Tag Archives: wine

10 top wineries to go to in the Hunter Valley

Living in Sydney, I have been to the Hunter Valley many times. For weddings, hen’s parties, with friends, as a couple, as a family and for experience activities such at hot air ballooning, husky running and music festivals.

Accommodation is best sorted in a group as there are many houses to rent on different estates. However if there are only a few of you, Cypress Lakes Resort and Harrigan’s Irish Pub offer more expensive hotel accommodation.

Most of the wineries are centred around the Pokolbin region, so plan your trip if you don’t want to be wasting time driving from one end of the valley to another. For a quieter trip with less of a wait at the cellar door, try the Lovedale region.

Not every winery serves food, so if you’re not self catering at a homestay, make sure you plan to visit a winery that serves meals around lunchtime, head for Hunter Valley Gardens for a cheap eat or visit the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop for some night-time nibblies.

There are over 150 wineries in the Hunter Valley and I’ve been to about a third of them. There is no accounting for taste and even though these are my top 10 wineries, they may not be yours.

I’ve also had a couple of days where we went to 7 wineries in a day, so by then end you don’t really know what you’re tasting. I recommend no more than 5 wineries per day, and of course, have a designated driver or hire one to take you on a tour.

  1. Tintilla Estate

By far my favourite winery in the Hunter Valley for red wines is Tintilla Estate. They have many varieties, including my favourite Sangiovese’s and Tempranillo’s. Most times, a trip to the Hunter Valley isn’t complete for me without a visit here to stock up.

  1. Scarborough Wine Co

Scarborough is my favourite vineyard in the Hunter Valley for white wines. They have many different varieties from soft to bold creamy Chardonnay’s and the way they set up the tasting with a placemat for each wine is genius. I once took a non-white drinker here and by the end of the tasting they were converted.

  1. First Creek Wines

First Creek is one of my new favourites. The setting is beautiful as they often have kangaroos hopping by in nearby fields and a horse drawn cart out the front. The cellar door overlooks the winemaking facilities and the relaxed atmosphere makes the wines taste all the more sweet.

  1. Tatler Wines

The owner of Tatler made this a winery to remember for me. Not being a big fan of dessert wines, he taught me a trick: add ice, swirl and the taste is completely different.

  1. Marsh Estate

Unfortunately, I believe Marsh Estate is no longer open. When it was, it was only open 6 months of the year as the owner was a surfer who spent the other 6 months chasing waves. The wines were expensive, but worth it.

  1. Hope Estate

Hope Estate is now well known as it hosts many outdoor live music concerts. The wine is reasonably priced and the cellar door is roomy.

  1. Keith Tulloch

For a nice relaxed wine on the balcony, Keith Tulloch is my pick.

  1. Peterson Champagne House

Champagne, oysters and a chocolate shop next door- what’s not to like? Perfect for a hen’s party and many different types of yummy traditional method champenoise to try.

  1. De Bortoli Wines

Well known for its award winning Hunter Valley Semillon and classic Hunter Shiraz. It also has an infamous wine dog.

  1. Gartelmann Hunter Estate

Another new favourite, Gartelmann has a lovely woodland setting and cute Magpie mascot.

Happy tasting!

Related posts: It’s a winery thing, Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley, 10 things to do in the Gold Coast, 10 things to do in Melbourne, 10 things to do in Sydney, 10 things I have learnt from travelling, Marlborough to Akaroa, 2012

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Marlborough to Akaroa, 2012

Before long, it was time to bid farewell to our New Zealand Sri Lankan family and catch the ferry back to Picton with no view of the Marlborough Sounds once again and a shared baby’s room with no private cabins. We didn’t realise just how spoilt we had been on our previous trip.

My husband and I decided to console ourselves with a rare couple of hours off from the newborn to sample some of the local Marlborough wines near the holiday park we were staying on river in Blenheim.

