Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's Happening 19-21 August

The chill has come off the Hunter air somewhat over the past week, which means Spring is just round the corner, yay!

If you're heading to the Hunter this weekend, here are a few things to add to your 'to-do' list!

Saturday 20 August - Winter Indulgence, a 5 course degustation @ Margan, Broke (http://www.margan.com.au/restaurant/)

Saturday 20 August - Dine with the Godfather of Australian cuisine, Tony Bilson, @ Tower Estate (http://www.towerestate.com/)
Saturday 21 August - Vertical Aged Shiraz Private Tasting @ Waverley Estate (http://www.waverleyestate.com.au)

Now Cam and I just need to see if we can clone ourselves so we can go to both the Margan & Tower dinners on Saturday night!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Absent With Leave!

We can now advise that we will be away for a couple of weeks, on our honeymoon!

Cam and I had a surprise wedding at our engagement party on Saturday 23 July, it was a fantastic day and night, one we will never forget. We were very lucky to be surrounded by our loving family and friends, and will treasure our wedding day forever.

As such, the Hunter Valley Grapevine will be having a couple of weeks of nothingness, however when we return in mid August, we will be getting back into the swing of things and will be ramping up our efforts with the Grapevine.

Thanks for your patience, please check back in with us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's Happening 16-17 July

As you may have noticed the Hunter Valley Grapevine has been a bit quiet of late, Cam and I are organising our engagement party to be held in Pokolbin next weekend, so we have been a bit strapped for time.  For the next couple of weeks we will list some info each Friday re what's on in the Hunter.  We look forward to getting things back to normal around the middle of August, when we will get back into the swing of our regular reviews and information. Thanks for your patience!

What's on this coming weekend, 16-17 July in the Valley:

1 July - 31 July
Christmas In July at Esca Bimbadgen

Embrace the frosty weather at Esca Bimbadgen restaurant during July for a mid-winter festive feast celebrating Christmas in July.
Executive Chef Ebonnie Newby has created a Christmas inspired menu with a distinct local style.

Prawn cocktail of Manning River prawns, verjuice dressing and lemon aioli
Matched with 2010 Estate Semillon

Five spice roasted pork belly, caramelised apple, micro turnips
Matched with 2009 Estate Shiraz

Treacle pudding, gingerbread soil, vanilla bean ice-cream, brandy anglaise
Matched with 2006 Botrytis Semillon
$55 per person or $70 with wine match

Christmas in July Menu available for lunch or dinner throughout July in addition to Esca’s regular menu. Bookings essential by contacting Esca Bimbadgen on 02 4998 4666 or email esca@bimbadgen.com.au

So if you're coming up to Pokolbin, be sure to head out to Bimbadgen Estate, the views are amazing!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's Happening 09-10 July

Even though it's the middle of a cold windy winter, there is always something happening in the Hunter Valley.

If you are visiting this weekend, a highlights of what's on which may pique your interest:

Indulge Your Senses - 9-10 July
During this exclusive Wine & Chocolate tasting you will be guided through a selection of the finest wines from Wyndham Estate, which will be matched with the new premium chocolate range from Nestle.
Unfortunately we won't be able to attend, due to family commitments, however it is on our 'must-do' list for 2012!

Over the past few wintery weekends, we have visited a few local establishments for a warm lunch:

  • Blaxlands Inn - always worth a visit, open fire, great food & service
  • Harrigans Irish Pub - can be extremely busy, but if you get a seat near the fire, away from the door, it's a good spot
  • Oscars @ Hunter Valley Gardens - good food & service, a bit chilly outside, but great music, a regular haunt for us

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Morpeth Fiery Food Festival

Back in April Mel and I attended the Morpeth Fiery Food Festival.
We both like chilli, not too hot but we do regularly cooking with them, so were very much looking forward to trying all sorts of different types of food involving different types of chilli.

Morpeth was established in the early 1800's, being located on the Hunter River, it was an important river port during the early days of 'European Settlement'.

