So this is probably my favourite morning so far in Australia. I absolutely love red wine but have never done a ‘wine tasting’ where they tell you all about what it is you’re drinking. No. My idea is going to the shelves after work and grabbing a bottle of red, probably one I have drunk several tones over, and purchasing that one.I recall my forest experience tasting wine. My mum and I were going to pick my brother up from his prom at Compton Acres and she stopped at Sainsbury’s in Alder Hills to fill up and I asked her to get some wine for me. Back at this point in my life I began choosing wine based on how much I liked the label on it. Ridiculous I know. Wine in hand (Blossom Hill White Zinfandel was my choice for the first couple of years until I was introduced to white wine) we proceeded to pick my brother up with me swigging from the bottle in the car park. So classy. At least now I drink out of a glass (or a plastic Tommee Tippee non-spill style wine glass at my best friends).Anyway, I digress. I had been looking forward to visiting Hunter Valley and sampling their wines, after all it is what the area I renowned for. We had the maps from the visitors centre and my old boss gave me a few places to visit. First up was the Hunter Distillery.We stopped here and went inside. They had soooo many spirits and liqueurs as well as other gift ideas! We went over to the counter and the lady behind brought out some test tubes and a bin as she put the tasting list in front of us. Seeming as Nathan was the driver, (I have offered several times to drive) I was able to taste to my hearts content. It was $5 to taste but they take that off the price of you purchase anything.I tried gin, chocolate vodka, hazelnut liqueur, chocolate mint liqueur and a few others. They squirt a little into the test tube and I just chugged it back. They were delicious, all of them, even the gin and I really don’t like gin!

Satisfied we had wet my palate, we sought out some of the local family run smaller wineries. First up was Ivanhoe Wines, a recommendation from my old boss. We went in and were greeted by a man who asked if we were here for a tasting. Well of course we were! Gimme gimme gimme!Ivanhoe vineyard has been around since 1855 and is run by the Drayton family. The views from the vineyard are amazing and the fact there are three souls crucial to creating amazing wine. As we entered, I was asked which wines I wanted to sample. I opted for the five reds.We started with the lighter reds and I worked my way up to the heavier ones. As my glass kept getting semi-refilled, I savoured the taste of each one. There was no spitting it into metal bucket here. No no no. Every drop went down like silk. It was divine. Feeling adventurous, I also went for the sparkling maiden and it was sensational. This experience was free.

Preference: 2015 Ivanhoe Shiraz and the 2017 Sparkling Maiden

Next stop along our small, family run cellar door tour was Lambloch estate. Lambloch estate produces three ranges of wine: classic, flip side and the loch range. They even have cider which you can sample for $5. You can sample five wines for free. I opted for 2 white and 3 red.The last time I drank white wine was when the waitress got my order wrong in Panama City and brought me white wine instead of red. I didn’t correct it so I drank it instead. You’d think a nice cold glass of white wine would be lovely what with the heat here, but I would still prefer a nice glass of red. I started with the Semillon and then the Pinot, both of which to be fair were lovely. Then came the reds and the Merlot was simply exquisite! Meanwhile, Nathan was sampling some cider next to me but only a drop or two. He liked the Passionfruit flavoured one. The experience here I found better than Ivanhoe as the host talked through the wine more whereas at Ivanhoe, there were a few awkward silences.

Preference: Merlot

Next up came Moorebank, a stunning setting and the most friendly of hosts.There were chalkboards with witty sayings written on them and a healthy amount of purple painted everywhere. The grapes were marked out in the vineyard too!As we went inside we were greeted by Ian who promptly asked what my preference was. Red! In case you hadn’t already figured that out!I tried the three reds. They were, as with everywhere I had tried so far, delicious. Nathan was offered fresh home-made lemonade and we also sampled their spicy grape sauce which I must say, is to die for. Spread a little on a cracker and, well, wow!! Luckily because I only sampled three, I didn’t have to pay!

Preference: 2014 Shiraz Viognier

By now, after skipping breakfast, I was starting to feel a little merry shall we say! I have barely had alcohol on this trip, for wine is expensive in Australia and well we need the money to eat. Sensible I guess! The last place we visited that day was Scarborough Wine Co.This was by far the best experience of the day. We ended up there for a couple of hours chatting away to Kellie, my personal wine pourer for that time!In order to taste they’re whole selection it was $5 non refundable which was insanely good as there were 13 on their list. She even set us up a cheese and crackers platter! It was amazing! It was her first day back at work after four weeks off too! First up were the whites as usual. Again, I’m not a huge fan but these wines have really changed my opinion. Here we had ‘The Obsessive’ Semillon, which has a lemony taste with a hint of lime coming through. Very refreshing. Next up was the Green Label Semillon which was slightly heavier followed by the Offshoot Verdello which was very crisp, with a hint of tropical fruits and green tea, finished off with a touch of lime. Last up in Flight 1 was the Offshoot Vermentino, which was just delicious. It had a pear/lime taste to it and was incredibly refreshing. Then came Flight 2. If I was to drink white wine, Chardonnay wouldn’t be my choice and despite the fact these first three, Blue Label Chardonnay, Yellow Label Chardonnay and ‘The Obsessive’ Chardonnay went down so nicely, they weren’t as nice as those in Flight 1, except for the Yellow Label, which is their signature bottle. The last bottle in Flight 2 was the Offshoot Pinot Noir Rosé, a fruity berry mix with the toffee apple flavour really coming through. It was sweet and lovely.Last but not least we had Flight 3, the reds. First up was ‘The Obsessive’ Shiraz, a full bodied earthy red which had a good tannin framework. (Yes I learnt soooo much!!!) They produce a lot Shiraz over here and it’s exquisite, not normally what I drink as I usually stick to Cabernet. Next up was the Black Label Shiraz which had a strong plum taste with the charry oak and berries coming through at the end. Third, we had the Vintage Blend Pinot Noir which was incredibly easy to drink. In fact, I had a second glass. It was amazing. Lastly, we had the Offshoot Red Blend which was 50% Shiraz, 50% Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. Red berry, five spice and fruit cake were the tastes.The last wine to sample was the Late Harvest Semillon. A sweet dessert wine which was literally the best thing I had tasted all day! Satisfied I had my $5 worth, we said our goodbyes to Kellie and went to find food, as by now I was even merrier! It was the best morning! Fun fact too…I asked Kellie why there were no corked wines in Australia and it’s because they can’t grown cork trees, so someone invented a little bit of plastic that sits in the top of the wine bottle lids that still allows it to breathe and taste as good as it does!

Preference: Late Harvest Semillon, Vintage Blend Pinot Noir and Offshoot Vementino

Once my stomach contents had started to soak up some of the alcohol from this mornings antics, we headed to Piggs Peake which specialises in reds. I sampled four of their wines, which were very expensive compared to what I had been sampling and didn’t taste anywhere near as good!

We decided to continue our look around Hunter Valley, ending with a Christmas shop! Our campsite was a grassy area in the middle of nowhere! There were two camper vans with us and no flies or any bugs in sight! It was a good spot! Neither of us could sleep that night, so Nathan got his camera out as one thing we wanted to capture somewhere, was the night sky. The lighting was minimal where we were and the stars were breathtaking. They seemed so close too!This was such an amazing day!

Until next time…