Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

Wines, Cheeses, and Chocolates

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

One of the last remaining things to do on my Sydney “To Do” list, was to go on a Hunter Valley wine tour. Hunter Valley is one of the largest river valleys in New South Wales, and is most commonly known for its wineries and coal industry. Pokolbin is the centre of the wine country, and it is located about three hours northwest of Sydney. Much of the rolling countryside around Pokolbin is under vine with the traditional Australian grape varieties of shiraz and Semillon as well as extensive plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet, Savignon, and small quantities of Pinot Noir. Most of the valley is comprised of vineyards, restaurants, shops, golf courses and country guesthouses.

Doing a tour out there was a somewhat pricey thing to do on my own, but I figured with my mom here, and my dad and my sister not yet here, it would be a perfect thing for us to do. A bunch of my friends had done them and given me recommendations as to which tour company to go with, so mom and I booked a tour with bus pickup from Sydney and met the bus at 7 am on Tuesday morning out of Central Station. Our bus driver, Michael, was very a amiable and talkative old fellow, and since Mom and I were the only people being picked up from Sydney, we got to drive with him by ourselves all the way up to the valley. Before even getting into the valley we started seeing wild kangaroos. They were just hanging out on the hilltops by the dozen. The bus driver was just casually pointing them out, but as soon as he did mom started to squeal with delight. Kangaroos are a fairly common occurrence in the woods of Australia, so much so that they have become quite a pest, but people still get pretty excited to see them out and hopping about. Once we reached the valley we picked up 13 more passengers from various resorts and hotels in the valley and then our tour began.

The first vineyard we went to was a small family owned one that only produces 5,000 cases of wine each year, and grows all the grapes they use on their property.  Every time a member of the family has passed on they have named a block of grapes after them. We sampled six different wines, three reds and three whites. Two of the whites, both sweet ones and one sparkling, mom and I really liked. We ended up purchasing them both.

First vineyard- Earnest Hill

The two vineyards after that were Savannah- which is the only vineyard in the valley that makes champagne, and First Creek winery. We didn’t like any of the wines at Savannah, but one of the Shiraz reds caught us off guard at First Creek. Generally mom and I aren’t that into reds, but this particular one had very soft talons and a lighter taste than most reds and we liked it so much that we bought two bottles.

wine barrels at First Creek- the third winery we went to

wine tasting at First Creek Winery

With Shiraz wine purchases in hand

After first creek we stopped at a hotel cafe for a light lunch. Mom and I ended up chatting with some of the other people on the tour during lunch. We met this family with a 15 year old son who were native Australians of Italian decent. They were saying how they were trying to plan a family vacation to the US to go to Las Vegas since it was only a 15 hour flight. ONLY?! Mom and I were both shocked that he was able to make 15 hours on a plane seem like a pithy amount of time, but he made the point that flying from Australia to another country many flights can be up to 26 hours, so 15 by comparison isn’t all that bad. After lunch we went to the smallest, but most picturesque vineyard, Blueberry Hill.

Label logo for Blueberry Hill- the fourth vineyard we toured

wine country as seen from Blueberry Hill

Blueberry Hill Cellar Door

By the time we reached Blueberry Hill we were somewhat wine-d out. There was one more large winery after that, the only one whose product can be bought overseas, but we didn’t taste anything we really loved at either of these places. We spent very little time in the actual winery at the last vineyard, and more time at the cheese shop that was located right next door. This cheese shop makes all of its cheeses on site and you can do a sampling of everything they have there, so naturally mom and I made a B-line for that as soon as we finished our last wine tasting. They also make spreads and jams which are also available for tasting. One of the best cheeses they make there is their signature golden rind, which mom and I both loved, but at 30$ for a fairly small wheel of it, we both kinda decided we could live without it. The last stop on our tour was a chocolate shop where we got to sample the fudges they make there in addition to some of the other candies they make. What a perfect way to top off the day, with a little chocolate. In this shop they also had a number of food oddities, so we wandered around for a few minutes looking.

Chocolate Pasta?

