sipping wine in australia’s hunter valley

theromanticIt’s true: the hubs & I didn’t last long in Australia without heading to the vineyards.

On our second day in Sydney, Rae from Boutique Tours Australia picked us up bright and early, and along with a motley crew of fellow tasters, we made our way north to Australia’s Hunter Valley for a day of vineyard hopping.

sydney boutique tours

Hunter prides itself to be Australia’s oldest and most renowned wine region. After prepping ourselves on the region’s offerings with their free iPad app, we were excited to focus our day on the smaller, independently owned wineries in the area.

hunter valley vineyards, australia

We kicked off our tour at Iron Gate Estate, whose Italian-inspired cellar door made for the most beautiful place we visited. Unfortunately, the wines ended up being our least favorites, but others in our group really loved the style here. The winemaker led our tasting, which I always appreciate, and took us on a quick tour post-tasting to see the winemaking process in action.

However, he did seem to tire of us quickly when he realized that no one in our international team of wine lovers would be shipping a case back home.

hunter valley - iron gate

Stop two took us to Savannah Estate–a family-run vineyard named for the youngest granddaughter of their winemaking tribe, and my definite favorite of the day.

savannah estate

Surprisingly enough, the hubs and I both liked the sparkling at Savannah. As we were sipping our bubbly, our host told us that with each new child born into the family, a new wine is produced–sparkling for a girl, and port for a boy. Clearly, I’m in the wrong family.

wine casks

Our next stop post-Savannah was lunch. Our group split up into two groups, with half the team opting for the “café lunch,” while the rest of us went to a local restaurant for a “gourmet lunch.”

Together, the hubs and I had lunch at The Cellar Restaurant with about five other people from the group, including my personal favorites: a pair of retired best friends in their 70’s named Ellen & Di.

Ellen and Di have been traveling together for years, and as Di put it, “no one else can put up with me!” Meanwhile, Ellen told us stories of motorbiking through California with her ex boyfriend and her excitement to get back to her current “lover”—a word she picked up from watching old episodes of Sex & the City. Basically, I found the septuagenarian version of myself and the wino. For the rest of our time in Australia, whenever we had wine (so like everyday), I’d turn to the hubs and say “MAN, I miss Ellen and Di!”

To be honest, we were so busy chatting that lunch itself didn’t stick. I also was confused because for being a wine-focused restaurant, they didn’t really offer any sort of pairing suggestions for lunch. It was a nice time getting to know our fellow travelers, but I’d probably recommend going with the café option and walking around the town during lunch instead.

Post-lunch, however, was when the real magic happened. At the beginning of the tour, someone said that, by request of his daughter, he HAD to see a kangaroo before returning home. Rae made it her mission and completely pulled through:

kangaroos

No lie–these were the only (…live) kangas we saw during our entire month in Australia!

Once the excitement had passed, we made our way to our final vineyard of the day–Capercaillie. The tasting host was, once again, a little too salesy for my liking. For the second time that day, I felt like once she realized no one was in the market for buying bottles, she was less invested in the tasting. Though I understand that this is a key part of visiting vineyards, we all were part of a paying tour. I’d assume the vineyards were seeing a bit of that profit themselves.

wine barrels

Despite this little bit of blah, heading to Hunter is a definite recommendation for escaping Sydney to try out some true blue Australian wines.

xo!

the romantic

– Thanks to the Hunter Valley and Boutique Tours Australia for hosting us for the day! All opinions are my own, as per usual. 

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13 Comments

  1. July 22, 2013 / 20:44

    Hello Lazy Travelers!
    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to the Hunter Valley, it certainly is a great place to live and work! Good to see you got to dine at The Cellar Restaurant,it’s one of my favourites 🙂

    I just wanted make a quick comment on your last paragraph. “Though I understand that this is a key part of visiting vineyards, we all were part of a paying tour. I’d assume the vineyards were seeing a bit of that profit themselves.”

    Whilst you would assume there is some profit for the winery from the proceeds of your paid tour, this is, as far as I am aware,not generally the case. Most often than not, the tour group operator is the only one that benefits from the fee you pay to go on the tour. Wineries depend on sales at their Cellar Doors to make a profit.

    At the winery I work at, we’ve recently implemented a $5 per person tasting charge for group visits, which is redeemable on purchase of wine. Many tour group operators have had a very negative reaction to this, as they don’t want to pay for this out of their tour fee, and don’t believe they can ask their tour groups to pay additional fees.

    I certainly don’t want to put a negative spin on your experience, and I’m sure when I speak, I echo the sentiments of the many professional Cellar Door operators in the Hunter Valley. We always hope visitors to the region leave having a great experience no matter what venues they visited.
    Thanks for visiting the Hunter Valley!
    Cheers,
    Steve.

    • July 23, 2013 / 15:22

      interesting! thanks so much for sharing–that is definitely good to know. i totally understand cellar doors who charge for tastings, and honestly assumed that part of the tour fee covered this.

      we really did enjoy the day, but without knowing that the vineyard was seeing no profit unless we bought a bottle, the extreme salesiness was a little overbearing at times. we loved our time in the region, though!
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by — #44My Profile

  2. July 23, 2013 / 11:19

    You know, when I lived in Australia, the Hunter was only an hour from my front door….I was so spoilt! I did not explore nearly enough. I have never been to any of the wineries you have mentioned….clearly, I will have to go back – shame on me!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Monday Morning Series: Adriatic Beach – CroatiaMy Profile

  3. July 24, 2013 / 18:21

    We spent a lot of time in the Hunter and Barossa Valleys – hic hic, slurs words while reminiscing – such incredible landscapes and far too many vineyards to choose from!! Sounds like your tour was a fab choice!
    Charli l Wanderlusters recently posted..Expat Chat | Daydreams In ParadiseMy Profile

    • July 24, 2013 / 19:22

      we wanted to go to the barossa sooo badly but couldn’t fit it in! we opted for adelaide hills which was beautiful, but barossa is on my list for next time.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..jetsetters: @globalhelpswapMy Profile

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