Sanford and I did one more Sydney getaway, this time to Cessnock, a small town 150 km north. This town is located in Hunter Valley, which is one of Australia’s major wine-growing regions.
So we did what you’re supposed to do in a wine-growing region and that is a wine tour!! I’ve never been on one before and was looking forward to it.
Our tour started bright and early at 9:30 am and our first stop was Kevin Sobels Wines where we tasted no less than 12 wines ranging from Chardonnays, Verdelhos, Merlots, and Shiraz to dessert wines and ports. This being our first stop, the hostess guided us through the finer points of how to do a proper taste.
There are three steps involving three senses; sight, smell and taste. First sight. When looking at wine you are evaluating the colour and the clarity. Wine changes colour with age, white wines get darker and red wines get lighter. You also want to see that the wine is not cloudy or murky. Next smell. The wine must first be swirled in the glass in order to aerate it causing the wine to release its aroma. While smelling the wine see if you can detect the smell of berries, florals or herbs, earthy scents, or spices. Finally taste. The first sip is used to set up your palette and clear it from the previous wine. The tasting of the wine is really done on the second sip where you let the wine linger in your mouth and come in contact with all your taste buds. While it is lingering in your mouth, pay attention to the texture and flavor. Decide if you like it or not. You can either swallow the wine or spit it out.
It was fun doing the tasting, but I have to say it was hard to drink wine first thing in the morning. Thankfully, the second stop was to an olive shop where we sampled different olive varieties and got small pieces of bread to dunk in various oils, vinegars and dips for tasting. This was a good stop to counteract the wine from the first stop.
Time for another winery, Audrey Wilkinson, where we sampled 10 more wines. After the first wine tasting, I already knew what I didn’t like and so I didn’t try everything. I was already becoming selective and just tried types of wines I knew I might like. Then it was lunch time and we went to a tourist boutique shopping area with several choices for lunch.
First stop after lunch was to Hunter Distillery, the makers of vodkas, liqueurs and schnapps. We got to taste 11 different flavoured vodkas, including coffee, chocolate, caramel and chilli, plus a sampling of 10 different liqueurs and schnapps. The samples were served in test tubes and we got 2 ml of each. Sanford and I actually shared that size and found it adequate for tasting. I have to admit that this was my most favourite stop.
From there it was to a chocolate shop for samples and to a “smelly cheese” shop for tastes of four different cheese spreads (provided on popsicle sticks), two hard cheeses, and a variety of olives.
We were getting in the home stretch with a stop to a third vineyard, McLeish Estates, with another 10 wines to taste and the tour was completed with a final stop to a brewery for beer samples.
Whew! You might think we would have been stuffed and/or drunk by the end, but no. The samples were quite small everywhere and as I mentioned, with the wine, and also the liqueurs and beers, I was selective in what I tried. So at the end, we were just fine.
We spent the night at the hostel, did a walk the next day, and headed home.
I enjoyed the trip; it was a fun touristy thing to do.