Spending Christmas alone, just the two of you, is an indulgence – there is no one to please but yourself. We wanted to go away somewhere new, have a little road trip and see a bit more of this vast country. The Hunter Valley seemed far enough away that it would feel fully away, and the promise of delicious local wine, and a cosy cottage tracked down by Colin sealed the deal.
We broke up the trip, staying at Coff’s Harbour (above) for the first night before continuing south. On arriving at Stonehurst Cedar Creek winery, we found our rustic cottage, cracked open a bottle of their vintage bubbles, fried up a steak, and soaked in the view looking down over the shiraz vineyard and across the valley. The whole place oozed pastoral utopia in the best possible way. The paddock directly below the cottage was home to a herd of dusky cattle that drifted by from time to time; chewing, checking us out, calling to each other, being beautiful creatures. Yes, we are deprived city dwellers…but then again, that sound that cows make as they rip off mouthfuls of grass, the heavy rush of breath in and out…ahhh, ok, definitely deprived!
We were up early on Christmas Eve to meet Zac from Two Fat Blokes wine tours, a company that focuses on small, boutique wineries that only sell direct from their cellar doors. Along with three other couples, we embarked on a fantastic all-day tour, visiting Mistletoe, Calais Estate and Peterson Champagne House wineries, as well as cheese tasting at the new TFB deli, wine and chocolate tasting at The Garden Cellars, and finishing at Potter’s Brewery for a beer tasting. We had never been on a wine tour before and we found it to be a very educational experience! No seriously, it really did provide the perfect opportunity to deepen our wine knowledge, as we compared and contrasted a different wine types and styles. The Hunter is known for producing the best semillon in the world (its my new favourite white) but all of the wineries produced a wide variety of wines in addition to semillon. Standouts included Mistletoe’s 2013 semillon range, a Fume Blanc at Peterson’s that tasted of tomatoes and lettuce and a 2006 Reserve Chardonnay at Calais.
Christmas Day was cool, rainy and quiet, and after a flurry of present-opening and cooking that breakfast, we settled in for a day of relaxation, reading, and more cow-gazing.
On Boxing Day the Hunter came alive once again, and we headed out for a bit more wine tasting, stopping into Gundog Estate (amazing rose and off-dry semillon), Pokolbin Brothers for moscato you could bathe in, and the legendary Roberts restaurant for a late lunch of chilli- and lemongrass-spiked spanner crab pasta.
On our final morning we ate leftovers for breakfast, packed up and said goodbye to the cottage and cows, stopped into the Stonehurst cellar for one last taste, then hit the road. The journey home was spread over three days. We spent a night at Lake Cathie, south of Port Macquarie, with Narelle and Brian’s family and discovered the pure joy of bowls (it turns out I’m kind of a natural). The next day we drove further north to Palm Beach on the southern end of the Gold Coast for another night of festivities with Mike and Sue. We finally arrived back in Brisbane for a couple of chilled out days at home before heading back to work on the 2nd Jan feeling like we had well and truly Gotten Away From It All.