A Birthday and Wine-Tasting in the Hunter Valley

Kangaroos Outside Our Rental Villa, Pokolbin, NSW

Kangaroos Outside Our Rental Villa, Pokolbin, NSW

Sydney, Monday Evening

I don’t think I’ll ever stop being enthralled by kangaroos in a natural environment, whether they’re standing in the evening sunlight or hopping around in the bush.

We didn’t go to the Hunter Valley to see kangaroos, but it was a special treat when we spotted several on the grounds of our rental villa.  Mlstly we enjoyed a two-day getaway of wine-tasting and time with Clive’s son and daughter-in-law, J & J, and their 19-month old son (whose older brother was with J’s parents).  The weekend was masterfully organised by Clive’s son as a special early 30th birthday surprise for his wife.




Morning at Bimbadgen Estate Wines, Pokolbin, NSW

Morning at Bimbadgen Estate Wines, Pokolbin, NSW

The quality and availability of Australian (and New Zealand) wine is one of many things I love about Sydney.  There’s always something interesting to learn, and wine regions are hard to beat for short or long trips.  They almost always have gorgeous scenery; good and sometimes great wine; often excellent restaurants, galleries, and shops; and best of all, many wine regions in Australia are near the coast, with spectacular walks and views.
The Hunter is more inland, with the Brokenback Range providing a scenic backdrop for many wineries and vineyards.   I always leave there thinking, “we should do this more often.”
We started most tastings with all four of us trying a Semillon, the Hunter’s signature varietal which is made for Sydney Rock Oysters or fresh Aussie prawns.  But after that, our paths diverged, with C&C going for dry whites and a few reds, while J&J worked their way up the sweet side of things, usually right through to the Botrytis Semillon dessert wines.  J&J know their way around – we visited 13 wineries in a day and a half — and Clive and I splurged on a bottle of outrageously good 2007 Classic Hunter Verdelho Liqueur by Robyn Drayton http://www.robyndraytonwines.com.au/home.asp, a white port with which we fell in love when we tasted it with fresh lime juice squeezed in. 


Robyn Drayton, 5th-Generation Winemaker, Hunter Valley

Robyn Drayton, 5th-Generation Winemaker, Hunter Valley

Proper wine experts have written volumes about Australian wine; my absolute favourite is James Halliday.  His small hardcover Pocket Guide to Wines of Australia is worth its weight in gold; I have learned much about how Australian wine fits into the global wine context from his book Varietal Wines; and his annual large reference guides are rich with current information.  I only worry that he is about 70 years old now, and I hope he continues writing and reviewing wines for years to come.  I learned from reading James Halliday that Robyn Drayton was the first female vigneron in the Hunter Valley, and from my first visit to Robyn Drayton Wines several years ago that she’s also a single mother of three boys.

As with any good wine region, there are always too many choices for too short a time, but I am starting to think Robyn Drayton Wines is my favourite place in the Hunter Valley, though admittedly there are still quite a few we haven’t visited.  This one has everything I like:  good wine, of course; the location is beautiful, closer to the Brokenback Range than wineries further east; the cellar door building for tasting has a simple, somewhat rustic style with character; there is a small museum of family history and gift shop with locally-produced olive oils; outside there’s an area with picnic tables; you can get the all-important coffee; and I like the fact that the business is owned and run by a typically hard-working single mother. 


Hunter Valley Sunset & Brokenback Range, Pokolbin, NSW

Hunter Valley Sunset & Brokenback Range, Pokolbin, NSW

These kinds of days are precious moments in our global family life; it’s sometimes such a challenge to be mindful, and stay in the present, and relax and appreciate our blessings.  We are conscious of a major trip coming up and we still have much to do, but thanks to Clive’s son’s initiative and the proximity of the Hunter Valley to Sydney and the Central Coast, we were able to carve out a little bit of away time for all of us.

Thanks, J & J.  It was a great two days.


3 Generations (1 Asleep, 2 Almost), Pokolbin Estate Vineyard, NSW

3 Generations (1 Asleep, 2 Almost), Pokolbin Estate Vineyard

Happy early-birthday, J.  You’re a beautiful young woman, wife, and mother and it was wonderful spending this time with you.



A Beautiful Almost-30 Year-Old

A Beautiful Almost-30 Year-Old

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