Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Hunter Valley Revisited

It was an early morning drive up to Sydney through some very heavy rain to drop the co driver off at the Sydney Quilt Show at the Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre.
Then I drove further north another ninety minutes to Umina on the Central Coast and Stirl's place.
We headed over to Patonga which is a small village near the mouth of the Hawkesbury River just before it empties into Broken Bay. There is a nice pub here overlooking the beach which serves an OK lunch and good beer.
The Hawkesbury is one of the major rivers of the coastal region of New South Wales. It and its tributaries virtually encircle the metropolitan region of Sydney and is dammed in many places to provide the city's water supply.

Later that evening, the co driver arrived by train and we settled down to a good dinner of roast lamb and vegetables and followed by strawberries and ice cream all washed down with some Knappstein Riesling and Bird in Hand Tempranillo.
After breakfast the next morning, we were on the road to the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's well known vineyard regions. We decided to take the Great Northern Road which follows the old convict road north instead of the Freeway. It's always a nice drive through some pretty farming land as well as some rugged sandstone gorges. Remnants of the convicts' work is still to be seen. Relics such as stone retaining walls, culverts, bridges and buttresses can still be seen along the entire length of the road, most hewn out of the sandstone by pick and shovel
Our first stop was at Wollombi for coffee.

The establishment of this township was directly connected with the construction and importance of the Great Northern Road. Wollombi is pretty small these days but has a number of 19th-century sandstone buildings and timber slab constructed cottages and sheds in a narrow valley junction containing Wollombi Brook and Congewai Creek.
From here it was onto Broke in the Broke Fordwich wine region of the Hunter and our destination for lunch, Margan Estate. This has long been a favourite winery of mine and I have bought much of their Semillon and Verdelho over the years.
We had a quick wine tasting, sampling a vertical tasting of their Semillons from 2011 to 2007.
Lunch was great. Seared tuna with piccalilli, buffalo mozzarella with beets, grilled barramundi, roast duck on lentils and a pepper risotto was accompanied by their Barbera.We finished off sharing a cheese plate.

From there we headed into the Pokolbin region of the Hunter. This is the main, best known and touristy area.
Our first stop was the Small Winemakers Centre which sells a selection of wine from makers too small (or not interested) to have their own cellar doors.
Here we picked up some Thomas Semillon which is always a good drop, even in not so good years.
During our travels around the vineyards it was obvious that a lot of grapes had not been picked this vintage due to the bad weather..
You could see a huge acreage of  mummified berries still hanging on the vines. That made me feel a little better about abandoning my crop this year.

Our final stop was McWilliams Mt. Pleasant. Our main aim here was to track down their Anne Semillon which, thanks to Stirl's contacts in the wine  industry, we had tasted some time ago and never been able to find commercially.
It lies, quality wise, between their well known 'Elizabeth' and the very expensive 'Lovedale' Semillons
There was a rumour that the 'Anne' was actually the overproduction of the 'Lovedale' under another label.
We tasted the two and the consensus was they are not the same wine although the reasonably priced 'Anne" is still a stunner.
Then it was time to head back to Umina. Winter days are short and the co driver who had now assumed driving duties due to our wine consumption, didn't want to tackle the freeway back south in the dark.
Saturday was the co driver's mall day (we don't have any around us) so Stirls and I enjoyed some time at the beach watching surfers carve up some pretty big waves from the warmth of a cafe at Avoca.
Sunday we hit the road home after a pleasant four days away.

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