Another Wine Region you say? Hunter Valley!

Wednesday 15th March – Pokolbin

Another day of torrential rain so we decided to cut our losses and head towards the coast and the Hunter Valley wine region.  If we were going to drown, better in wine than a waterfall…

We were staying in the H Boutique just outside the small village of Pokolbin, which is a completely off the grid eco-hotel, all solar panels, rain water collection and open vineyards.  Our room had a lounge (thrills!) with patio doors that opened onto a huge lawn – home to pottering kangaroos, that i could happily watch for hours.  We’d booked a wine tour for the next day but as there were several vineyards on our doorstep we thought it would be best to start straight away on the wine tasting to try to get through a bigger number of the cellar doors on offer (170 plus)… we’re nice like that!

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First choice was Cockfighers Ghost, mainly because of it’s name – which apparently is from a brave horse, called Cockfighter, that died in flood water saving it’s rider (flooding is a theme at the moment).  When the vineyard was being built there were sightings of a ghostly horse apparition… hence the name.

We were met by Wayne (it’s a name we’ve definitely seen more of in Oz), who took us through the huge tasting list of local delights including a semillon, pinot gris and verdelho on the whites, and a range of Shiraz, cab sauvignon and merlot cab on the reds.  We finished with their Reserve Liqueur Semillon which was really good and strangely a bottle came with us..

Wayne had mentioned that Petersons on the brilliantly named ‘Broke Road’ was open later than most cellar doors and as it was on the way home… well, rude not to.  So we dropped in for a tasting there with Jacqui, who took us through the vineyards collection of Semillon, Chardonnay and a Viognier/Marsanne.  Then onto the reds for their line up of Shiraz and Cab Sauvignon, a Shiraz snuck into our luggage and we were really tempted by a Reserve Muscat in an amazing bottle but decided there was no way we would get it all the way through the rest of Australia, never mind Japan, and home.

Having started so well on day 1, day 2 was looking exceptionally promising as we had booked a day with a company called Two Fat Blokes and their Hunter Gatherer Tour which offered a heady collection of wine tasting mixed in with wine pairing with both cheese and chocolate… err… yum!!!  We were met at the hotel by Bryan our host for the tour, picked up the other 7 guests from around the village and then headed out to our first tasting of the day (nothing like wine for breakfast!).

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First stop was the Mistletoe Winery, which is a cellar door with lots of amazing sculptures dotted around the garden – someone in the family loves their interesting art. We were lucky enough to be taken through the tasting by Cassandra the daughter of the founders and she really brought the whole experience to life describing how the vineyards were planted, how 3 generations of the family are involved and how proud she is of her daughters who help out, one of whom is training to become a wine maker.  The tasting took us through their whites – a semillon, verdelho, and a Chardonnay, before moving through 2 rose and on to Shiraz, and a Cabernet Merlot.  An interesting one was a Shiraz with a 3% addition of Viognier, and a sparkling mozcato which is was way too drinkable but thankfully only 5.4%.

Next stop was the cheese and wine pairing at the Fat Blokes own venue – all paired with wine from the De Iuliis winery.  It was insanely good… and could have bought my own body weight in the Labna from the Binnorie Dairy – a soft white cheese soaked in lemon and oil… seriously yum and paired with a sparkling Chardonnay, followed by a goats feta in peppercorn and thyme served with a semillon.  Next up was a selection from the Hunter Belle Dairy – a gorgeous Brie served with a Chardonnay, a caramelised onion and thyme cheddar served with an aged semillon, and a straight cheddar served with a Merlot. Ah it’s a rough life i know!

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We then tried an aged cheddar with a Shiraz, a Manchego sheep cheese with a frozen Moscato Granita made from a pomegranate mixer that turned the wine slush a dramatic pink – lush, then finally a south cape southern creamy blue from Tasmania with a late picked semillon.  Fab, fab, fab… there are so many wines i think I don’t like but when paired with the right foods – I totally get it.  The main issue is remembering what goes with what, especially as the tours usually involve drinking over 2 bottles of wine, hic!

Next stop was the Audrey Wilkinson winery which is perched on top of a foothill of the Brokenback Mountains – so has a spectacular 360 view of the valleys below.  Audrey was only 15 when his dad died and he took over the running of the vineyard in the late 1800’s but fortunately he was quite good at it and produced really successful wine.  We tried Semillon, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, and a Chardonnay on the whites, followed by reds starting with a complicated blend of 4 different grapes from 3 different locations called The Lighthorseman, followed by a Tempranillo, then a Shiraz from their vineyard near Canberra.  Finally – fairly twisted by this point – we tried their Moscato and then the sweet rose vin de vie.  Thank goodness lunch was next with a great spread from the kitchens of the Two Fat Blokes!

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After a restorative lunch we were back into the bus to travel to the Glandore Estate for a wine and Adora Chocolate pairing… I kid you not…  the wines and choc pairings are all in the picture below and we were really lucky to have one of the founders take us through the history of the vineyard – it’s fairly new, and plans for the huge bonfire they have at the start of June.  If you’re in the area – I’m betting it would be a brilliant evening.

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Our last vineyard was Ivanhoe Wines where the sun finally came out to shine and we sat – fairly twisted by this point – while their newest recruit did a great job of taking us through the Whites and the Reds – all of which have a Knight theme – so have names like Chivalry, The Archer or The Jester – so looking back, I can’t remember for the life of me what each of the wines were (or Wayne taking this photo) !  Safe to say, I’d probably had enough at this point…

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Our last stop was the Hunter Beer Company for a tasting… the boys all nodded along while quietly sliding sideways off their bar stools, while the girls sat this one out and chatted.. it was the end of a really long but really good day – I really recommend these guys if you are ever in the area and send me more Labna cheese if you do!

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