Exploring New South Wales – Hunter Valley

In the vineyard with Semillon and Oysters

The Hunter Valley is a large region and holds the lions share of wineries when you look at New South Wales. In this region which covers more than 30,000 square kilometres (that’s over 18,000 square miles) you will find more than 150 wineries and cellar doors.

This is the oldest wine growing region in Australia. James Busby, the father of Australian wine, brought cuttings to the region in the 1820’s. Originally known for Riesling and Semillon, the region now produces a wide range of varieties. Semillon, is it’s signature wine. The grapes expression here is like no other region in the world.

When we visited in October of 2019 for the Wine Media Conference, we took a bit of time to explore the region, before, during and after the conference. Here is a bit on the few of the places we had time to visit. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more that we did not have time to get to, but we will drop a link at the bottom to help you find all the other amazing wineries and more in the region.

Muse at Hungerford Winery

We start out with a restaurant. Not just any restaurant, Muse is a dining experience. With a seasonal menu that makes your mouth water just to read and dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat, this is an experience not to miss when you are in the region.

What you find on every beautiful plate is sourced sustainably and locally, with some of the vegetables coming out of the garden on site that they maintain.

The wine list is filled with local wines and it is well worth tasting some of the aged Hungerford Semillons on the list. Did I mention the food is beautiful? I dare you to get through the slide show of our dinner without drooling.

  • Dinner at Muse in Hunter Valley NSW Australia Amuse bouche
  • 1st course at Muse restaurant in the Hunter Valley Australia NSW
  • Dinner at Muse Cured and charred kangaroo, wattleseed yoghurt, mulberry, purple daikon, native pepper berry salad  Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • 2nd course Muse Petuna ocean trout served raw, smoked bonito mousse, Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse entre Slow cooked lamb breast, black garlic glaze, fresh and salt baked beetroot, garlic shoots Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse 3rd Course Barbequed Murray Gold cod, kohlrabi, XO butter, nasturtium seeds, leaves and flowers Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Palate cleanser between courses at Muse in the Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse dessert Red gala apple, miso custard, verjuice caramel, brioche, macadamia, wattleseed Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dessert at Muse Raspberry, white chocolate, rhubarb, wild fennel, liquorice Hunter Valley NSW Australia

Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine is organic. They had been on my radar, and then I met winemaker Aaron Mercer at the opening gathering for the Wine Media Conference. I had an opportunity to taste his wines, while he told me about the winery and their organic vineyards. They work hard to limit their impact on the environment and are one of Australia’s largest organic producers. They do also have some Vegan Friendly wines!

Photos of Tambulaine Cellar door and Winemaker Aaron Mercer

Scarborough

We spent our first afternoon in the Hunter with Jerome (Jer-Oh-Me) Scarborough of Scarborough Wine Co. They are known here for Chardonnay, which is a little atypical for the region. We tasted in their beautiful tasting room on Gillards Road, which was originally the family home. His father Ian, known by most as “Scarbie” is one of the Hunter Valley “Legends”. Scarbie replanted the Gillards Road Vineyard when they took it over, pulling up the Cab and Shiraz and planting Chardonnay on the red clay soils.

Jerome took time with us for a wonderful interview and we look forward to sharing that with you in the future.

The beautiful Scarborough Gillards Rd Vineyard and Jerome Scarborough

Tyrrell’s

Tyrrell’s is one of the oldest wineries in the region. They have been family owned since 1858. Known for their Semillon & Shiraz, the Vat 1 Semillon is one of Australia’s most awarded white wines.

In 1858 Edward Tyrell took up 320 acres of land in the Hunter that he named “Ashmans” which is the name of his maternal grandmothers ancestral home in Suffolk. They built an iron bark slab hut as a residence. The historic building stands today.

If you are looking for history in the Hunter…this is the place.

Tyrrell’s brings the history of Hunter Valley to life in the bottle.

Keith Tulloch

Keith and his wife Amanda got into the wine business back in 1997. They grew the business purchasing the “Field of Mars” vineyard in 2008 and opening their state of the art winery in 2011. Keith Tulloch is a carbon neutral winery. I had messaged with Keith, but he was out of the country during our visit. Brendan their Winemaker took us out into the vineyard to show and tell us about the varieties they are growing, their sustainable methods, show us their insectary garden and then the winery.

We finished with a tasting upstairs at their beautiful cellar door. Cameron their Cellar Door Manager walked us through a tasting, answering all of our in depth questions.

They also have another of the Muse restaurants onsite. This is the Muse Kitchen. They serve lunch most days, and dinner a few days of the week so check ahead of time.

Krinklewood

If you know me you know that I will search out bio dynamic wineries. They are my people. Krinklewood was no exception. We headed out to Broke/Fordwich to meet Rod Windrim, the Vigneron (and owner). We were greeted by the sparkle of mirror balls lining the driveway at the end of each vineyard row. This keeps the birds away and it looks spectacular!

