For our friend’s recent birthday we hit the road for a weekend in Hunter Valley. Phil and I were spoilt as our friends own a car in Sydney so they offered to drive us. God, how I have missed the charm of a road trip. Living in London for six years without a car, you forget how easy and marvellous it is to be able to jump in a car and head out for a weekend.

We stayed in the south part of the region, in Cessnock. At times Cessnock felt a bit ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, but for the locale to vineyards and price our AirBnB was a steal! Simply put, it was a large metal barrel. But inside, the rooms, bathroom and kitchen were beautifully kept and perfect for the six of us.

On the Saturday the birthday girl had sorted us a hop on, hop off bus which was super convenient for our drinking plans as it would stop at different vineyards each hour. You could pick the ones you wanted to visit and stay as long as you liked before catching the bus the next time it came through. We hit a couple of the larger vineyards; one in particular, McGuigan,  felt like a boozy party with the locals. They were just pouring us free taster after taster, but also much larger pours. You’d think this would excite me. But no. At 34, I am now a grown up and I actually wanted to learn about the wine. My insightful questions didn’t get me far, instead the server sloshed another wine with minimal detail into my glass.

If you want a great experience, I recommend Brokenwood. The team there were fantastic and the tasting was one of the best I’ve ever done. I would definitely recommend you splurge on the pricier tasting, good, God those wines were amazing. I came home with a $45 bottle of 2015 Semillon to save for a special occasion.

2015 Tallawanta Vineyard Semillon
There is a hint of toast, honey nougat flavour and texture with citrus rind aromas and some cut grass in the background.

On the Sunday we hit Peterson House Winery for brunch, where the food was delicious, but the staff were stretched. The setting itself was spectacular, but I fear it’s one where the reputation has been so strong for so long, that the little things can slip. I’m no pro, nor a restaurant critic (but fuck, I’d love to be!), but when you have to wait 30+ minutes for a coffee, get moved because a table you booked on the deck isn’t available and have to chase down a jug of almond milk (you’d already ordered), you have to wonder if the shine has worn and needs a re-buff.

For me, I thought the vineyards were beautiful, but definitely not the lush green, water backed spots you get on Waiheke Island. It’s unbeatable. Brokenwood was my winner of the weekend (and the drunken game of Cranium we embarked on that night), which the birthday girl had forewarned us was her favourite.

I know I need to give Australian wineries another chance, perhaps another region? We’ve got a trip to Hobart coming up next month which I am counting down the days for (35!), not just because of the trip, but for the fantastic company that awaits us.

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