After the chocolate shop we dropped everyone off at their respective hotels and the drive back to Sydney we spent in relative silence as we dozed off, woozy from all our wining and dining. We were dropped off back at Central Station where we took the bus back to Glebe Point Road. It had been a beautiful and mostly temperate day, but it had been very windy in the valley, and once we had returned to Sydney the wind was still blowing quite fiercely and since the sun had gone down it was quite chilly. We weren’t terribly hungry, but we thought a bowl of soup and some bread might be in order. Near our hostel was a place called the Glebe Point Diner, which I had never been to, but we thought since it was a “diner” we could get something cheap and basic there. We were quite wrong. Although it looked modest enough from the street corner, once we were inside we found that it was actually quite swanky. We arrived towards the end of the dinner rush, so we ended up being seated at the bar facing a huge wall of wines that they offered. Several of the wines we recognized as being from the vineyards we had toured, which was cool. Mom really had her heart set on soup, and she perused the menu for such an item but came up with nothing. Everything there was quite high end and complex. When she told the waiter that all she was after was a bowl of soup he recommended the crab soup, which she had overlooked on the menu, but happily ordered.  I ordered a pumpkin and goat cheese tart. As we waited for our food we watched the chefs in the small kitchen work. There were four of them and we were mesmerized by their grace and precision.

Images of the Glebe Point Diner

When we got our food both of us were taken aback at how delicious it was. Given the snooty appearance and steep prices we had mentally prepared for small portions of pretentious food, but what we received instead was a wonderful meal. Once we had finished eating we walked back to our hostel and were able to get to bed at a more normal hour- 10pm.

A Evening for Partying, An Hour for the Earth

Monday, March 28th, 2011

After another saturday morning of sleeping in luxuriously late I awoke to a missed call from Lyndsay, and a voicemail asking if I wanted to head over to the Seymour Center box office to pick up Spring Awakening tickets for this weeks performance. I called her back, showered, dressed and we headed out. On our way out we ran into the lovely ladies form Apt 23 and when they asked us what we were doing we were more than happy to share our plans with them. As luck would have it Glebe is populated with more theatre geeks than I originally thought, and they were not only excited and knowledgeable about Spring Awakening, but asked if they could go to the show with us on Wednesday night. So our party of two became a party of five.

SKETCHY advertisement that we saw walking back from the box office. It totally sounds like this guy is trying to set up some sort of ametur porn studio. "Furnitured"? O yeah, this guy sounds legit. Even I can spell better than that

We walked up to the Seymour Center, with the air thick with the threat of rain. We purchased our student discounted tickets and as we walked back, the apt 23 ladies told us of their plans to have a candlelit dinner that night in honor of Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is an event that was started in 2007 by The World Wide Fund for Nature in conjunction with The Sydney Morning Herald. It is held on the last saturday of March every year, and during this hour it is asked that households and businesses turn off all non-essential lights and appliances for one hour to help raise awareness for climate change and the global energy crisis. The first year it was held 2.2 million Sydney residents participated, and in 2008 other world cities began to take notice and participate as well. While I had never heard of this before coming to Australia its a fairly big deal here. The Australian government even pitches in by shutting off the lights on the opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge during this hour. (When I watched the news the following day the newscaster said that due to the participation during this one hour electricity in Sydney had been cut by 12% for the day.)

The ladies of Apt 23 (Alana, Megan and Amanda) invited Lyndsay and I to partake in their earth day feast. Knowing my manners, I refused to accept the invitation without promising to bring something. They had said they were making a pasta dish for dinner, so I decided I would make a tomato bruschetta to go with it, and Lyndsay purchased a box mix cheesecake mix, and together we went in on a bottle of wine to contribute. (We actually caught an estate sale special on wine and we got four bottles for 15 dollars, three white and one red)

Once we got back to the apt Lyndsay and I got to baking and then headed across the hallway to apt 23. Once we arrived we heard that word of our small candlelit pot luck dinner had gotten out, and members of both the boys rooms had gotten in on the action as well. Someone decided that we should all dress up since a candlelight apparently cannot be properly enjoyed without wearing nice clothes. I thought for sure only the girls would be doing this, but much to my surprise the boys were great sports about it and showed up in collared shirts and dress pants.

Box mix cheesecake by Lyndsay, strawberry decoration by me.

She was so proud she had baked something.

