Wednesday 9th December 2009.
Having had a good nights’ sleep, we were up and loaded the van early and headed off to the Hunter Valley. On Friday we have been invited to stay with Bruce and Kaylene in Port Macquarie who we met in Wangarrata at the jazz festival doing the tour of the vineyards. What better pressie could we buy them than some excelled wine from a local winery? Not a bad excuse eh!!
We went through Windsor (but no castle) and then head along the minor roads to the Wiseman’s ferry – a free crossing across a beautiful river with wonderful scenery then head on through the beautiful lush fruit crowing lands of the Hunter Valley. This is New South Wales’ best known wine region and Australia’s oldest and has long been synonymous with fine wine – in particular my favourite, good old soft and earthy Shiraz. The first vines were planted in 1828. We headed for Cessnock the main town where even the town’s jail and high school have their own vineyards. The town itself is uninteresting and surprisingly unsophisticated given the wine culture surrounding it. We found ourselves a lovely winery in Wollombi, a charming bush and farming area with its vineyards seemingly lost amongst forested ridges, red-soiled dirt tracks and paddocks with grazing cattle. The winery was set on a 550 acre deer and cattle stocked farm. It had a tiny chapel like tasting room constructed from recycled materials and had wine from insecticide free handpicked estate grown grapes which indicated that the owners’ philosophy was much like our own. We booked into one of their self catering cottages made from recycled timber which was lovely with a large covered veranda that looked out over the vines. Inside it had two bedrooms and a large open fire – not that we needed that, but I bet its lovely in winter. To complete the loveliness of it all, not only did the owner come by with a basket of goodies for breakfast but also chocolate, flowers and port and to cap it all, she did us a deal on the property that was really cheap. Wow!!!!
As we arrived at the cottage, two of the calves had escaped from the field along with the donkey so we helped out by chasing them around the vines until they got near the gate and then got them back into the field – the next day we discovered that they didn’t actually belong to these owners, they were from next door – oops!!! It was nice to walk between the vines, although we did have to be wary of the good old spiders – yes John (Spanish), I am still taking your advice…
It is noticeable that the grapes today were much much bigger than those we have seen in other areas of the country but then I guess that was a long time ago really….