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Written by Suzanne from The Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours
As a local tour guide, I get all sorts of questions from guests … everything from “where can I find a red wine for my husband who doesn’t drink wine?”, or “how old are the oldest vines that are still producing fruit?” to “where can I get Panadol (to cure last night’s hangover so I can enjoy today’s wine tour)?!”. However recently I had a friend of mine set me a real challenge …. “where can I find accommodation for a group where we can enjoy an authentic bush setting and taste some Hunter Valley wines, oh and some of the group can’t leave behind their dogs”.
Paradise, Pets and Pinot?!
Is that even possible?
And all in the one weekend?!
The Hunter Valley is an extraordinary wine region; rich in history and legendary for its wines on the world stage and with over 150 wineries and almost as many accommodation options, this region rarely disappoints. As a proud local, living on the doorstep of the location that has something for everyone (in my sometimes less than humble opinion!), I was ready for the challenge.
Welcome to paradise….
When it’s time to replace the concrete jungle and endless traffic with the refreshment that only the scent of Australian trees and the serenity of native wildlife can bring, then you can’t go past Quorrobolong.
Quorrobo… what?! Is this one of those words I have to say really fast 3 times?
Thankfully not … as fast doesn’t come into the vocabulary here.
After a short 15 minute drive from Cessnock, you can find yourself surrounded by 200 acres of gorgeous bushland in the centre of the perfect backdrop to relax at the Hunter Valley Retreat at Quorrobolong. Perhaps you are imagining toasting marshmallows by the fire-pit and gazing up at the endless stars with that special someone or bonding with the family by bushwalking through the magnificence that Mother Nature has bestowed upon the Hunter? Or even impressing over 100 delegates with professional conference facilities and an onsite restaurant that can prepare anything from canapés to mutli-course banquets? It is all possible as the Hunter Valley Retreat is nothing short of an oasis amongst the trees.
But what about your best friend?
These days our dogs are more than just amusing flea-bags. They are members of our family and finding a pet sitter (and worrying about what is happening when you are not there) can be quite stressful and the ruin of many a supposedly relaxing getaway.
As long as your pet is up to date with his/her vaccinations, is relatively well behaved and preferably de-sexed then there is no need to miss your poochy while you are away! Bring them with you and let them experience the ultimate backyard and wide open spaces to run, jump and play right alongside you. It’s the perfect way to keep the kids and hubby entertained while you enjoy a relaxing wine (or maybe a few) with your gal pals!
So…. Paradise? Ticked. Pets? Ticked. What about Pinot?
Whether you are specifically after Pinot Noir or you are more tempted by the famous staple varieties the valley is known for (Shiraz, Semillon and Verdelho) there is something for every wine lover. In fact Hunter Valley Shiraz is quite a close match in flavour and body to Pinot due to the effect on the fruit of the hot climate experienced in summer. Even those who don’t consider themselves big wine drinkers are delighted by the light character and fruitiness of varieties such as sparkling Chambourcin and Moscato. A little known secret is to add just a couple of drops of lemon juice to your Moscato and taste as the sweetness transforms into a complex dance on your tongue. If you are really in the mood to spice things up the Hunter Distillery make delicious organic vodka with a smooth character unlike anything you can acquire at the normal city bottleshops. Infuse pure flavours such as fresh ginger root and lime juice into your vodka with Moscato and you really have something special that will tempt even the fussiest non-wine drinker.
Whether your group consists of wine connoisseurs or adventurers willing to try something new, a local tour guide goes a long way to help point you in the right direction when it comes to which cellar doors would appeal most to your group. Not to mention the relief of leaving the driving and navigating (remember there are hundreds of wineries in the Hunter!) to someone experienced. There is nothing worse than setting off for an exciting day only to find you have spent the majority of it driving around and when you do locate the winery you are looking for, queuing at the public cellar door area only to find you are lucky to get a taste of 1-2 wines as the staff are busy (usually with groups!).
A wine tour with a Hunter Valley local gives you the ability to not only leverage local knowledge of the area but also the relationships that tour guides have with the cellar door staff. Interested to try a 10 year old speciality Shiraz? Or compare the rich honey colours of an aged Semillon to the crisp, intense vibrancy of a young Semillon picked just last year? With a larger group brought by a tour guide that is known (and even friends with) the cellar door managers/owners, such special tastings are possible. These premium wines certainly don’t come out of the cellar for the “walk-in” visitors that simply front up to the public area. Receiving a quality tasting on a Saturday (the busiest day in the region) can also be quite a challenge without being part of a group. If you are keen to try the full range of wines on offer at a particular cellar door, then being part of a group is a necessity on a weekend.
So there we have it – paradise, pets and pinot… done! However don’t forget – while you are adding to your holiday “tick-off” list make sure you leave room for a few bottles (or maybe boxes) of wine. A common problem when leaving the Hunter Valley is how to get all your delicious purchases home!
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