Postcards From Vacation Part 3: Hunter Valley (and a Guest Blogger)

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It is my great pleasure to have my very first Guest Blogger. To share with you Postcard from Vacation Part 3, may I introduce to you … Partner-in-Crime, who will regale you with tales of our trip to the Hunter Valley wine region.
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Partner-in-Crime has decided to make a brief cameo on these pages, in light of our recent visit to HunterValley. As an avid viticulturalist and a wannabe voignier, he thought this would make for a timely blog appearance. Behold his cyber manifestation…..(suspense and drumroll)……tada!

 

Thank you…thank you very much….in our latest act of moral turpitude, my accomplice (in crimes and high misdemeanors) and I have decided to visit Hunter on a Friday afternoon. This was not entirely arbitrary, since we just saw several grown men kiss baby wombats in the Reptile Park, including the park ranger who was unrelenting in his affection towards these cute but grossly violated marsupials. Since we could not take a shower, we thought that wine would be the most appropriate restorative for what we were just forced to experience.

 

We passed the unprepossessing town of Cessnock, and entered the valley, which has a rugged, barren texture of Napa, but with that special Australian eucalyptus-green glaze that permeates the scenery. A suffering soil is supposed to be good for the grape. If you did not know, grapes are into S&M and the more you torture them, the more complex the flavour. No wonder all wines like the basement.
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We started our pilgrimage by selecting wineries that were open late, so our degustation results were quite random. In fact, we were forced to prostitute our delicate palette by trying wines from national winery outfits that have little interest in the purity of the Hunter terroir. Instead of worshiping the local soil and varietals that are most suited for this region, we were offered Margaret River Granache and similar imbecilic choices. Any self-respecting wine snob would agree that this is the equivalent of being offered a penguin in a cheese shop. However, the old adage of any improper wine tasting is that wine tastes better and better with each new glass, until the taster achieves the state of drunken equanimity, naturally scorned by true connoisseurs. So, do not follow our faux pas, and spit…and spit often. They’ll even give you a bowl in which to spit. In order to drive this point home, we came back to taste the same wines the next day, and sure enough, they were not worthy of our sober attention.
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The next day indeed brought a more contextual survey of the lower Hunter valley. We performed one of those self-delusional searches for that special unrecognised and underpriced boutique winery, so that we can rave about it to other wine-snobs back in the city, as we make painful attempts to pronounce wine labels that are supposed to sound Aboriginal. Needless to say, it would’ve been easier to find truffles than unrecognised wineries in this part of Hunter. Nevertheless, we were pleased with Pepper Tree and the purely organic Tamburlane. But the unexpected pièce de résistance of our search was the aged wine estate.

 

In an unusual set of circumstances, our car was herded by a group of eighty year old police officers in raingear, to see a random rock-concert in the nearby vineyard. After disabusing the officers of the very peculiar notion that we are young and therefore interested in rock concerts, or that this event is somehow remotely connected to wine tasting, they were gracious to let us go and continue with our original mission, which was to find the aged wine estate.

 

We soon entered the estate which aspired to look like a Transylvanian castle, complete with an old owner, who could’ve posed as the main character in any third-rate Dracula farce. This old military man locked us into one of the chambers to taste his aged Chardonnays, pretty much involuntarily, as he regaled us with cliché jokes and stories of his military experience, probably predating the Norman conquest and the battle of Hastings. Despite his overbearing personality, all of his aged wines were really good, particularly his 1996 Chardonnay and of course his 1998 Shiraz which is approaching its peak. In fact his Shiraz exuded the very essence Hunter, with rich tannins, full body and a distinct nose, and that peculiar flavour of Hunter that invokes lean and arid land that loves to torture any good grape.

 

 
Editor’s Note (that sounds so fancy!): We came away with a bottle of said 1998 Shiraz, and did not manage to leave Hunter without at least a 6-month supply of wine we deemed proper (at least they seemed that way in our slightly tipsy state). I’ll leave you with a few more photos of our Hunter trip … it was a gray, dreary day, but that did not stop me from perpetually snapping away at every vista, valley and flower in sight.
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