Located about 10km North East of Maitland, or approx 50km North East of Pokolbin, Morpeth
 is a beautiful little town with shops and café’s lining both sides of the main street.

(photo source)

It is the home of the famous Morpeth Sourdough bread that can be bought throughout the Hunter Valley. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
We were expecting street stalls selling different types of food, music and real festival/party type atmosphere but driving down the main street looking for a parking spot it would have been hard to know that it was anything other than a normal Sunday at Morpeth.

We walked the length of town thinking to ourselves we must have the wrong weekend. So we grabbed a coffee and noticed the café had 3-4 specials on the menu that did involve chilli’s so thought we could still be on track but weren’t convinced.

Eventually we get to the other end of town and find a sign saying welcome to the Fiery Food Festival outside of the Ginger Beer Factory.

To our surprise the Fiery Food Festival was 40-50 different types of sauces, oils, jams and other bottled goodies that you could taste with broken rice crackers. We did the circuit and tried a few things that appealed but it was nothing that you cant do at any of the many markets that are scattered all over the Hunter Valley, and many of the wineries also stock these sort of items and have them available for tasting.  

The Woodfire Pizza café put on a special chilli pizza for their contribution and the nut shop had some hot nuts and some spicy condiments, but they looked as though they would always be available in the shop every week of the year.

The Morpeth cellars had Chilli wine to taste but we’d lost a bit of interest by now after looking forward to so much more.

Not sure how many years this festival has been running for but hopefully it develops a lot more over the years as we were left quite disappointed.

9 & 10 April 2011
Morpeth, NSW
Tel: (02) 4933 1407

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jungle Juice Cup - Cessnock Races - 5 July

Cam from Hunter Valley Grapevine will be attending this year's Jungle Juice Cup at the Cessnock Races on 5 July.
Jungle Juice Race Day
Cam has been to several meetings at the Cessnock track, but this year will be his first Jungle Juice Race Day.

One of the most popular Country NSW meetings of the year, the Wine Country Race Club, along with the Newcastle Jockey club, organise bus loads of racegoers, who converge on the track, to have a picnic, or enjoy the offerings in one of the marquees on course.

Dr Jurd's Jungle Juice is quite famous, or shall we say infamous!  For more info on the beloved juice read on >
A jug of Dr Jurd's Jungle Juice
From the Newcastle Jockey Club website:

The following packages are currently available:

• Jungle Juice Private Marquee
A private marquee is the perfect venue to socialise and has great views towards the finishing line. Call NJC to arrange a quote for your corporate or social group marquee.

• Wine Country Race Club Charity Marquee
The WCRC Charity Marquee is supporting the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, who provide a much needed service to Newcastle and the Hunter. The Charity Marquee package includes:
-Return Bus Transport from Broadmeadow Racecourse
-Racecourse Entry
-BBQ Lunch
Price: $77.50pp

• Jungle Juice Bus
Looking to enjoy racing at your own leisure - why not book a seat on the Jungle Juice bus. Includes:
-Return Bus Transfer from Broadmeadow Racecourse
-Racecourse Entry
Members Price: $25pp
Non-Members Price: $35pp

• General Racecourse Entry
Pre-purchase your ticket prior to the day for only $12pp ($15pp on the day).

For bookings & enquiries call Newcastle Jockey Club on 4961 1573.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hunter Valley Wine & Food Month - June

If you're coming up to the Hunter Valley this weekend, keep in mind that June is Hunter Valley Wine & Food Month, a month long celebration of Hunter Valley wines and fresh local produce.
From the HVWF website:

Throughout the month of June, our Fireside Series, will have guests cosying up by the fire for supreme indulgences while our Winemaker’s Table Series will allow dining up close and personal with iconic Hunter winemakers and chefs. The Edible Experience will have guests creating their own magic in the kitchen and interacting with some of the best gastronomic names using delicious local produce.

