Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

Hunter Valley weekend

09/10/2011

Last weekend I headed up to Hunter Valley, wine country with a few of my close girlfriends for a few days of good food, wine and catching up. Despite the grey weather and buckets of rain we all had a wonderful trip (even though the last day ended with me getting a stomach bug…)

Our accommodation was at the lovely little Adamae B&B which was so thoughtfully laid out and just perfect for our girlie weekend away. The owners even left us with a bottle of Margan’s Chardonnay (a winery we would visit the next day) to kick off the trip right. We were invited to eat any fruit or use any herbs on the property unfortunately we weren’t in the right season to partake in fresh fruit though Clara’s eyes did spy fresh rosemary which we used for our roast dinner. on Saturday night – can’t beat freshness sourced from your own yard. All in all, a win for accommodation and got us started right.

Adamae B&B

Our lovely little home for the weekend

On Saturday morning, after a debate about whether we should get the bikes out and cycle 20 km to the Smelly Cheese Shop, good sense prevailed and we hopped in the car to get our cheese fix. As we drove to the shop we noted all of the hills and were confident we had made the right decision to use the car for this leg of the trip. The Smelly Cheese Shop is part of a larger complex which also contains some larger wineries, one of which we stepped into and immediately exited based on the crowd and music akin to that of a nightclub. Not exactly the relaxing, wine tasting experience we were after. But we did get lots of cheese to have as our dessert later that night (picture of that layout to come) Mmm…. cheese…

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

A few of the cheeses at Smelly Cheese Shop

Once equipped with sufficient cheese levels for the weekend, we hopped on our bikes and headed around to some of the local wineries in Broke. First stop was Stomp, a boutique winery ran by a couple – one a food technician, the other a chemical engineer of some description – the dream team I call it. Whatever they are, they produce some great wines. We were all won over by the Sparkling Verdelho which does not have a cork or screw top but rather a bottle top which is a bit interesting. This winery also acquired another label called Pssst & Broke. Can’t say I was blown away by that label’s wines but I do so love the name.

While at Stomp, we really started to get a real feel of community on this side of the Hunter, especially with these smaller, boutique wineries. The four of us were the only ones there and we were told that this is generally how it goes. One small group comes in, tastes then as they’re leaving, another small group comes in – makes for a steady day and allows the winemakers to really explain their craft, which I’m not sure we would have received that same treatment at the larger fore mentioned winery (ahem Tempus Two). We said farewell to our new friend at Stomp, who recommended we next ride to her neighbour’s, Whispering Brook. Ah, the community support continues.

Girls at Stomp

Ladies at first stop, Stomp Wine

Whispering Brook, about a 10 minute bike ride away from Stomp, was a nice little ride to get our blood pumping and take in the gorgeous scenery of the Hunter. Luckily at this point we had not been caught in the rain but as you see in these photos, the clouds were turning slightly threatening. Did this stop us? Nah. We’re here for the wine!

Hunter Valley
Girls on bikes
As the clouds grew darker and darker, eventually more of a black colour we though we should start to head back in the general direction of Adamae but not without a pit stop at Margan. Though a bit more corporate and large than the previous two wineries we figured why not stop in. Even though we had arrived 10 minutes to closing time, the staff still allowed us an opportunity to try a couple of whites and reds. I felt like the rush didn’t really give us a good chance to taste the wines, rather just suck them down, make our buy and get out. Margan had chooks though. So that was kind of cool.

Bike at Margan
Bikes resting at Margan

Ladies at Margan

Quick snap at Margan before they boot us out

Chickens at Margan

The Margan garden and chooks

After our whirlwind first day of Broke wine touring we headed back to Adamae for a dinner of swordfish, rice and asparagus which I did not take a picture of because I was much to busy eating and washing it down with a delicious Chardonnay¬† we had obtained that day. However, our dessert round complete with a glass of Stomp’s Sparkling Verdelho did call for a photo because it was delicious and kind of a work of art.

