30th Sep 2011 - 3rd Oct 2011
Hunter Valley 2011
After the relative success of our wine tasting tour in the Margaret River two years ago, Peter suggested spending the October long weekend in the Hunter Valley sipping shiraz and chardonnay. The weather was unseasonably cold, so the first task on arriving at the rather lovely Silky Oak Cottage was to light the fire. Peter and Denise arrived just in time to throw some kebabs on the BBQ, as we pulled the girls away from the piano and put them to bed. The next morning over breakfast Peter set about planning our wine tasting tour. His priority was to visit all the five star rated vineyards. My priority was to visit wineries with playgrounds. According to the free map, Saddler's Creek Wines was the only place where we would both be happy. Once we arrived it didn't take long to establish there was no playground. There was however a box with balls by the door so I took the girls outside on a patch of lawn and tried to keep them from running into the car park. Denise isn't much of a wine drinker, preferring vodka mostly, but Peter encouraged her to taste at least some of the whites and the dessert wines were a real hit. Saddler's Creek was a bit too busy so we soon moved on to Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard. This was more of a success. No kiddy entertainment at all but the girls kept themselves amused chasing each other around the huge tasting room and outside on the windswept deck. Lunch was at the packed Hartigan's pub, then we headed to Pepper Tree Estate. After picking up cheese and nibbles for dinner we headed back to the house to catch the NRL grand final, followed by the England v Scotland Rugby World Cup match, followed by the rerun of the AFL grand final. Lots of sport, cheese and red wine in front of a roaring fire. Fantastic.
Sunday arrived with heavy rain so after a slow start we headed out through the flooded roads to one of our favourite Hunter Valley wineries, Honeytree. We were delighted to see the winemaker, Henk in his usual spot behind the counter, and today he even looked relatively sober. With Zoe asleep in the car and Emily dressed in her raincoat splashing in puddles outside we were free to enjoy the tasting. Next was McLeish Estate. We were a bit complacent after the success of Honeytree and settled in to taste every one of their extensive tasting list. It took all of five minutes before Emily was climbing all over the furniture. There were tables laid out for a big group tasting with pencils, paper and crackers. It was all too tempting for Emily, looking all the world like the drawing tables at daycare. Time to go. We'd left it a bit too late to get lunch at a cafe so ended up with toasted sandwiches from the general store. George took the girls back to the house while I stopped at Mistletoe Wines with Peter and Denise. We'd just started tasting the whites when I realised the key to the house was in my pocket. We rushed back, and George immediately disappeared off with Peter and Denise to Piggs Peake wines to wear a hat made out of a fox. That night George cooked a spaghetti bolognaise but the lid fell off the salt shaker, emptying a bucket load of salt crystals into the sauce. Disaster. Fortunately there was heaps of cheese and cold meats left over. We filled the evening playing a sadly amusing Australian board came called 'Imaginiff' (imaginiff Peter was a body part? Or imaginiff Denise was a vehicle?) while finishing up a bottle of Baileys. A great weekend despite the weather, and as we are working our way though the wine rack rather quickly we will have to return again soon!