Our new Diverse Region Experience is perfect for the explorers amongst us who want to learn about the diverse areas within the Hunter Valley and what each unique region has to offer. And of course, no trip to the Hunter Valley would be complete without a visit to a local winery and sampling a few of the world-class wines from Australia's most historic family wine region.

This is only a taste of the many unique events that guests will be able to enjoy throughout the month... which will make staying for the weekend or longer in the Hunter Valley even more irresistible.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Emma's Cottage - Lovedale Long Lunch review - part 3

The second stop on our “Lovedale Long Lunch” bus tour was Emma’s Cottage.
We discovered Emma’s a few months back when we received a menu for their pizza restaurant- Tilly's Gourmet Pizza Cafe - in the mail and have been out there with family and friends on a couple of occasions now and always leave with a smile.
We arrived around Midday and as soon as you stepped off the bus you could tell the place was rocking. The staff had dressed up with a Grease (the movie) theme. The girls were Pink Lady’s and the boys T’Birds. The band was in full swing pumping out old favorites from the 60’s and 70’s and the crowd were getting right into it with a packed dance floor.
Some Pink Ladies
The band was great and the crowd were quickly on their feet
Band - Scratch Me Happy
For those looking for something even faster paced, there were Harley rides around Lovedale provided by Wild Ride Australia.
Wild Ride Australia provided harley rides
We grabbed a cheese and olive platter and a bottle of Rose that we already knew was beautiful from previous trips, found our group and settled in to listen to the band.
Emma's Rose - delicious and very easy to drink!
The food at Emma’s was supplied by Amanda’s Restaurant and our crew sampled the pan seared garlic buttered king prawns on a warmed roasted pumpkin, spring onion and herb cous cous which they said was very good and few also tried the aromatic Sri Lankan chicken curry with steamed jasmine rice, coriander, mango chutney and yoghurt raita, which they enjoyed very much, and they didn’t share any.

Dessert was a warmed chocolate fudge brownie with Belgian chocolate sauce, strawberries and cream. Not sure if anyone had this but thinking back I wish I had.
Emma’s Cottage is a must do if your visiting the Hunter. You’ll be greeted in the tasting room by the glamorous Katie who will take you right through the whole range of wines available and anyone who enjoys desert wine the aptly named “Perfect” is well worth trying.
A wander through the art gallery, most of which is supplied by one of the owners in Megan Barrass is highly recommended. Every time we’ve gone through it I have to remind Mel we are there for lunch not to buy paintings. 

Then move onto the pizza café which does traditional Italian style pizzas which are as good as you will get anywhere and I’d know as I’ve eaten way more than my share of pizzas.
Art by owner Megan Barrass
Cam and Mel of Hunter Valley Grapevine were paying attendees at the 2011 Lovedale Long Lunch

Wilderness Road, Lovedale NSW
Tel: (02) 4998 7734

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Flavourfest @ Hunter Valley Gardens - 11-13 June

This coming long weekend the Hunter Valley Gardens are hosting FlavourFest, we attended the inaugral FlavourFest in 2010, and it was a great day out, over 6,000 people attended over the 3 days.

From the HVG Website - The festival features fine food, exquisite wines, exotic tastes, deluxe merchandise and inspiring music - showcasing the flavours, luxuries and sounds of the Hunter and beyond....

Also featuring Celebrity Guests, cooking demonstrations, seminar sessions, entertainment, wineries and restaurants, cocktail flaring showcases, Kids in the Kitchen and exhibits packed with tasty offerings, fresh produce and specialty merchandise.

Come ready for a weekend of culinary, wine, taste and music delights, all set inside Australia's Largest Display Garden.

The Celebrity Chef's are a big attraction, last year we sat in the 2nd row of a couple of celebrity chef 'shows' and really enjoyed them.