Rod met us and walked us around the property. He is passionate about bio dynamics and sustainability and was happy to talk with me about his views and practices. He took us past the solar panels into the winery, which itself is a pretty spectacular building and we were treated to some barrel tasting before we headed back to the cellar door and the gardens.

There are formal gardens here as well as some stellar organic produce gardens and a peacock or two that wander the property. We finished with a tasting with Rod before he had to jet off to Sydney for a meeting.

Biodynamics and a bit of disco bling at Rod Windrim’s Krinklewood Vineyard.

Brokenwood

We were lucky enough to make a couple of trips to Brokenwood. It’s centrally located and pretty easy to get to.

We did a morning meeting for an interview with Senior Winemaker Stuart Hordern, who is also a Director on the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Board. He came in from the vineyard to tell us about the region and then a bit more about Brokenwood itself.

We visited again for the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event and…once more for dinner on the winery crush pad with a group of wine writers.

This winery was established in 1970 by 3 businessmen from Sydney, one of which was James Halliday, the noted Australian wine writer and critic who is known for Wine Companion, his annual overview on Australian Wine.

Audrey Wilkinson

While at the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event, I met Daniel Byrom. We had a great conversation while he poured me the Audrey Wilkinson wines. He did tell me also that they have a stunning vineyard with the best sunrise shots in the Hunter Valley.

So we got up early and headed out to see the sunrise their ourselves. He was right, it was stunning, as were their wines.

The stunning Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

So much more…

There are so many more wineries in this region. Many we caught up with at the conference like First Creek, de iuliis, Briar Ridge, 1813, Wombat Creek, Whispering Brook, Tulloch, Tintilla, Mount Pleasant, Margan, Thomas, Peter Drayton, Oakvale and so many more. (You can look forward to more on these wineries coming up)

It’s a beautiful region, with lots to do, that sits just 2 hours from Sydney. They have a big concert series in addition to fantastic restaurants, festivals, hot air balloon rides, nature retreats, golfing, spas…there is really something for everyone. For more information visit Hunter Valley Wine Country

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How to measure a year – 2019, specifically..

Calendar

Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.

I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.

Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!

The Quiet Time

My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.

Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.

The Scenic Route

We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.

Studying

Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…

#OurAussieWineAdventure

Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.

So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.

12 Days of Wine

Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.

Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.

Want more details on some of these great spots?

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The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 4 – Naches Heights and Yakima Valley

Wilridge Sunrise Washington Naches Heights AVA

Day 5

What were we thinking!? A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot in Washington! Days here are longer. In July they are about 15 hrs. Sunset was 8:57 pm and sunrise is about 5:15 am. At least today we did not have a ton of driving to do.

Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise
Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise

We were up really early to get out to Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA before the sun. Paul Beverage, the owner, couldn’t join us that early, but was happy to give us permission to shoot on this beautiful property. We quietly pulled in. They allow camping on the property and there was an RV out front with people tucked away sleeping, as we were arriving before sunrise to set up.

Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA was approved in 2012 and was the first Washington AVA to be completely sustainable. All 7 initial vineyards were biodynamic or LIVE certified. This AVA is in Yakima County, but sits outside (north and west) of the Yakima Valley AVA.

We’ve talked about the Missoula Floods that washed through this area. I remember speaking with David O’Reilly of Owen Roe at their Union Gap Vineyard. We stood toward the top of his vineyard at 1,200 feet and were at the top of the Missoula Flood level. Naches Heights sits between 1,200 and 2,100 feet, so the entire plateau is above the Missoula Floods.

The plateau was formed as a lava flow from the Cascades cooled. The soil here is known as Tieton Loam Loess. The high elevation means less chance of winter damage in the vineyard.

Wilridge Vineyard

Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington

Paul Beverage started his winery in Seattle back in 1988. In 2007 he planted Wilridge Vineyard near Yakima. The vineyard was planted to be Certified Organic and Biodynamic.

They consider themselves a “Recreational Vineyard”. There are bike trails and hikes, and they have a map to guide you around the vineyard and to the cliff trail hikes in Cowiche Canyon. You can even rock climb on the Andesite rock cliffs where the vineyard has bolted anchors.

Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room at Wilridge Vineyard
Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room

You can also just kick back on the porch of the 100 year old farmhouse that is their tasting room and enjoy the views and the wild (or not so wild) life. The cats are friendly. Rachel, a young black cat, came running up to me meowing and spent part of the morning purring and curling up in my lap!

Rachel, the vineyard cat. She ran up to me from across the porch meowing and demanded to sit in my lap and be petted! How could I not ablige.