Dessert round

Round two ...

So.. Sunday was interesting. We all woke up to the pitter patter of rain hitting the windows. I stepped outside and acknowledged the puddle of rainwater collecting on the front step. Hm, I thought. Are we really doing this? There really wasn’t a debate or question. We all had rain jackets, the will to taste wine and create some memories. And understood that pneumonia was a distinct possibility. Nevertheless, we got out the map and pin pointed our destination: Krinklewood. About 7km each way, which doesn’t sound like much but when you’re facing the kind of rain that isn’t just sprinkling but rather coming down in sideways sheets… that distance is great. Fortunately I have a snowboard jacket which I received at Christmas but never got to use due to flight cancellations screwing up a trip to Lake Tahoe… not that I’m bitter. But now, the jacket would come in handy! I stripped the jacket apart wearing the lighter bit and using the outside shell of the jacket to cover my backpack. Genius!

Clever backpack shield

You can hardly tell I have a backpack on!

Now on a normal, sunny day Krinklewood would have been the perfect picnic spot (which we had sandwiches packed just in case!). Even in the rain, this was probably one of the most beautiful vineyards we visited. It is a shame that we weren’t able to be there when the sun was out. More delicious wines and more strange stares from the people who were in the cellar. Psh – where’s their sense of adventure? Right before we left, the lady told us that a couple of people who were tasting just before us came in and said “You won’t believe we just saw some crazy people on bikes out there.” And as if on cue, we come barrelling in soaked to the bone but still smiling! So maybe we are a little crazy? At least we have a story to share.

Departing from Krinklewood we arrived back at home base in much quicker time than it took to get to Krinklewood. We decided that as long as we were already drenched we may as well forge ahead. Three or four kilometers later we were at Mount Broke, an old cattle shed essentially. As we arrived, shivering, one of the staff came out and said “Really? Did you just come here on bikes?” Yes we replied, as if that was a ridiculous question. Very kindly he offered us all a warm beverage while the last group of tasters finished up. At this point we thought this would be as good of time as any to enjoy our “picnic” so unwrapped our sandwiches, sipped on coffee and looked out at this:

Mount Broke on a rainy day

Mount Broke view

And bless the girls for still trying to put on a happy face
.Girls still trying to smile despite rain
Once inside with the heater everyone was much happier!

Girls inside and happy at Mount Broke

Heater... wine... makes for much happier ladies.

Again, we were treated with much more education as the guy took us out to the vineyard and actually showed us the vines, explained the growth process and the kind of grapes grown. This kind of experience is not something you would expect at larger vineyards I suspect. We all agreed that though the wines here weren’t out of this world, they were still delicious and given the efforts of the staff, we couldn’t leave without a few bottles (well, actually we just bought them and someobdy came around to drop them off for us – which actually all of the wineries did for us. Ah, small town). For me it was also a matter of supporting the smaller operations. I grew up on a small farm and know first hand the hard work that gets put in when you don’t have the large number of employees. It’s also about passion. With all of the places we stopped at (maybe with the exception of Margan) the passion in their craft of winemaking was something they wanted to share with all visitors. Not just get you in, taste a few wines, get you to buy and get out – no – as I said earlier, there is a really great feeling of community and support for one another in this part of the Hunter. I can’t vouch for other parts because I have not visited them but I can say that I was really impressed by the warmth and service we received at each of the vineyards.

As we bid farewell to Mount Broke, we made our way back to Adamae because at this point, we were still drenched and just wanted a hot shower, heater and a nice glass of wine to wrap up our rainy Sunday ride. Once back we re-assessed our purchases of the weekend and holy cats we did well (This does not include purchases made on the way home on Monday).

Wine purchased

Some are for gifts?

A great weekend indeed. Through rain, shine and hail we made our way, tasted some remarkable wines, and even learned a thing or two! All in all a success.