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Friday, February 09, 2007

Hunter Valley: Two vineyards, two cheese shops and an olive centre (before lunch)

wine tasting glasses

It's hard to believe that a mere two hour drive north of Sydney leads to you the undulating hillsides of the Hunter Valley. Row upon row of grape vines hang heavy with fruit, their neat narrow lines stretching endlessly into the distance.

Having lined our stomachs with caffeine and vanilla slices, we were ready to hit our first cellar door...

De Bortoli
Vineyard #1: De Bortoli Wines

Although established in 1928, De Bortoli have only been in the Hunter Valley since 2002. We sampled a number of semillons and shiraz (they only have the wines which are grown on their Hunter Valley estates: on the Murphy and Wills Hill vineyards. In the end we were cheap, and couldn't resist a box of cleanskins: a dozen 2005 Syrah Roussanne which worked out at only $5 a bottle.

Smelly Cheese Shop
Cheese Shop #1: Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

Wine always goes well with cheese, and we pulled into the famous Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop not long after. A walk-in cheese room offered cheeses from all over the world - Geet couldn't resist a wedge of Roquefort, but I came away with a gold-wrapped package of Goldenbelle washed rind.

Goldenbelle washed rind
Goldenbelle Washed Rind

There were shelves of gourmet crackers, dips, spreads and mustards, and a display of Morpeth sourdough in the corner. Think David Jones Food Hall in the Hunter Valley. With an ice creamery. And cheese sampling of course.

cheese samples
Cheese sampling: King Island Netherby Blue

Smelly's Own Triple Cream Brie
Smelly's Own Triple Cream Brie $11.50

On to McGuigan Wines. In the past we've had group tastings out the back around the u-shaped mini-bars. Today it's much more casual and random with just three of us, and we are free to pick out which wines we'd care to sample.

Vineyard #2: McGuigan's

We start with a lovely sparkling chardonnay; the sparkling shiraz is just one big party on the tastebuds. A merlot, a cab shiraz and then we move onto my favourites: the dessert wines. The botrytis semillon is delicious as always, but I love the late-picked traminer even more, with its crisper finish and lychee nuances.

McGuigan's wine tasting

Though I've visited the McGuigan cellar door twice before, it's a regular stop. Why? The cheese factory next door has a lot to do with it.

Hunter Valley Cheese Company
Cheese Shop #2: Hunter Valley Cheese Company

I love staring in at the cheese room and watching the cheesemakers. They must get sick of working in a zoo but we're soon distracted by the cheese shop next door.

cheesemaking in the cheese room

At the back of the cheese shop is a regional foods area with olives (the green Sicilians are scrumptious), mustards, chutneys, fudges, pickles and Chilli Man condiments.

green sicilian olives
Green Sicilian olives

Cow umbrella
Cow umbrella

At the front is the cheese area and samples are readily provided at request. B gets a wedge of vintage cheddar but I am taken with the Milawa Blue, a Victorian cheese (ie not local) but I purchase a wedge anyway.

Milawa blue
Milawa Blue cheese

Brokenwood vineyard
Vineyard #3: Brokenwood

Onto vineyard number three, and my liver already starting to protest. A few chardonnays are sampled but by this stage greater distraction is provided by the sight of Gary Sweet who is having a private tour of the vineyard and can be spotted throught the glass doors just opposite (the disparity between celebrity size on the TV and in real life is always cause for discussion).

grapes and wine
Grapes and wine

olive tree
Olive tree outside Brokenwood

The olive trees outside Brokenwood are a nice segue to our next stop: the Hunter Olive Centre.

Hunter Olive Centre
Hunter Olive Centre

More olives, pickles and chutneys are laid out for sampling. We try a few but by this time we're ready for lunch. All this drinking and tasting. It's enough to make you positively ravenous!

To be continued...


Brokenwood Wines
401-427 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley
Open seven days for tastings and sales 9.30am-5pm
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 7893

De Bortoli Wines
532 Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley
Open seven days for tastings and sales 10am-5pm
Tel: +61 (02) 4993 8800

McGuigan Cellars
Corner Broke and McDonalds Roads, Pokolbin, Hunter valley
Open seven days for tastings and sales 9.30am-5pm
Tours at 12pm weekdays, 11am and 12pm weekends
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 7402


Hunter Olive Centre
Pokolbin Estate Vineyard, 298 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley
Open seven days 10am-5pm
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 7524

Hunter Valley Cheese Factory Shop
McGuigans Complex, McDonalds Road (corner Broke Road)
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley
Open seven days 9am-5.30pm
Cheese talk at 11am daily
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 7744

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop
Shop 3, Pokolbin Village Resort
188 Broke Road, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley
Open seven days 10am-5pm
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 6960

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Hunter Valley 2008/1: Maitland Gaol tour
Hunter Valley 2008/2: Morpeth Pie Man and Morpeth Sourdough
Hunter Valley 2008/3: Dinner at the Newcastle Travelodge Hotel
Hunter Valley 2008/4: Vineyards and cheese tasting

Hunter Valley 2007/1: Cessnock
Hunter Valley 2007/2: Vineyards, cheeseshops and an olive centre
Hunter Valley 2007/3: Lunch at Harrigan's Irish Pub
Hunter Valley 2007/4: A vineyard, cheeseshop and beer brewery
Hunter Valley 2007/5: Dinner at Chez Pok
3 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 2/09/2007 10:57:00 pm


  • At 2/10/2007 5:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Speaking of Milawa Blue, if you ever get down there, you will become a Milawa cheese junkie after you visit the Milawa Cheese Factory. Paid them a flying visit last year and became a "Milawa White" fan. Unfortunately, I can't seem to track it down in Sydney (the blue is available at DJ), despite trying about a dozen places (including one unmentionable place in Leichardt which claimed, on its website, to stock the stuff) so if anyone out there in foodie land can help me, my tastebuds would be much obliged :) Their soft curd cheese (which has a very limited shelf life and thus is really only available at the factory or selected Melbourne providores), is incredibly more-ish as well...groan....


  • At 2/11/2007 6:49 pm, Blogger MissK said…

    I have fond memories of my trip to the Hunter 2 years ago.
    A private tasting at Peppertree,buying magnums of Brokenwood Cricket Pitch red,numerous cheeses and especially the marinated goats cheese from the big cheese shop while sitting by the fire topped off with some fudge.Yum.

  • At 2/12/2007 12:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    make sure you drop by "irongate" next time you go to hunter valley...
    and make sure you taste their "sweet shiraz"

    the best!!!!!!


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