  • Sunrise with vines a Wilridge Vineyard in Washington's Naches Heights AVA
  • Wilridge Sunrise & lavender Washington Naches Heights AVA
  • The Wilridge logo painted on the door at the farmhouse
  • Tree swing and tables for enjoying a glass or a bottle at Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington
  • Flowers and farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard, Naches Heights AVA
  • Grapes in the morning sun at Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA of Washington State
  • The 100 year old Farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard

The farmhouse has 3 AirBnb rooms, they take reservations for RV parking and you can camp in the vineyard! Staying here, gives you the luxury of waking up and taking in the gorgeous sunrise in your PJ’s with a cup of Joe in hand.

Back to the Yamika Valley AVA

JB Neufeld

Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars in Washington's Yakima Valley AVA
Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars

Justin of JB Neufeld made some time in his morning to talk with us about his Cabernets. In addition to his own label, he is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars and we met him on their beautiful property on Hackett Ranch.

The bees buzzed happily in the lavender behind us as we chatted with a view of the beautiful gardens and amphitheatre here on the property.

Justin is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. He looks to how this grape expresses itself in different soils and climates within Washington. We had a fascinating discussion with him on how he pulls the best out of each of his vineyard designates from Red Mountain to Red Willow, across the entire Yakima Valley, to create a beautiful complex blend of Cabernet. We also talked about microflora in the soil and about the wines he makes with Gilbert. You can expect us to share more of this interview later!

Wine Yakima Valley

When we visited Washington before for #WBC18, we met Barbara Glover who had put together the pre-conference tour for Wine Yakima Valley. Barbara was instrumental in helping us connect with vineyard owners and winemakers for this trip to the Yakima Valley. We were excited to meet with her and talk about all the exciting developments in the Yakima Valley Wine Region.

She arranged for us to meet her at Stems, a wine shop in downtown Yakima. We met Brad the owner and were able to talk Yakima Wine. In addition to the great interview with Barbara, it was fun to just chat with them about the region, it’s people and culture.

Stems Yakima

Brad mentioned that when he opened Stems, he planned to be just focus on Washington Wines. Local demand to learn more about other regions has him holding events including wines from outside the region. The thirst for knowledge (and wine) is alive and well in Yakima! This is a great place to pick up a bottle or twelve of wine and anything wine related that you can imagine.

Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington
Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington with Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley.

Los Hernandez

Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington
Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington

When we asked where to grab lunch, everyone said the same thing…Los Hernandez. We did a piece on our delicious lunch here.

Treveri

The lawn at Trevari
The lawn at Treveri

We were running early for our tasting at Owen Roe, so we thought we would stop by Treveri. I mean who can pass up bubbles after filling up on tamales!

As we were filled with tamales, we passed on the cheese and charcuteries offerings, but…if you are in the area, this is a great stop for bubbles and a snack. Tastings are seated and are free. We found a spot outside. The clouds had rolled in and it actually got a little humid (which is not typical for this area!). It was just mere moments before an attentive host came to talk us through the menu. It felt a bit luxurious to sit and enjoy the view and have someone continually bring you new bubbles to try.

These are good affordable bubbles. Your tasting will take you through bubbles that go from Brut Zero to Demi Sec with their sweetness levels and in addition to the traditional Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay, they have a rosé of Syrah and Chardonnay and the Demi-Sec sparkler we tasted was of Gewurztraminer.

Owen Roe

When we were here last October we attended a dinner at Owen Roe’s Union Gap vineyard. I had an opportunity to walk the winery with owner David O’Reilly as well as do a vineyard tour with him. As we walked the vineyard we tasted the Owen Roe wines on, in the blocks the grapes were harvested from.

But Owen Roe has many more wines than just the Union Gap vineyard designates. They pull from Red Willow for their Chapel Series, as well as from DuBrul, Olsen, Outlook and Elerding here in the Yakima Valley for many of their other wines (and they do have a really wide selection of wines!) They also source from the Willamette Valley from vineyards across 4 different AVAs. When we knew we were going to be back in the area, we knew that we wanted to sit down and taste through their wines.

Barrels, Owen Roe, Yakima Valley, Tasting Room, Barrel Room, Union Gap
Owen Roe’s Union Gap Tasting room is in the winery. Now filled with barrels some of which make for private tasting areas.

Tasting with Brandon at Owen Roe

The space looked so much different than our last visit! Our October visit was during harvest and the winery was filled with fermentation bins! Now there were stacks of barrels, some of which created a private tasting area and this was where Brandon set us up for our tasting.

Brandon set us up with a wide and large tasting through many of their wines and we promise we will walk you through that tasting in the not so distant future.

It was still early when we finished at Owen Roe, but we were bushed! We picked up some dinner and crashed early. The next day would be early again. Co Dinn was meeting us at Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipe Mountain AVA, early in the day. Next we would drive on to Red Mountain to visit with Sarah Goedhart at Hedges Family Estate. Then we would be making the drive to Walla Walla to meet Tim & Jennifer Amstrong at their vineyard. So stay tuned!

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