The three of us were headed for a leisurely tour of the Hunter Valley while Willy was headed to Wollongong for sky-diving and other adventure stuff.
Hunter Valley is a region of New South Wales, extending from approximately 120 km to 310 km north of Sydney, Australia. The Hunter Region is one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions, known for both its red and white wine varieties. It is a major tourist destination in New South Wales and is the 6th most visited place in Australia attracting more than 2.5 million people annually.
It takes just around 2 hours to drive from Sydney city to Hunter Valley. For this trip, I got behind the wheel in a hybrid Toyota Camry, sponsored by Hertz, one of the best known car rental corporations in the world. I enjoy driving in foreign countries. The drive to Hunter Valley is pretty smooth and scenic, which makes it even more enjoyable.
The hybrid Toyota Camry is part of Hertz’s “Green Collection”. Other models in the collection include the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse and Hyundai Sonata. Eco-conscious travelers will be pleased with this initiative.
I have never driven a hybrid car before. It’s interesting how quiet the car was. There were occasions when I drove out of the carpark and Eunice commented she didn’t even know I started the engine!
The first attraction we visited was the Hunter Valley Gardens. We took a tram ride around the garden and did some shopping at their various shops.
The entire premise span over 60 acres, and there are various themed gardens for visitors to enjoy, ranging from a traditional Rose Garden to the quaint Storybook Garden.
Hunter Valley Gardens is a retirement project by Australian business couple, Bill and Imelda Roche who established Nutrimetics International (Australia) Pty Limited in 1968. In Bill’s own words:
“Over the years Imelda and I have created a number of beautiful gardens and open spaces throughout Australia, many of which have won awards. On retirement we thought the time had arrived to act upon our long held ambition to build a garden that would outlast us for many generations to come. A garden which would bring joy and excitement into many lives.”
I find this quite romantic. The couple met in a supermarket in 1956 and started in business selling lamps door-to-door. They have been through thick and thin together and this garden is like their labour of love.
Next, we headed to a vineyard called Audrey Wilkinson for wine-tasting as well as lunch. I am not much of a drinker, but I pretty much enjoyed the wine-tasting session, learning to smell, swirl and slowly sip and savour each different bottle of wine like a pro.
Instead of just saying a bottle of wine is “nice” or “not nice”, I learnt to use more sophiscated terms like acidity, nutty, woody and fruity to better describe the aroma, texture and taste.
Eunice and I both enjoyed Audrey Wilkinson‘s signature rose wine, Audrey Series Rosé 2009 very much. Ruby pink with magenta hues, the wine was lovely to look at and fun to drink with a relatively low 13.5% alcohol content. It is a fruit driven style made from Shiraz, Merlot and Malbec grapes. We got a bottle each. I enjoyed mine with my wife when I got back to Singapore.
For lunch, we had an outdoor picnic style lunch with foodstuff from the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop.
Eunice fell in love with their cheese cake and ate like a hundred slices.I was drawn by the platter of assorted cheese, fresh crackers and dried raisins. I am a big fan of cheese, especially the smelly ones which taste exceptionally heavenly to me.
Lovely views, fresh cheese and good wine – the combination for a perfect picnic.
While we were eating halfway, a helicopter from Slattery Helicopter Charter landed in the adjacent grass field. We were going to board this helicopter to visit another vineyard. This was really traveling in style.
I have never boarded a helicopter before and was rather looking forward like a little kid. Here are two 3D videos I recorded of my first helicopter ride in Hunter Valley:
We alighted at Hunter Resort, a vineyard resort for tourists to stay and learn about appreciating wine and beer, as well as how to make them.
The General Manager came to greet us personally. Really friendly chap, enthusiastic to show us around his property. The first thing we did was to visit their Bluetongue Brewery Cafe for a round of beer.
We had their unique Beer Tasting Paddle which came with accompanying notes for each of the brews. It was pretty interesting to taste beer with chocolate, ginger, seafood and other notes.
After the beer-tasting, we were given a tour around the resort and also visited their nicely furnished Hunter Wine Theatre for a crash course on wine appreciation before setting off.
We rounded up our visit to Hunter Valley with a little shopping at the Smelly Cheese Shop. Eunice and I both bought a bag of fresh muesli to take home. We were addicted to the fresh, organic muesli in Australia which tastes so much better than the factory packed ones in Singapore.
The shop stocks an impressive selection of delicatessen products from both Australia (including produces from the Hunter region) and overseas. As the name of the shop suggests, cheese was one of their main attraction. I was very tempted to buy slabs and slabs of cheese after sampling, but figured it would not be practical transporting them back to Singapore, not to mention stinking up the whole car on the way back for Eunice and Duglass!
Thereafter, we were headed back to Sydney city for dinner at The Rocks. Stay tuned.
FYI: There’s a voting contest going on via the official HTC Escapade website. Vote for your favourite Sydney photos taken by me and stand a chance to win a HTC EVO 3D smart phone for yourself! Triple your chance by voting for a photo each from Willy, Eunice and I!