When we moved to Australia, my fabulous sister-in-law gave us a present of voucher for Wine Country Tours to visit the famous Hunter Valley wine region. (Nothing to do with Huntsman spiders!) At the weekend, we went on the tour and it was great!
Hunter Valley is 2-3 hours north of us, so we had a pretty early start, but much of the journey is through National Parks and very pretty. (At least the bits I saw - I must confess to having a bit of a snooze at times en route despite the often bumpy toad. Tip: if mornings are not your thing, bring a travel neck pillow for the journey!)
The tour itself started with morning coffee and baked goods at Peppers Guesthouse, which was very pleasant. As a bonus, we got to see our first wild kangaroo, even if it was quite far away.
Once refreshed, we drove down the road to the main event: a tour and tasting at Tyrrell’s Wines, where we got up close and personal with some of the vines. Tyrrell’s Wines have been making wine (and family run) since 1858. Indeed, thanks to Phylloxera blighting European vineyards, the winery has some of the oldest vines in the world. At the time of our visit, the grapes were close to full colour and would be harvested in a few weeks. (Sooner for the whites.)
We then had a tour of the winery itself. Our guide, Richard Everett, is a trained Oenologist (winemaker) who worked in the wine industry for many years before moving into the wine guide business; he really knows his stuff and was able to give lots of insights into the wine-making process and the challenges it faces. (If you ever have doubts about the reality of climate change, talk to a winemaker!)
After the tour of the cellars, we then got down to the highlight of the day: tasting (15!) delicious Tyrrell’s wines. The tasting concentrated on what Hunter Valley (currently) does best - Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz - with several interesting comparisons, including three “vertical” tastings (same wine, different vintage) and several straight comparisons of the same grape from different vines and/or vineyards. (Tyrrell’s have vineyards outside Hunter too, so we were able to taste some of those and compare!) Richard was great and made the tasting highly educational, entertaining and enjoyable.
It’s fair to say that I came away from the tasting a major fan of Tyrrell’s Wines and will be looking out for them in future. It also really struck home how dynamic the whole wine business is - and how hard oenologists have to work year on year to maintain quality in the face of changing weather and climate.
After the tasting, we went for a somewhat pricey but very tasty lunch at Roberts Restaurant before a flying visit to Hungerford Hill Wines for a second (smaller) tasting with glimpse of the future: “cool climate” wines grown at altitude in the Snowy Mountains.
All-in-all, an excellent day out and highly recommended! (There are a few more photos here.)