This is a guest post by Jake Massy
Continuing our focus on Australia we bring you a guide to the vineyards of New South Wales.
Tuscany. Bordeaux. Napa Valley. And now – Hunter Valley? You might not have expected that, but the Hunter Valley region in New South Wales is putting Australian wines on the map. And it’s more than just the iconic Semillion: vineyards are producing Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho.
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Jo Schamltz
The wine-making history of the area reaches back to the colonial 18th century, when local governments wholeheartedly supported the production of wine, believing that the more men drank it (and the less hard liquor they consumed), the less savage they would be.
It was a lovely notion, and even if it didn’t exactly work (who is more beastly than a man nursing a red wine hangover?) modern-day wine enthusiasts nonetheless have those early grape growers to thank for the booming business in Hunter Valley. With so many breathtaking vineyards, each one offering its own unique take on hospitality, visitors to the area might feel overwhelmed by choices and be content to stick with just one or, conversely, try to spread themselves too thin. Visiting Hunter Valley should be a peaceful yet joyful experience. Here’s a definitive list of some of the very best vineyards to consider for your trip to Hunter Valley.
Bellabourneen Wine Co.
Dave Binet, recognized as a finalist for “Young Winemaker of the Year” and nominated as a “Rising Star Winemaker,” is winning over wine lovers left and right. The vineyards are located in two separate areas, with the Semillon, Chardonnay and signature Verdelho coming from Lovedale; the Semillon fruit comes from a patch of land characterized by red volcanic soil meeting three different types of clays. Guests to the vineyard are invited to sample the spicy Verdelho or the popular Shiraz, then browse the selection of local produce, cheese and olives, as well as local art. Bellabourneen offers a beautiful view of the Brokenback Range, best taken in during sunset with a seat at one of their relaxing tables.
Margan Premium Hunter Valley wines
Margan boasts over 320 acres of vineyards as well as a popular tapas-style restaurant. Not only that, but the vineyard is dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint by enrolling in a series of green initiative programs and personal practices aimed at keeping the business environmentally friendly. Guests will unwind in the rammed earth tasting room as part of the Cellar Door, which also serves as a unique wedding spot. The kitchen has been named the Best Tourism Restaurant in NSW & Hunter and its menu often changes to reflect seasonal produce. Gourmands will swoon over such offerings as roast duck, saffron potato gnocchi and twice-cooked pork belly. The restaurant also offers tasting menus of three, four and five courses for a fixed price.
Of the wineries on this list, Blueberry Hill grows the fewest grape varieties: just six! But what it might lack in quantity it makes up for in quality, especially the Shiraz, from an un-irrigated vineyard, and full of ripe aromas that swell with the flavor of dark cherries and liquorice anise. Tastings and tours are just the beginning; Blueberry Hill also offers guests limited space in their picturesque bed and breakfast accommodations.
Pepper Tree Wines
Distinguished winemaker Jim Chatto has developed a must-visit vineyard in the heart of Hunter Valley to complement the classic and award-winning wines. Grapes come from four of the best growing regions in Australia, all of which are sourced to the Pepper Tree winery, named the 2011 Cellar Door of the Year. Both the grounds and the buildings are stunning, and the staff provides exemplary service to make each guest feel like royalty.
David Hook Wines
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Jason Wong
Mr. Hook has been in the winemaking business for 20-odd years; after working odd jobs in Bordeaux, Spain and the U.S., he has been forging a name for himself out of Pepper Creek since the 1980s. The vineyard itself is a sweetly provincial collection of sandstone buildings, with a café and shops in addition to the winery. David Hook wines features a standout Sauvignon Blanc that bursts with fresh flavor and hints at passion fruit and grapefruit. His 2011 Semillon, with its crisp, lemon acid finish, won the Best-of trophy for that year at the New South Wales Small Winemakers Wine Show.
About our guest author:
Jake Massy is a contributing writer and amateur wine enthusiast. He likes to spend his evenings enjoying a glass of wine in company of his two dogs: Siegfried and Greebu.