It’s not often that you get away with the gals so for a bit of luxury, we booked a fancy villa at the beautiful Château Élan. The resort is set on an enormous green golf course (complete with helipad) and if you’re around at sunrise or sunset, you may just see some of the local wildlife.
We took our time driving up on the Saturday and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Margan that night (more on that to come).
The next day we went on an all day wine tasting tour to sample some of the wines in the area. While semillon is the most popular wine produced in the Hunter, there are many wineries also producing ranges like verdelho, shiraz and chardonnay.
Our first stop was Macquariedale Organic Winery were owner Ross McDonald guided us through a tasting. Macquariedale is a certified organic and biodynamic winery that doesn’t use herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and adds natural enhancers to the soil like seaweed.
The family-run boutique winery also manages the preservative (sulphur) levels in their wines. The Australian Standard for organic wine is half that of normal wines and as high sulphur content can give you a headache, this makes organic wine a much more appealing option.
As well as producing wine, they also grow organic garlic, fruit and vegetables and olives which are used to make their biodynamic olive oil. I enjoyed the wines (particularly the whites) and really connected with the ethos at Macquariedale, it’s certainly a winery I’d be happy to support and buy from.
Our next winery was scenic RidgeView and it was here that I learnt a few interesting things about my favourite variety of wine – pinot grigio, a type of wine I came to love on my visits to England and Italy.
Our guide explained that pinot grigio is the wine made by Italians, pinot gris is the result of the French method. The pinot gris produced at RidgeView is similar to pinot grigio because of the temperature of the area.
In French ‘pinot’ means pine cone and ‘gris’ means grey. The variety of grapes used to make pinot gris / grigo are small and bundled tightly together, so a bunch of grapes looks like a pine cone. So clever!
The last cellar door we stopped at was Travertine, a boutique winery that my friends and I enjoyed on our last trip to the Hunter, two years ago.
Our guide explained that the Hunter Valley produces 60% white grapes and 40% red grapes. He also said 2014 was the best year for shiraz in the last 20 years. If only I hadn’t gone off red wine!
In February when the grapes are ready to pick, Travertine uses mechanical harvesters and three people to collect all the grapes (this is done at night due to the high summer temperatures during the day). The bare vines will now remain dormant until October.
On our return to our villa late in the afternoon, we walked up a small embankment to see huge amounts of kangaroos grazing, with the backdrop of a blue, purple and pink sky as the sun went down. We quietly stood for what seemed like ages watching these amazing and beautiful animals eat, scratch and play. It was the perfect ending to a great day.
Have you been on a wine tour? What are your favourite varieties of wine?
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