We started at Lawson’s Dry Hills, who suggested we visit a lovely new winery that I now see popping up in Australian bottle shops everywhere. Wither Hills had an undoubtedly modern cellar door and with old barrels for added character and a view of the vines to the hills.

The next day, we drove the East Coast to Kaikoura to see the seals. We didn’t have to look far as there was one lying in the car park in the sun when we arrived. We walked out onto the rocks and found a few bathing in and out of the beautiful healthy sea weedy water.

That night we stayed at Hamner Springs, a spa town in the hills. We visited the big water park with thermal springs the next day and soaked in the pine forest of the town.

Our final stop was Akaroa, one hour from Christchurch, for New Year’s Eve. Akaroa was a pretty little French inspired town and was my favourite place on the trip.

We stayed in a holiday park overlooking the town which had a comfy lounge building with TV. We walked down the hill into the town and discovered that a cruise ship had invaded for the day.

The French influence could be seen in the French bakeries, lovely heritage buildings and French signage that was dotted around the town. I bought some lovely earrings in a small gift shop and we walked out to the pier on harbour.

On New Year’s Eve we walked a little further to the lighthouse and had a yummy local seafood platter lunch. We were back in the van in time to see the lovely sunset. Our little family of three were all sleeping well before midnight, so tuckered out that not even fireworks hitting the van at midnight woke us up.

By the end of the trip, we had gotten used to our comfy little portable home and were sad to drop the campervan off in Christchurch before we boarded our plane home on New Years Day. New Zealand had turned out to be much more beautiful than I had imagined and I was so glad we had come.

Related posts: West Coast to Wellington, 2012, Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004

Change is the new black

This year has been a year of changes for me. One of realisations, discoveries and learnings.

I have realised the strangeness of my past and accepted those things I cannot change. Rather than dwelling on what was not, instead I am looking towards what can be in the future and how I can change the patterns of the past.

I have discovered strength in myself that I never knew I had, as well as several professional strengths that I sort of knew were always there. Clarity of, and confidence in, these strengths is what will lead me to my next adventure in the New Year.

I have learnt how to be flexible and change my approach. A different path forged can sometimes be lonely, but prioritising what is important to you helps lead the way.

I have realised the greatness of people around me once again. Conversation, human nature and the desire of the majority to be friendly, helpful and kind.

I have discovered the joy of a little growing person who I actually get a kick out of spending time with. Going to the movies, the zoo or just being at home.

I have learnt a new appreciation of the city I live in. Drinking, dining and boating on the harbour. Date nights, work outings and hanging with friends.

The biggest change has been the discovery of exercise. That’s right, you heard it here first, this non-gym goer now has a personal trainer and loves it!

This year has also been a year of domestic travel. Back on the wine trail in Tasmania, the Barossa and the Hunter Valley with good friends and my small family of three.

Next year I look forward to more of the same, plus hopefully more international travel to destinations unknown. I can’t wait to realise my own potential, discover the value of a mentor and learn more about other people and places.

I have definitely achieved my end of year goals from 2014 of trying to appreciate the little things and dream bigger about the big things, beyond even what I had thought was possible.

Yes, change has definitely been the new black for me in 2015 and may 2016 continue this exciting trend.

Catch you in the New Year, and as always, thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I can’t take credit for the title of this week’s blog post, but it got your attention didn’t it?!

P.S Thanks to all the website owners that have published my 2015 travel tales from Barcelona, traveling with kids, Sri Lanka and closer to home.

Related posts: Work, work, work, To Belong, Having it all?, Reinvention, Sydney vs MelbourneNew beginnings, Nostalgia, Pride vs The fallPeople vs PlaceDiscovery,  It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Kid at Heart, Dreams vs Reality, Happy Holidays 

Canada, 2011

In the Canadian summer of 2011, I travelled to White Rock, Canada to attend my cousin Kate’s wedding. It was important to me to be there as despite the distance of where we both lived, we were the only girls on the side of the family, so were close.

