Hunter Wine
Tasting some 'Jungle Juice'.
Hanging out with a 'roo during breakfast.
Tasting at Cooper Wines.
December 4, 2006

We just got back from our day of wine tasting in the Hunter Valley. As much as I thought it would be an adventure to rent a
car and head out there, we ended up opting to go ahead with a one-day tour to the area.

I am always a bit worried about these types of tours wondering what kind of places we will actually be visiting. I ended up
being very pleasantly surprised. Not only did we go to some lovely boutique wineries, we also went to a great restaurant where
they did a wine pairing for us.

There was one thing, however, that did not occur on this wine tasting trip. I did not get wasted.

I was happy about this. I could taste all of the wines from beginning to end. And, really, isn’t
that what it’s all about? The pours
weren’t as liberal as they are at home but that was almost a good thing. It teaches us Americans to appreciate quality over
quantity. I think I drank the smaller pours slower than I do with a pour that would be double the size at home.

Before we even got to any of the wineries, we had tea and a light breakfast (or ‘brekkie’ as the Aussies call it) at a wildlife
reserve where we got to see wallabies, kangaroos, paddymelons (an animal in the same family as the ‘roos) and koalas. I could
think of worse things to look at while eating a muffin.

Our first stop was at the Wollombi Tavern to get some ‘Jungle Juice’. Yup, that was the name. But it was different than that of
what I was used to from my college days. This jungle juice was a combination of port and brandy and I must say that it was
quite tasty.

From here we went to the main attraction of the day: the wineries.

The first one was Cooper Wines. And we wouldn’t just be tasting wine here. We would also be trying cheeses paired with the
wines. This would just reinforce the notion that wines taste so much better with cheese and cheeses taste so much better with
wine. Well…as long as they are paired correctly.

Our next stop was the San Martino winery and restaurant where we sat down to a menu at each seat with a row of four glasses
of wine. The menu also informed us of what to drink with which dish. This was
such a nicer meal than I ever would have
thought we would be getting on a ‘tour’.

On a side note, it was so sad that Ari was not feeling well at all today. She was feeling off when she woke up but I was thinking
it would pass. It didn’t. If Ari can’t even push herself to drink wine, then I
know something is severely wrong. I think it was
just a full-fledged case of jet lag. There was no chance for it to set in yesterday since we were on the go all day. And it was just
so unfortunate that it happened while we were out in the wine country.

Ari stayed in the van while we went into the next winery: Brokenwood. The wines there were great. Even the Sangiovese that
I normally don’t really care for. I really liked the Pinor Noir, too, and was bummed that Ari wasn’t there to enjoy it. Towards
the end of the tasting, she came in and was able to try some of the reds. Since she still felt completely ill, I don’t really think she
was getting much out of the tasting. So sad.

Our final stop was a chocolate shop where we sampled a few chocolates including the dark chocolate with chili (what they are
really known for). We each bought a bit because…well…how could we not? Monique and I also headed next door so that we
could taste more wines before we headed back to Sydney.

The most unfortunate part of being on a tour was being on the road en route to Sydney and passing wineries like Rosemount
and Lindeman’s and not being able to stop off at them. It really made me almost ache inside.

We came across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to get back to our hotel and it was great seeing the skyline from the other side of
the bridge. A truly beautiful city. It was also great to see the financial district at a peak hour when most people were getting off
work. I haven’t seen a scene like this for a long time. I can’t even remember the last time. Maybe back in San Francisco? This
used to be my daily life and now it is looking foreign to me. I’m getting excited to see it as it feels ‘different’ from what I have
been seeing. Weird. Totally weird.  I am actually
excited to see a scene with people walking around in their business suits…
Back to Australia.