We hit the road the day after Australia Day (and our farewell Australia Day bbq). A little dusty but on a mission. The very first leg of our year long trip was Marrickville to Orange wineries (via a fancy road side eatery in Lithgow because our inner west ratbags hadn’t quite weaned themselves off sushi).
As you may have gathered – I LOVE wineries. But not (just) because I love wine. It’s really because I am totally clueless. Totally. Going to Dan Murphy’s or Liquorland freaks me out. Too much choice overwhelms me. Faced with aisles and aisles of wine, the only guidance I have is – do I like the label, and how much do I want to pay? Which is how I end up with this…
When we go to wineries we have someone who can tell us a bit about the wine and we can try before we buy. And I am such an easy sell. A bit of a story, a bit of banter, a half decent plonk – and I am all yours, I will stock up for weeks*.
A slight complication with this year long trip, is that we will have our kids in tow for every winery pitstop. That said, our kids don’t really mind wineries. It’s kind of like going to a farm – there is usually grass to run around on, some fruit growing along the fences, some sheds to explore and a few dogs to play with. But there are a few they really love – when the wineries make an effort to be kid friendly. And why shouldn’t they. Who needs lots of wine on a regular basis? Mums and dads do!
I must clarify at this point that we really do just sip at wineries. We’re not at a hen’s party in the Hunter Valley. We are hauling a camper trailer, and three precious cargo. We want a bit of time to indulge in our “hobby” (yes, that’s what I’m calling it this year), have a taste and figure out what we want to buy – but without pissing the kids off too much. So it’s great to find wineries where the ratbags can have fun too.
Our first stop at Heifer Station in Orange was quite the kid friendly winery utopia. Llamas, cows, ponies – then they sat us old folk down in an air conditioned shed while they gave the kids some ice blocks and they free-ranged outside with the chickens. They tried to tell us these were “cold climate” wines – but it was 40 degrees outside so I got confused, zoned out of the agricultural lesson, and focussed on the merlot instead. We were told that this was how merlot was meant to be – reddish, light, soft. Sounds good – tastes good – sold.
A few minutes drive away was Cargo Road winery. I am a long time fan and had been looking forward to this one for ages. We have cases of their zinfandel – but at about 17%, I find it a bit heavy and sweet for everyday drinking. We were on a merlot role and tried some more. Here they told us that this was how merlot was meant to be – bold, dark purply, heavy. Apparently, the biggest merlot in Australia. The complete opposite of the merlot around the corner. Huh? I am deeply mystified – but hey, it was equally delicious, and we got a few more bottles.
[And a slight pause in our wine travels where we ventured into the winery-less mountains for a week or so– and drank the stock pile from Orange. Then fast forward to Beechworth – ah Beechworth]
We pulled into Beechworth (via a 4WD track from NSW to Victoria involving a ferry border crossing) thinking we would stop for lunch on the way to the King Valley, but it was so lovely we decided to stay for a few days. That is the beauty of hauling the house with us and having no schedule whatsoever – we can pull up wherever we want. Now, I really don’t want to call it too early, but Beechworth has a bit of future liveability potential (career choice pending). Wineries, history (of the bush ranger and gold panning variety), lake, rivers, mountains, small wine bars, so much cheese – perhaps a bit far from the coast. But, wineries. Dozens of them. Our first stop was dictated by the only cellar door that was open on a Monday at 4pm (oh yeh – this is our life now). And – instant score. Pretty much perfection. We were the only ones there. We were greeted by the owner, who came straight from the vineyard, and who directed us in from the pouring rain to, yes – the kids corner. Kids were sorted, and then the wine tasting.
Pennyweight Winery sorted us out. A few top drops for saving for later…
And then we got a few red blends in returnable 1L glass bottles for “campground drinking” – for $13 each!!!! [The Sham take note – this community service could so work in the inner west. Good for hipsters, those who prefer 1L to 750ml (who doesn’t) and those who don’t have enough room in their recycling bins]. Even better, when we returned the bottles a few days later, we were given a tour of the winery (I mean school excursion and educational exercise) – the hand picking, filtering, rummaging (sounds like fun), fermenting, barrelling, bottling, corking, cellaring. Such a lovely family run winery – our favourite kind.
Amulet Wines was another hit. Again, we were the only ones there – a benefit of a sneaky mid week afternoon winery pitstop on the way to some waterfalls. We were treated to a light prosecco, (interesting fact – apparently prosecco sales have skyrocketed worldwide – which may or may not have something to do with the hubby and I recently deciding that we quite like it?). Boss lady Sue told us this was delicate, fresh and spritzy. Perfect for pre-dinner drinking or an afternoon in the sun. I am all for specific drinking guidance – and, as a non-beer drinker, I had been looking for something fresh and spritzy, in a beer shaped bottle while I cooked dinner in the sun. They had seen me coming.
Even more so when they whipped out their cider mixed with….sangiovese. Cold, sparkling, red and not too sweet. Sangria without the raging hangover. The ingredients for Cider Red: apples, red wine, thought. I do love some thinking with my drinking. Especially when the thought involves my exact drinking preferences all in the same bottle.
We got a few sangioveses to send back to Sydney, and the lovely Sue threw in a Barbera, in response to my question “what the hell is barbera”? I am saving it for a few camp fires time and will let you know.
So now we have hit the King Valley. A valley chock full of italian wines and no internet. So for now I will sip on my delicate, fresh and spritzy prosecco, while cooking dinner at our remote riverside campsite and will save the King Valley vinos for next time.
*Throw in a vaguely attractive wine dude and the hubby pretty much has to confiscate the credit card