The wedding was held at my aunt and uncles place with a view of the water. Many friends and family had come from all over the world to attend. I had arrived a few days before the wedding, so had time to catch up with Kate- we even fitted in dancing and a movie.

I also met my cousin Glen’s girlfriend at the time, Tara. We got along well and had pre wedding manicures together. My cousin Jay and his family had flown in from Australia too, so it was a full house buzzing with preparations including marquee and stage building.

I caught up with Celina on my first night there over too many red wines at the local pub. She had a toddler now, so it was lovely to meet him and go for ice cream on the seafront on another day.

One night, Jeanette picked me up and we went over to Celina’s place for dinner. I was impressed to learn that Jeanette had started a successful business of her own.

The garden wedding itself was held on a bright sunny day. It started in a beautiful Apex shaped church and ended in dancing, party crashers and a bit too much wine.

It was great to see Geoff and Genevieve there, who now had two boys, and catch up with the groom, Ben, and meet his family. My personal favourite touch were the table centres that were formerly grandmother’s teacups.

I left the day after the wedding to catch the bus to Seattle and an internal flight to visit my bestie in her hometown of Nebraska for 4th July. I had never been to an Independence Day celebration and was very much looking forward to the experience.

Related posts: New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007Christmas in Canada, 2007, Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada, 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, It’s a Canadian Thing

Slovenia, 2010

From Croatia, my husband and I caught the train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Having been disappointed with our honeymoon hotel in Dubrovnik, we decided to splash out for our last stop so we stayed at the Hotel Slon. Here, we finally got a free honeymoon gift in the form of a fruit plater, models milled around the lobby and I was excited to discover that there was a H & M next door. The surrounding area also had lots of old bank buildings, each one different.

There were dragons everywhere in Ljubljana- on lamp posts, on the town hall spire, on the castle gates and in the National Gallery. I finally caved and bought a dragon of my own to take home. It was also was a town of pretty squares. There was the colourful Presernov square with a Franciscan church and a scale model of city; Mesti square with the Rome-like Robba fountain; Stari square with the Hercules fountain and Gornji square with the medieval houses. The New square was no so interesting after all of these.

There were many bridges to cross in the city- the famous Triple bridge, Cobblers bridge and my favourite, the Dragon’s bridge. We found a great market lining the bank of the Ljubljana River and were amused by the statues of queuing people at the museum entry. There was an interesting water feature on the ground in an alleyway and the door on the Cathedral of St Nicholas also had much bronze detailing.

We visted a wine bar, had goulash that was so good that we went back on another night, and just enjoyed being in such an unexpectedly cosmopolitan city.

Forsaking the funicular, we walked up Studentovska St to Ljubljana castle for a stroll along the castle rampart. We saw the pentagonal tower and the beautiful ornate ceiling in the Chapel of St George. The view of the city from Razgledni Stolp tower was fantastic.

We took a day trip to Bled and walked around the lake. Bled castle appeared to be perched precariously on the edge of a cliff surrounded by snowy mountains. Passing the castle baths with bathing swans we came upon many Swiss looking houses.

Bled island in the middle of the lake had the baroque Church of Assumption and the prominent south staircase to the Chaplains house. It was nice to pass by streams feeding the lake and we stopped at a bar for lunch halfway around.

Others had caught boats, swan gondolas, horse and cart’s or the train to get around the lake, but I was glad that we took our time to see things like the resting dragonfly that landed on my husbands arm. It was a very romantic way to end the honeymoon before we made a short stop in England to surprise my grandma who had been unable to make it to Thailand for the wedding.

Related posts: Luxury Istria, 2010, Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

It’s a winery thing

This month I am super excited to be going on a winery weekend away to the Barossa with a couple of my besties. This will be my third visit to the well-established wine region and it is my favourite in Australia so far due to its historical charm (i.e. old buildings).

I am an avid weekend wine tripper from way back and my husband and I have systematically worked our way around most of the states in Australia by wine region.

