Hunter Valley, NSW - home of Australian wine

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

All in all, Christmas and New Year were an absolute success and so much fun.  The days after New Year were back to 'normality' and a chance to catch our breath and get some sleep (tough life eh?  I realise I am going to get zero sympathy).

On New Year's Day however we did meet up with our favourite New Zealanders, Miriam and Victoria and made the decision to head up to Hunter Valley, home of Australian wine, on the 5th January.  We had to do it quick as they were leaving Australia on the 9th to get home.  As it happened, this all worked in nicely with plans already made with Paul and Megan and the others to go up there for a weekend. 

Unfortunately Nicola again had to work so she stayed in Gerringong and looked after Sal and Mark's two dogs. Nice and early Sal and I set off on the four hour drive to Hunter Valley to meet up with everyone at the campsite we had booked. By sheer excellent planning (not on my behalf I might add), we all met up and hired bikes.  There was myself, Paul, Megan, Sal, Vito, Claire, Miriam, Victoria and Kerri (friend of Mo and Vic).  It was going to be a good weekend, again with a good bunch of people.  The bike hire man turned up with our bikes and off we set. 

Unfortunately the weather had been pretty rough on the way up and seemed to be settled in over Hunter Valley.  However, despite the grey skies you could really get an idea of just how beautiful this area is. Vito was designated as group leader and first stop was Kelham's winery.  This is a very small vineyard that is community owned.  All the people that own the vineyards live amongst the vines - part of their garden includes a few rows. Think of a kibbutz but on a much more wealthy and smaller scale.  Here we sampled a few whites, a few reds and a couple of roses.  They even made an absolutely delicious balsamic vinegar that we tasted.  A great start.

A couple more kilometres up the road and The Hanging Tree vineyard.  Here we met an interesting guy who was the on-site Horse Whisperer.  Random.  When we walked in he was stood in front of the biggest fan I have ever seen.  This thing was an industrial style cooler about 10 feet across by about 5 feet high.  I commented on his overkill of an air con setup and he then pointed out the table in front of him with candles on it.  As it gets so hot there, the candles just melted in their holder.  Frightening.  He mentioned it constantly gets to 45 degrees there.  I was very happy that it was raining.  Again, the wines here were delicious.

We continued on to a few more wineries and sampled various wines at each place.  We took in a couple more smaller vineyards and also visited the big ones, like Lindemans and Rosemount.  Now that I am an expert, I can honestly say that the wine from the smaller vineyards tastes a whole load better than the wine from the bigger companies.  But obviously I was only in a position to say that after glugging several samplers from all the wineries.

As we were cycling between the various places and only getting a few mouthfuls we all stayed pretty sober.  I think the real experts gargle and spit out the wine, but there was none of that from our lot.  We bought a couple of bottles along the way to have with dinner that evening.  Again, another great weekend soon came to an end, and I headed back down the coast to Berry.

And with that, it brings us right up to date.  It's now end of January and currently we are living in Sydney.  We moved up here one week ago and Nic is looking for work.  I know it seems like Nic is doing all the work and I am swanning around drinking wine and going biking.  Well there is a reason for that.  And that's because it is exactly how it is.  I wish I could work (yeh right) but I am deemed too old by the government - what a shame. 
There may not be any updates for a while until we get settled in a flat share and Nic has started working.  Once that happens we'll be heading off for the weekend up the coast and into the mountains.
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