Sampling Summer in the Hunter Valley

Summer is coming.


Translation: I’m excited. There are all sorts of activities that are better in summer than they are in winter, except maybe snowboarding but I’d say summer still has the overall edge.

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the warm weather by taking a wine tour of the Hunter Valley. The last time I visited the Hunter was for the marathon. This time was considerably more fun, if not a smidge less of a personal victory.

Travertine Vineyards
Look closely for tiny grape clusters.

I took all sorts of notes and had delusions of grandeur about pitching the wine tour story to a non-blog publication, but let’s be real – I don’t know what there is to say about wine that hasn’t already been said.

You guys probably don’t care if the Chambourcin was a reddy-pinky color and tasted like grape peels (direct quote from said ‘detailed’ notes). If you do, shoot me an email and we can talk.

The bottom line was that it was a good day. A little messy, but good. And we kept it classy by drinking wine out of glasses and not boxes so it wasn’t *quite* as reckless as my early days in Australia, even if that’s what it reminded me of.

First, some potentially interesting facts gleaned from my journalistic notes:

  • You should decant wine 1-2 hours before you drink it. I am not sure if this applies to both red and white. I also know that I will never do this nor will I notice the difference in taste.
  • Old port warms you from the inside out. Young port burns. Both taste like liquid raisins.
  • Merlot is the most expensive grape in the world due to its proportionately low yield.
  • The secret for pairing wine with food: Anything that chases you goes with red. Anything you chase goes with white.

Whew. Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, let’s have some visuals.

McGuigan Wines

We started here, at one of the oldest wineries in the Hunter.

Okay, I made that up. I have no idea how old the winery is, but it did recently win the world’s best white with its 2005 Bin 9000 Semillon. At $65 a bottle, this wasn’t opened for our tasting group, despite our clear demonstration of wine knowledge through phrases such as “This one’s got some legs” and “I guess I’d have to decant my wine before I left for work in the morning so it’d be ready when I got home.”

McGuigan Wines
If you wanted to buy in bulk.

Hunter Distillery

As we waited for our first tasting to start at McGuigan’s, our guide asked us if we wanted to visit the vodka distillery.

That’s how we ended up taking test tube shots of flavored vodka at ten a.m.

Hunter Distillery
Don’t act like you’ve never done this before, boys.

We also got a tour of the facility and learned lots of stuff about vodka, but I forgot to take my notebook out of my bag that time. So here are some more photos.

Vodka Distillery
Vodka flavors
All were good, but best flavor by a mile was chili schnapps with a hint of butterscotch.

Bluetongue Brewery Café

After the vodka distillery, we charged further away off the wine path by hitting a brewery for lunch. Almost everyone ordered a sampler paddle of the beers, so the table got crowded real quick. I removed mine from the paddle and promptly forgot which was which because three of them are remarkably similar in color. The Hermitage Road Wine Tasting Cellar is adjacent to the restaurant, but it’s more of a shop with tastings than an actual winery.

Bluetongue brewery
I have to say this isn’t my favorite beer.


This was my favorite winery. Probably because it was getting towards the end of the day and I pretty much loved everything about the world and the people in it by this point. Unfortunately, my notes are of little help, with scribbled phrases such as Portuguese variety, zesty passionfruit, and faked them out.

I don’t know. But it was a smaller winery and the Irish guy running the tasting was nice. Also generous, as we sampled no less than ten wines at this stop.

Note the aforementioned scribbles in the corner of the picture.

Smelly Cheese Complex

The final stop on our tour before the 45-minute return to Newcastle was at what I call the Smelly Cheese Complex. There are a number of shops and wineries to choose from, including the Smelly Cheese Shop. It was crawling with cheese aficionados, so I bought an ice cream cone and went straight back outside. It was the right decision.

Smelly Cheese
The complex.
Smelly Cheese
The Valley.


By then, a chill had returned to the air, reminding me that it’s not quite summer yet. We hustled into the van and busied ourselves with talking in outside voices the whole way back to Newcastle.

All in all, low on journalistic integrity but pretty high on fun.


Winery group
All class.

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  1. I love when you write about booze. “This one’s got some legs.” Also, that chalkboard of vodka and gin flavors looks amazing. And I spent far too much time going through my head thinking about which animals chase and which are chased. Like, what about a goose? Or a boar? Do you chase a cow? Far too much time.

    1. I don’t write about booze enough. You know, when I wrote that chase/be chased, I actually misinterpreted it as chase you = all animals and be chased = plants but your comment made me realize that I was way off base. Then I remembered the guy talking about the theory in the wine tour but the only examples I can think of are cow: chase you and fish/chicken: you chase. I’m unclear about where pigs and geese come in. Again, another rule I will never follow. Also – do you eat boar? I’m impressed.

      1. Wild boar’s popular round these parts (especially in Corsica) — I found a place in Milan a couple weeks ago that does amazing truffle and wild boar risotto. Another reason you need to come back to Europe and visit.

    1. It’s great! I think they change the wineries up every time but it’s such a nice day out – I’ve done it twice now. We also bought a bunch of wines so it’s been like the tour that keeps on giving.

  2. Hi, Lauren, Love the “chasing” advice about wine.
    Love your blog. When is the wedding and where? Keep on enjoying the good life you have.

    1. Thanks, good to hear from you! The wedding is on the north shore of Oahu in September 2014. Seems so far away but I’m sure it will come up quickly!

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