We have been to the Hunter Valley 6 times which is known for its Shiraz and Semillon and will be returning in June to prune my husband’s adopted vine at Drayton’s Family Wines. We also travelled to Tasmania in January to check out the Sauvignon Blanc down there.

I’ve sipped Pinot Noir at the Mornington Peninsula (Victoria) Winter Wine festival and had a personalised bottle of champagne made for me the French way. I’ve shared a Chardy with a famous wine dog at Voyager Estate in the Margaret River, WA, learned what a GSM is in McClaren Vale (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) and how to appreciate a good Riesling in the Clare Valley, SA. Next on the list is the Yarra Valley in VIC.

We usually drag a group of friends along with us and I’ve converted a red drinker to a white drinker and myself from a white drinker to a multi drinker in the process.

So what keeps me coming back for more winery trips?

Wine regions are typically set in scenically beautiful areas and are a great way to see the landscape away from the major cities. I always enjoy discovering a new part of the country this way.

It can be a lovely romantic trip for two and is also a great relaxing weekend away with friends. Even if we have been to a wine region before, going with different people usually means finding new hidden gems along the way.

Most wine regions also have good food to go with their great wine. Some of Australia’s best restaurants seem to be popping up in wine regions.

It’s also not a bad option with the kids. They don’t get bored, you can get tipsy during the day with free tastings (with one designated driver of course) and return to your self-catered apartment at night to polish off some new wine and cheese purchases from the day.

And of course it is the opportunity to try some different wines that peaks our interest. Each winery is a new cellar door to explore and new varieties I’ve never heard of to taste. Discovering a new favourite wine to enjoy when you get back home is one of the best ways to keep the memory of a good trip lasting.

Beautiful surroundings, great friends, good food and tasty wine- what’s not to love?

I can almost taste that Barossa Shiraz now…

Related posts: It’s a French thing, Degustation Delights

It’s a French thing

This month is the French Film Festival in Sydney.

I endeavor to attend at least one film at this festival each year. I like the way that French films weave a story beneath a story between many characters that are connected in surprising ways; and the fact that they don’t sugar coat an ending.

I am a fan of the beautiful Audrey Tautou, particularly in the comedy Priceless and The Spanish Apartment and the talented Alice Taglioni as seen in Cash and Paris- Manhattan. I also like the setting in France of places I may or may not have been.

This year I am looking forward to watching Barbeque, The Last Diamond and Sex, Love and Therapy.

Paris is also one of my favourite cities in the world and I have been known to become obsessed with all things French.

I went to a French restaurant last month, own a cliché miniature Eiffel Tower (hey- it was the only souvenir I could afford and fit in my back pack, and I love it- ok?) and dream- perhaps naively- of living in a French Château for a month or more.

I drink my tea out of my French mug set, enjoy a long French style lunch with French wine and one of my best friends is French (of course, that’s not the only reason we are friends Frenchie!).

I like the sound of the French language, polite French people (yes you can find some of these in Paris despite popular opinion) and am currently toting a Paris handbag purchased in the city itself.

I watch French cooking shows, enjoy French supermarkets and would love to go to the Cannes Film Festival one May.

I have the entire OPI French collection- La Collection De France, enjoy eating crème brulee and my current blog profile picture is of me in Paris.

I have Eiffel Tower earrings, like reading books set in France and have a box of a lady at the Paris opera house which was the inspiration for my wedding dress.

If I knew anything about home decorating, I’m sure my place would be fitted out and filled with all things French country.

I have seen the view from the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysee and lunched in Place des Voges.

I have seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles, walked along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tasted wine in Bordeaux.

But still I hunger for more.

I want to see the canals of Colmar or Annecy, stroll around a castle at Mont Saint- Michel or in the Loire Valley and sip Champagne in Champagne.

I want to see the French quarter in New Orleans, walk around Montreal in French Canada and drink from coconuts in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

Who’s with me?

Related posts: Europe, 2003, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, O-P-I don’t mind if I do, TV replays and Movie Marathons