Friday, January 18, 2013

Hunter Valley wine tour with Kangarrific Tours

Like wine?  Then come with me on a Hunter Valley wine tour with Kangarrific Tours.

Australia is a country blessed with good wine growing regions, a fact probably borne out by the amount of wine that gets exported, ending up in the supermarkets of the UK.  From the Margaret River in Western Australia, Barossa Valley in Adelaide, South Australia and the Hunter Valley, outside Sydney.

The Hunter was where we were visiting, and after a search on the internet we found Kangarrific Tours.  A relative newcomer to the tour scene, Sam of Kangarrific had already started to build up a solid reputation as somebody who provided an excellent day out.  We would see.

We got picked up in the Central Business District (CBD) of Sydney at around 8.00am, ready for the drive north, across the famous Harbour Bridge and up to the Hunter Valley region. 

First stop was at just after 9am, for morning coffee at the Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park, in Calga on the outskirts of the Central Coast.  Entrance fee being included in the very reasonable $99 full day trip price, we were able to get up very close and personal with some of our favourite Aussie wildlife.  Stroking the Koalas, petting the Kangaroos, and keeping a wary distance from the Emus.  This is the sort of place you could spend much longer at be we had somewhere to be and at around 11.15 we got to Lovedale, home of the Hunter Valley Chocolate factory.  A chocolate lovers dream.  Yet still not the highlight of my day.  My reason for coming today was just around the corner, the grapes.  Or more specifically, the stuff that comes from fermenting them.

Meaning “hillside”, Warraroong winery was the first we visited.  A boutique winery giving us the opportunity to sample wines that you wouldn’t find in either the bottle shops, or the big supermarkets, in Australia or overseas.  However, for $10 they do ship to Sydney.  Hmm, hold that thought.

Whilst here we got to try some very good Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (2010 on the Tin Soldier label), Long Lunch white, a 2009 sparkling Moscato, a 2010 Merlot and a Shiraz, finishing with an exquisite Sticky Semillon dessert wine.  The day had officially started for me.

And so we were off to winery number 2.  Much more mainstream, Tempus Two is the sort of winery that does supply the places you are more likely to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home to have with the evening BBQ.  A very corporate affair, the winery incorporates the excellent “Smelly Cheese Shop”, where we had the opportunity to taste some delicious, locally made cheeses.  We were then set free in the deli/shop and I succumbed all too easily to the lure of parting with my dollars.  That said, the cheeses I had picked up would no doubt be perfectly complemented by the Tin Soldier Shiraz I had purchased earlier.

In the afternoon we had winery number three, Wynwood Estate.  Another boutique winery it was here that I tasted, and thoroughly enjoyed, a wine I hadn’t had before.  Originally grown to blend into Shiraz, Chambourcin was now being made and sold as a wine in its own right.  And a bloody good wine it is too, evidenced by my immediate purchase of a bottle.  We also sampled a 2012 Verdelho, a white wine that sits somewhere between a Semillon and a Sauvignon Blanc.  Another purchase was in the form of a Plum Blossom Shiraz, lighter in style than a usual full-bodied Shiraz, so much so that it can be lightly chilled.  Finishing at Wynwood with a dessert wine, an Old Jack Muscat, I was starting to feel the effects of lunch and the amount of wine we had imbibed.  Had there been a hammock knocking about, I could have happily had a snooze in the early afternoon sunshine.

However, we had somewhere else to be and off to the only brewery in the Hunter we went.

The Hunter Beer Company, located at Potters Hotel Brewery resort is open to the public between 10am and 5pm, seven days a week for tastings.  Sam, the amiable and very knowledgeable owner of Kangarrific Tours had arranged a special deal for us and we were able to get two tastings of the various beers for only $3.  I don’t think the lime and coriander infused beer is something that I will be drinking many schooners of.  After a final sour cherry beer it was time to call “last orders” on a very enjoyable day and jump in the bus for the ride back to Sydney.

So my verdict?  An excellent, reasonably priced day out, visiting the Hunter Valley in air conditioned comfort, with a friendly tour guide who obviously knows his beans when it comes to wines.

What are you waiting for?  Salud!

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