Some of the Earth Hour Banquet spread. My very pretty tomato Bruschetta

Alana, Megan, Amanda, little Jordan and Lyndsay

Glebian Ladies! Looking o so pretty. From the left, Lyndsay, me, Yaella, Amanda, Alana, Megan and Rebecca.


After a dinner of mostly carbs and a small salad (provided by me of course) we broke into the heavy liquor and dug into the cheesecake. We sat around chatting and eventually decided that we wanted to go out for the evening.

We actually were eating by candlelight, although the camera flash ruins this effect, but without it, pictures come out blurry like this.

Drinking and dining in the dark

Getting ready to cut the cheesecake!

The whole group

After we had dispersed from dinner Yaella Lyndsay and I decided we wanted to go out, as the night was young and there was dancing to be done. We wanted to go back to retro bar, as our previous attempt at going there had failed and it was supposed to be a pretty happening place. According to the website it had three floors, each featuring music from a different decade. 90′s music on the top floor, 60′s and 70′s on the second floor, and house music on the bottom floor. Alana, Seth and Jordan decided to join us in our pursuit of nighttime entertainments. Before we left we looked it up on the web to make sure it was open, to avoid a repeat of our previous failure and we discovered that they were running a promotion that night where if you wore green you got free admission. Obviously this called for a quick change. Outfitted in our green outfits we flagged a cab, arrived at the club and breezed through the entrance without having to pay the $20 cover charge.

As we were walking into the club some guy yelled at us that St.Patricks day was last week.

Cool chalk wall on the 60's/70's floor. Also- Yaella is doing the YMCA.

Jordan bustin a move

Retro bar specializes in "hen parties" aka bachelorette parties. To distinguish themselves from the rest of the club all the members of the differnet hens parties going on wear matching head bands. We saw antennae, bunny ears, princess crowns and all sorts of random stuff.

Yaella carrying Lindsay back to the apt on her back because Lyndsays feet were killing her from her heels. This is true friendship.

After we had danced ourselves silly we walked back to the apt and collapsed into our respective beds. Another evening in Sydney well spent.

San Rafeal

Monday, April 26th, 2010

My third weekend trip recently was to San Rafeal in province of Mendoza. We were outdoorsy adventurers and went to two different wineries.

The hotel…

…and around the hotel. We had a free morning and then went hiking that afternoon.


My dog Lizzie would not have lasted 2 minutes with these guys. They were insane.

Day 2 we went repelling!

Here you can see someone else repelling:

And my friend who has an amazing camera took this picture of me on the zip-line:

That afternoon we visited two wineries.

Delicious Cabernet grapes!

And then, look who I found beside a pile of grapes!:

And that’s when I decided I was adopting a kitten.

The next winery was more “family-oriented” than the first, which was international instead of local.

They also had more animals.

The last day we went rafting. That was quite an experience…I had no idea class 2 rapids could be INTENSE. Very early on, one of the guides from the other raft pulled up close to ours, grabbed my life jacket, and tried to pull me out! Into the water! I am seriously afraid of rocks, probably due to a previous traumatizing rafting experience, and wasn’t a huge fan of this. It was really unexpected and I didn’t know what was going on. It turns out we were in for a pirate rafting tour, so to speak, including “stealing the girls” from other rafts and capturing them. I didn’t read the pamphlet, but I don’t think that was what I signed up for. There was also a lot of yelling involved and our guide purposely leading us into the sides of cliffs. It was actually fun though, in a scary sort of way. But I would rather have had previous knowledge of the surprise. I probably wouldn’t do it again considering how I felt afterward, which was freezing cold and really tense and banged up. I still have bruises on my legs to this day!

Here is an after picture. I am happy to be alive:

This blog post is so long. My trip is almost over though. We headed back to the hotel and I took a hot shower in the middle of them serving lunch (yes the service was that slow, sorry Mom for being rude- I didn’t have that much time! It had to be done).

I was super exhausted and wanted to go to lay in bed, finally safe and warm and dry, but I knew I had to sleep as best I could on the bus ride home so I went on a trip to the dam instead. We fit 23 people into a 13 passenger van.

I’m glad I went, because this is what I saw!!

Gorgeous! The End. The bus arrived back at our University 9am the next morning.