February 17, 2010

Hunter Valley Cellar Door

I recently took a day trip to the Hunter Valley. It is very easy to forget that this great wine region is still within easy enough reach of Sydney to make it a quick getaway spot. There are still many small producers to discover and that was our aim on this day. So, bribed with the promise of an excellent lunch, I joined two my friends at a very reasonable hour of the morning (well it was to a person with a small child) to tootle up the freeway to start our tasting expedition at Peterson’s Winery.

One of the great benefits to being a member of a winery’s cellar door club, is that you get the opportunity to taste in a private tasting area away from the maddening crowd. Not that we needed it on this stormy day but let’s face it, if you are stuck in the crowd trying to get through a flight of wines it can turn your relaxing cellar door exploration into a bun fight. As we were so armed, we had a quiet tasting in back room and found something to delight even that much loved friend who has a very specific wine preference. Considering that all three of us purchased bottles of Sparkling Moscato – I would say that was probably the hit of the morning.

It is always nice to ask around at the wineries for lunch / dinner recommendations and we were directed to Bistro Molines which was superb – location, view as well as the cuisine. It was one of those ‘life is good’ moments and we are still talking about the truffles and the stuffed zucchini (courgette) flowers.

The next stop was Piggs Peake Winery. To say Steve Lanham has his tongue firmly placed in his cheek is an understatement. They are renowned for their ‘big’ reds and at 17% for their succulent Zin, and I am not talking about the liqueured version, I mention the word understatement does not come to often into Steve’s vocabulary. Despite their ‘red’ reputation, I think that their whites are underappreciated. They should be noted for the quality and value of their Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon as well as the quirkiness of the names of their wines.  Piggs Peake also produce an exciting Marsanne, a Lambrusco style wine that will make you rethink the style and a rather divine dessert Zinfandel that will go perfectly with that pot au chocolat. These guys should definitely be on your radar for a cellar door visit.

Just up the road from Piggs is the very stylish De Iuliis (sounds like Julius with a ‘D’) cellar door with their lovely Shirazs. Is it any wonder that after all these big reds, we decided that we needed to drop in on the Smelly Cheese Shop which stocks an impressive range of cheeses as a change of pace. Some of us did succumb to a gelato……

It was back on route to another producer of reputable Hunter reds, Meerea Park on cellar door at The Boutique Wine Centre however, it was late in the day at the end of a quiet weekend, and the centre did not have much left open.

The last stop was just around the corner at Tamburlaine Wines. This winery has made the cellar door club into an art form and their status as an organic wine producer is just another feather in their cap. They are also very consistant producers of fresh and lively Verdelhos and Semillons and their reds are made to be food friendly and generous. They also make a interesting Framboise that will be a very welcome alternative dessert wine offering at a dinner party.

Needless to say we drove back to Sydney with a boot full and plans to ‘discover’ some more Hunter cellar doors as soon as we can organise it.

Note: Lisa Johnston is a member of the Tamburlaine and Peterson cellar door clubs.

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