Podunk on Location: Australia, Part 3
The soothing balm for my pedestrian and passenger stress in Australia turned out to be a stay in Hunter Valley wine country.
We based out of Pokolbin which was less of a town and more of a zip code nestled among vineyards, olive groves, and cellar doors. In Australia, you typically don’t visit a winery unless you plan to take part in production, you visit a cellar door to taste wine — a very important distinction.
We rented a French-inspired cottage on a few acres surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and eucalyptus forest, and since we’d arrived a bit early, the owner suggested we walk 5 minutes to the nearest cellar door while we waited. OK, I replied.
But the walk took more than 5 minutes because we spotted kangaroos. Not kidding. I was entirely mesmerized by these furry creatures standing upright, as if we’d caught them on smoke break.
Eventually, they grew tired of my gaze and hopped along, as did I toward Pepper Tree Wines. I’m sure I was still in some kind of dream state, enamored with the country cottage, greeted by marsupials, walking in the woods again — but Pepper Tree is etched in my memory as the moment I tasted the beauty of Australian grapes and wine making.
Aussies are sneaky and they export Yellow Tail Shiraz and Chardonnay to throw us off the scent, but in Oz you can taste what they’ve kept for themselves— delicate yet bright wines, expertly made.
While we were in the Hunter, we rented bicycles and pedaled past more kangaroos on quiet, rolling roads to visit additional wineries/cellar doors in our new neighborhood. I’ll name a few of my favorites, but I honestly didn’t taste a dumper on the whole trip.
Poole’s Rock Cellar Doors & Vineyard.
Hungerford Hill. (The collaboration with Muse Restaurant on a food & wine pairing should not be missed. Can you say “Angus beef and butter puff pastry sausage roll with black garlic purée paired with Shiraz?”
Eventually, when we visited a winery and the sommelier asked Iron Chef his favorite wine type and he answered, “beer,” I knew it was time to move on. Australians have a saying, “Calm Your Farm (pronounced Cahm Yaa Fahm),” and that is exactly what I did in Hunter Valley.