Amy and Adam suggested that Tim and I take a mini-bus ride to Hunter Valley, one of Australia's big wine producing areas, a few hours north of Sydney. Tim and I agreed that wine-tasting was a necessity whilst in Australia (did ya see what I did there?) as we are having a bit of wine withdrawal here in Indonesia (wine prices are exorbitantly high and if you splurge on a bottle, you're not guaranteed to get one that's been properly stored)... Glad we did the tour, as Hunter Valley was quite lovely and it was nice to taste the wines without worrying about driving ourselves home.
On a tour with Boutique Tours Australia, we got to check out and taste wine from 3 small wine producers (all of which only sell wine from their cellar doors- not to bottle shops or restaurants). Hunter Valley is known for its Semillion wine, but we drank a whole range of wines, including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho, among others. Pretty much everything we tasted was pretty tasty!
Our first stop was Iron Gate Estate where we tried about 10 different wines... ranging from super dry and oak-y to really rich and fruity, to a sparkly wine. Good stuff.
As you can see, Tim was into it, including trying to shove his nose all the way into the glass and occasionally doing the weird wine gurgle in an attempt to aerate the wine on the way down...
Since it was Australian winter, the vines were pretty bare, but the valley was quite pretty anyway:
They explained to us how they always hand pick their grapes, rather than using a machine picker, as the one time they tried the machine harvesting method (which sucks up not only grapes, but leaves, spiders and other flora and fauna), they ended up accidentally running a rather large blue-tongued lizard through their de-stemmer (below), which gummed up the works a bit.
The scenery was really beautiful, particularly the hills at Mount View Estate, our second wine tasting stop:
In between wine tastings we stopped at a couple other gourmet food shops for some samples, including the aptly named Smelly Cheese Shop and a chocolate shop that housed this life-sized jelly bean kangaroo below, complete with joey. The shop had been hit with a "ram raid" the night before... Tim and I had no idea what they was until we looked it up after the fact (it's when thieves drive a truck through the window of the shop and then raid it for money and stuff...), but seemed no worse for wear.
It's hard to see in this photo, but those dots underneath the trees are a mob of kangaroos, chilling and waiting for their chance at wine tasting.... not really though- our guide told us that the 'roos don't mess with the vines.
Our last stop was Ernest Hill Wines, where we had a pretty great host, Clint, who lead us through their tasty wines: