Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wine, "Roos", and Toronto?!?

 Hunter Valley, Australia

Wine is a big thing here in Australia, a really big thing!

A trip to the bottle shop (liquor/wine store) and you will find an amazing selection of wines from Australia and New Zealand, and usually, from nowhere else. Unbelievably, you can walk into a fair sized bottle shop, a Californian Cabernet? Nope. A French Bordeaux? Nope. A Canadian Pinot? Never! I am not saying you can't get any of these great imports here, but it's just that the average bottle shop mostly carries only Aussie and Kiwi wine. Why? Because they make some of the best wines in the world here. And we have discovered we are spoiled to live right amongst it :-)

There are so many diverse regions of wine here in Australia and New Zealand. But essentially, they can be divided between the cool climate wine regions and the warm climate wine regions. The cool climate regions include notables such as Barossa Valley in South Australia where the big bold reds are grown.  Think Penfolds Grange. Also for cool climate, Pinot Noir is amazing from New Zealand and Tasmania. New Zealand is famous for it's Sauvignon Blancs, which taste like no other I have had. But here in the warmer north (remember southern hemisphere), we have the Hunter Valley.

To see what all the talk was about, Nancy and I decided to spend a beautiful fall weekend up in "the Hunter" as it is affectionately known. About a 2.5 hour drive north from Sydney, the Hunter is an amazing mix of large and boutique wineries nestled between some very picturesque hills.

As this is a warm climate region, the grapes were picked way back in February. The growing season is hot, so the vines grown have to be chosen carefully. The vines the Hunter is famous for are the white Semillon, and the red Shiraz. Semillon is a wine more flavourful than a Riesling, but dryer than a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. A great easy drinking white wine, perfect for the hot summers here. 

Shiraz, well I think everyone knows Australian Shiraz. Australia is one of the world's largest producers of it aside from France where the grape is called Syrah. Shiraz falls between a bold Cabernet/Merlot and the lighter Pinot. Here are a couple samples of what we tried.

Now, there are some other aspects of the Hunter being a warm climate, interesting things grow in abundance here. For example, we went to Pepper Tree winery which is named after the many black pepper trees growing along the property. Also the Hunter has many olive groves. Fresh pressed olive oil with any infused flavour you can imagine can be easily found everywhere. The other somewhat interesting novelty is that there are Kangaroos hopping around it. 

Roos, which is the local nickname, and very common here in the wild. Still new to Australia, we get excited every time we see one. The locals look at us oddly because Roos are as common as deer In Canada and generally thought of as a nuisance. Wonder what a group of Roos are called? A flock? No way! Herd? Maybe...

They are actually called a mob of Roos. Yes a mob - weird. And here is a mob of Roos by a vineyard that Nancy chased.

Being informed new locals, we signed ourselves up for an all day wine tour. 5 wineries, 35 tastings, and case of wine to take home, we were happy campers by the time we got back to the bed and breakfast.

On the way back to Sydney, we took the scenic drive home, and decided to drive through where every Ontario native should, Toronto! Yes, that is Toronto, New South Wales.

There actually is a Toronto, NSW. How odd it was to see a street sign to both Toronto and Sydney. It's a small little town on the western shores of not Lake Ontario, but Lake Macquarie. Lake Macquarie is a large salt water lake just in from the ocean. It's a great little lake side town, but not much like the Toronto I know.

Here is Toronto's waterfront, wow palm trees along Lakeshore Road!

And downtown Toronto, where's the street cars?

And finally me just being a tourist in Australia's "tidy town."

Quick Railey news update. He is out of solitary confinement and in general doggy population in quarantine. He passed his tests. Guess we don't need to bring him the cake we baked with the file in it after all. Just over two more weeks and he will be out on good behaviour. We can't wait!

Next up, coffee in Australia, stay tuned...

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