This year the chefs include:

Peter Everett - not a chef, but host of Ready Steady Cook
Alvin Quah - 2010 Masterchef favourite
Callum Hann - 2010 Masterchef favourite
Janelle Bloom - Ready Steady Cook
Alvin Quah (photo source)
Callum Hann (photo source)
Other attactions include cocktail making shows, a Marketplace showcasing local produce, Beer Wine & Cocktail Hall, Eat Street and Flavours of the World, Eat to the Beat Concert Stage, Bar-Be-School Seminar, Art Exhibition, Kidspace, Kids Show with Miss Fruitcake, Kids In The Kitchen.

The bonus is not only do you get all the above Foodie attractions, you can explore the amazing Hunter Valley Gardens, entry price for FlavourFest is $23.50, which is the same price as entry for the gardens, crazy value, 2 for 1!

Last year Mel and I spent around 4-5 hours at FlavourFest then another hour or so wandering the gardens, a great day out.

So if you're coming to the Hunter Valley for the June Long Weekend, be sure to checkout FlavourFest!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Allandale Winery - Lovedale Long Lunch - part 2

Sunday 15th May was our first attendance at the Lovedale Long Lunch.

Allandale Winery was the first winery we visited for no other reason than it’s the first winery you come across when you pull off Wine Country Drive into Lovedale.
Allandale Winery was established in 1978, covering 17 acres, they grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Semillon on site, and source their other varietals from other Hunter Valley growers.
View from Allandale Winery
Set high up on the side of the hill looking out over the grapevines the view from Allandale’s back towards Pokolbin goes on for miles.
Looking out over Lovedale from Allandale
We arrived around 10:30 in the morning and after purchasing our tasting glass and meal tickets we headed for the tasting rooms. First cab off the rank was the Verdelho as it’s our favorite style of white wine. It’s a great wine on its own but it also matches perfect with seafood, Indian and Thai food and who doesn’t love at least one of these. Allandale have been awarded several Gold medals and trophies for the Verdelho over the years.

Over the years we’ve found 3 favorite Verdelho’s in the Hunter but now may have to add another to the list, it was very nice.
Allandale staff handing over some knowledge
We also tried the Epitome which is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Verdelho and Sauvignon Blanc. All of which are grown in the Hunter. Having never tried this we were impressed with how well they do blend together, quite light and fruity.
Lovely country vibe at Allandale
Mel quickly moved onto trying the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc desert wine. Being a bit of an expert on Hunter desert wines she gave it the thumbs up and I’m sure we will be visiting Allandale in the near future top up the desert wine collection. Perfect with cheese, which we'll surely try soon.

I went onto try several of the reds they had on offer but I’ll confess now I’m not the greatest judge of red wines after just one or two small sips. I prefer to buy a bottle and at least try a glass before I pass any sort of judgment on any red wines. This will be happening when we do venture back out to Allandale.

Being there at 10:30 it was too early to eat but gee it was tempting. The food was supplied by the Olive Tree Restaurant which is based at Wyndham Estate winery. The mains were a choice of Garlic Prawns and Calamari with Crispy Risotto Balls, Roast Tomato Sauce on a Rocket, Olives and Parmesan Salad or Duck Confit with a Cassoulet of Toulouse Sausage, White Beans and Pistou. Both matched with the perfect Allandale wine.
The food sounded and looked delicious, but a bit early at 10.30am for a Duck Cassoulet
The desserts were Chocolate Caramello Cheesecake with Vanilla Bean Crème’ Anglaise or a Binnorie Brie with Crusty Bread and a Fig and Apple Relish.

Now you know why it was tempting to eat despite it being so early.

Our group purchased several different bottles of wine, grabbed a table and settled down to take in the atmosphere on what was a spectacular winters day in the Hunter.

If you are in the Hunter and decide to give Lovedale a try instead of Pokolbin for a change, get to Allandale and give their wines a try. We’ll be heading back there for more Epitome.
Cam and Mel of Hunter Valley Grapevine were paying attendees at the 2011 Lovedale Long Lunch

Lovedale Road, Lovedale NSW
Tel: (02) 4990 4526

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lovedale Long Lunch review - part 1

We joined a group of Hunter locals on Sunday the 15th May for our first taste of the Lovedale Long Lunch.
Mel's pristine LLL wine glass, at 10.30am
We were picked up nice and early by minibus and were into our first glass of wine just after 10:30 in the morning. As you can imagine some details later in the day are a bit harder to recollect.

