Hunter Valley Part 2

Sydney Travel Blog

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As a continuation of my wine trail from last weekend, I went back up to the Hunter Valley Saturday morning and luckily the good weather that we had the weekend before came back again too. (Friday night had rained hard - I went to a rugby game - Sydney Waratahs vs Canberra Brumbies. That was fun - those teams are big rivals and our seats were under cover.  The Waratahs won - sorry no pics.)

 

Soooo, back to the hunter. We had booked the cheapest car from Avis and when we went to pick it up we got a surprise upgrade to a Holden convertible (aussie car) - their most high end car which apparently never happens.

On the way, over the bridge
So we were cruising in style. I stayed at the same winery as last time, but this time the plan was to help with vintage at Songlines Estates. You can see my visit there in last week’s blog. It was then that Dave invited us back to help out.

 

You have to be prepared to be stained head to toe, so I made sure I was wearing really daggy stuff and borrowed rubber boots aka gumboots. The cellar was full of fermenting grapes (mostly shiraz from South Australia due to the weather this year). The smell was amazing and intense - like a really ripe bowl of berries with champagne.

 

Most of the work we did involved plunging and taking the baume and temperature readings of each barrel. Temperature has to be closely watched as it effects the rate of fermentation.

Baume measures the sugar levels - so the lower it is the more fermented the wine will be. This can’t drop too quickly either - not more than half a point with each read anyway, and it should be read twice a day along with the temperature.

 

Plunging mixes up all the grapes with their juice. When the grapes are just sitting in the barrels they rise to the top and dry into a cap - so this needs to be broken up and pushed down.

 

The pressing of the grapes is done by a machine which I took pictures of. They use the lowest pressure on the machine to disturb the character of the fruit as little as possible. Once pressed they can be fermented.

 

You can tell which loads have been harvested by machine and which by hand because you will find all sorts of interesting things in the ones harvested by machine! (After grapes are picked they go through a de-stemming machine before being pressed.

)

 

We worked with Dave’s assistant who was grateful for the help. They work such long hours during vintage and there is a lot of repetitive work and hard labour. It is important to have a lot of beer in the fridge for this period. Dave is very generous in this way. In fact both days, we managed to show up for work just as they were either stopping for a drink break or lunch. There will be only about another busy week or so until it will slow down and the best part happens: the tasting. This is when you go around all the barrels with a wine thief to get the first taste of the harvest and make sure everything is okay.

 

On Saturday night Dave took us to Harrigan’s Pub which is The Pub in the hunter. After that we finished up with the wine Dave gave us for the evening. He has a huge amount of knowledge on the history of the hunter. Apparently in the last ten years the amount of cellar doors has doubled (but the amount of wineries is still about the same.

) It sees about 2.5 million visitors a year. It is a growing area, but this is a bit of a problem  because of the types of people buying in - often they are investment banker types who figure they’ll buy some land because its so expensive in Sydney and they start by maybe just putting some cows on it, but then they decide to grow some grapes - selling to the negociants. But they really haven’t the knowledge or care and so the quality is no good.

 

The other thing is that so many wineries are owned by large companies which are no longer Australian owned (eg. Foster’s). When multinationals own wineries they can grow the grapes in whatever country is cheapest - so the “terroir” aspect can be deceiving.

 

The good thing about all the tourism is that there will be more wine bars opening up so it will be more interesting at night not just during the day.

Meauring baume and temperature
There is already good bus service to the hunter and it is really popular for hen’s nights aka bachelorette parties.

 

On Sunday, I was much quicker at the work and afterwards we spent some time chatting with Dave’s assistant who has worked at wineries in Australia, New Zealand and Oregon. He was also very knowledgeable for a young guy and was telling us about his experiences at different wineries. As we were cooking some brekkie (breakfast) on the barbie (BBQ) outside, we saw a dingo hop across the field and into the vineyards - this is pretty rare, unlike the kangaroos which are everywhere. We had some Penfolds RWT Shiraz from the Barossa - a really nice wine, to finish the day. (The RWT is just below the Grange which is probably the most famous and expensive range in Australia).

 

We were thanked with a case load of Songlineswines and a Jeroboam (really big bottle). This was really exceedingly generous considering the value. By now we had more wine than we could possibly drink for a while. That night we went to Roberts Restaurant - it was an amazing meal in the most beautiful and scenic restaurant I have ever been to.

 

The next day, after an omelette and chardonnay breakfast (highly recommend this combo) we packed up and cruised through a couple more wineries (Tyrrells, David Hook, Saddle Creek) and went to the village gelato shop. The David Hook winery was beautiful and there was a really nice furniture shop there called Monsoon full of Chinese and Indian antiques and homeware.

 

Since the weather was nice still, we took the scenic route home stopping in the town of Wollombi which is so cute and quaint I had to take a photo of everything.

Plunging
We stopped here for their famous jungle juice which is like a port that you mix with beer or soda or something. (By now you’re probably wondering - no I didn’t drive home.)

It was sad end the weekend and give back our convertible.

 

At least Easter is coming soon …
williamsworld says:
I do hope to visit some of these wineries. Do you know if they are accesible by train or should I hire a car?
Posted on: Apr 12, 2011
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On the way, over the bridge
On the way, over the bridge
Meauring baume and temperature
Meauring baume and temperature
Plunging
Plunging
The Presser
The Presser
tastes good to me
tastes good to me
the lab
the lab
Brokenback Mountains
Brokenback Mountains
purple arms, dressed for dinner
purple arms, dressed for dinner
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
view from table at Richards Restau…
view from table at Richards Resta…
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Richards Restaurant
Tyrrells winery
Tyrrells winery
David Hook
David Hook
chapel at David Hook
chapel at David Hook
cafe at David Hook
cafe at David Hook
David Hook winery
David Hook winery
David Hook
David Hook
scarecrow competition in Wollombai
scarecrow competition in Wollombai
scarecrow competition in Wollombai
scarecrow competition in Wollombai
Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi
Butterfly
Butterfly
Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi
General Store Wollombi
General Store Wollombi
Cultural Centre Wollombi
Cultural Centre Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi
Wollombi Apertures & Overtures
Wollombi Apertures & Overtures
Wollombi Rhinos
Wollombi Rhinos
Junglejuice bar
Junglejuice bar
Junglejuice bar
Junglejuice bar
back verandah view at Junglejuice …
back verandah view at Junglejuice…
Sydney
photo by: Sunflower300