- Golden Grape Estate
- Strawberry juice with bubbles and 5% alcohol
- Sweetest Verdelho of the day
- Chilli Liqueur - very special
- Two tastings of the 25yo Liqueur Muscat
- 1st tasting OK/like sultanas/christmas cake
- HEATED GLASS used for 2nd tasting - Christmas cake on fire!
- First Creek
- Very hospitable host!
- Best 'late harvest' Shiraz of the day