Not really knowing what to expect when the bus pulled up at Allandale Winery, we were quickly introduced to how big a day this has become. It was only 10:30 in the morning and there must have been well over 500 people there, most of whom were partaking in the various wines and food on offer. We were later told that the crowds on the Saturday were at least double the size.

The best way to enjoy the day is to the purchase the “LLL” meal and glass package which consists of a meal ticket and dessert or cheese platter ticket which can be used at any of the 7 wineries taking part. You also get a “LLL” commemorative tasting glass which allows you to try as many different wines at each venue as you wish.

We had an initial plan of getting to all 7 wineries but it became pretty clear it was going to be too rushed to get in and out of each winery to make all 7 so between everyone on the bus we decided on 4 to visit throughout the day. Between tasting the various wines and buying a different bottle at each venue it seemed the best way to go.

We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and over the next week or so we’ll give a short review of the 4 wineries we were able to get to on the day.
Cam & Mel of Hunter Valley Grapevine were paying visitors to the Lovedale Long Lunch, no freebies involved

Lovedale Long Lunch
Lovedale NSW

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lovedale Long Lunch - this weekend - 14-15 May

Back on 4 March we blogged about the Lovedale Long Lunch. Time has flown, and the LLL is on this weekend, 14-15 May!

We are attending the LLL on Sunday, going by mini-bus with a group of locals, we're very much looking forward to it.

The LLL takes in 7 Lovedale vineyards, and we will be visiting them all, taking notes and photos of what's happening.

Over the coming weeks we will blog about the day in general, and individually on each of the vineyards, so stay tuned!
We are paying to attend the LLL, so there will be no holds barred!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Growers Market at The Vintage

The Hunter Valley like many holiday/tourist areas these days has any number of different markets to attend and there seems to be a market of some sort on just about every weekend. We have been to a fair few of them already and will endeavour to give you a run down on the good and the bad as we get to them. We'll also put together a Markets page, as we think they're a huge attraction in the Valley.
On Easter Sunday we attended ‘The Vintage Growers Market’ at The Vintage Golf Course at Rothbury, about a 5 minute drive from the heart of Pokolbin. This market is a once a year event on Sunday of the long weekend at Easter, and it has certainly grown since the first one we attended last year. It is a perfect venue for a big market as there is plenty of parking and plenty of space for the stall holders to spread out over.

The variety of produce on offer was incredible. Several of the local vineyards had stalls offering tastings of their entire range of quality wines. There was a couple of stall holders selling a wide range of fruit and vegies straight off the local farms. One of the local sourdough bakers had a stall selling their bread which are very tempting (I can’t walk passed without buying one). Not to mention the lovely ladies of the Turkish Gozleme stand, too delicious, we had to walk by quickly, as we always give in to temptation when we see them at the Newcastle Farmers Market!

Two or three of the local olive oil producers had stalls letting you taste the wide range of flavoured olive oils, olives and condiments. The Falky’s honey man was there with some amazing flavoured honeys which we hadn’t tried before. The Irish Cream flavour was great and the Rum and Raison was so good we had to have a jar.
Falky's honey - amazing flavour options, delish
The stalls went on and on with chocolates, cakes, health foods and apart from food there were clothing, pet supplies, soaps, art and many more. Plus an Easter Egg Hunt for the kiddies.
If you are in the Hunter over an Easter long weekend take a look at The Vintage Markets. There is something there for everyone.

Mel had to be dragged away from this gorgeous bowl

Cam & Mel of Hunter Valley Grapevine were paying visitors to the Vintage Growers Market, and paid for all produce we picked up

Vintage Growers Market
Vintage Drive, Rothbury NSW
Tel: +61 (2) 4998 6789

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