Not Just Another Weekend in Hunter Valley

After visiting several of Australia’s wine regions while traveling, and having not visited one for at least a month, Simon planned a weekend away to revisit Australia’s oldest wine region – Hunter Valley. Although this time, I would be coming away with something much better than wine knowledge and a sore head.

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After finishing work early on the Friday and making the short two hour drive from Sydney, we arrived at our accommodation for the weekend, the Déjà vu Estate. Although there was nothing déjà vu about it, we had definitely never stayed anywhere like this before.

The Déjà vu Estate is a private and secluded winery situated in Pokolkin, in the heart of Hunter Valley. We had a huge cabin to ourselves, including an outside deck and hot tub, a bed made of wine barrels and even our own private lake. 

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Given we are used to sharing a small flat in Sydney, we decided to make the most of having so much space to ourselves and spent Friday night making sushi and sampling some of the local wine, ensuring we were relaxed and ready for our early morning wakeup call the next day.

We woke up at 4am the next morning, after a disturbed sleep, consisting of Simon tossing and turning all night and being eaten alive by Mosquitos. Apparently, no matter how much you pay for accommodation Mosquitos can still get in. Still half asleep we made our way to Peterson’s Winery for a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the valley with Balloon Aloft.

The morning was crisp, clear and perfect flying conditions. After around 20 minutes of watching the large balloons slowly inflate, it was time for us to climb into our basket and prepare for take-off. There was nothing elegant about getting into the basket, as we swung ourselves over the side. After one false start, we began our gentle ascent, with the other balloons below us gradually becoming smaller as we climbed to 1000ft.

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The balloon seamlessly floated up to 4000ft above the ground, and we were treated to spectacular views of the sun rising over the valley.  The experienced and knowledgeable pilot explained that he was only able to steer the balloon by ascending or descending into winds going in different directions or different speeds. We both found this very interesting, but also slightly scary given how high up we were!

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Despite already experiencing a seaplane and helicopter in Australia, this was the most spectacular scenic flight yet. Both the descent and landing were just as smooth as take-off, and it was then all hands-on-deck to pack away the 80ft x 50ft balloon.  

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This was followed by a well-deserved champagne breakfast (yes at 9am it’s not brunch) at Peterson’s House. We enjoyed this on the terrace, overlooking the beautiful lake, although I was far more interested in my Blueberry Pancakes.

Next, we made a quick visit to the Hunter Valley Gardens, situated along Broke Road on the Pokolbin trail. It was a perfect sunny autumn day of 25 degrees, so we walked around the beautiful gardens and lake, stopping to admire the wedding ceremony set up for tomorrow’s wedding fair. With the lack of sleep catching up with us, we grabbed a coffee in one of the Garden’s cafés, ready for the upcoming wine tasting.

We headed to Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, one of the oldest wineries in the Hunter Valley, with its first vines planted in 1866. We enjoyed a private wine tasting in the cellar door and were supplied with glass after glass of some of the nicest wine we had ever tasted. My favourite was full of blueberry and plum notes with a savoury earth edge – apparently. 

After feeling a little lightheaded we took a stroll around the property, where I was led down a path stating, ‘no entry’. Being a stickler for the rules, I was not impressed. Although, this soon changed as we arrived at a beautiful picnic blanket covered with rose petals, flower on each corner and a huge wicker picnic hamper. The picnic was perfectly situated on a spot overlooking the beauty of the Hunter Valley and the surrounding Broke Mountains.

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After questioning whether we could sit here, and being told ‘it’s for us’, the tear started rolling down my faces as the realisation set in that this was the moment I would say YES! After being asked the most important question and checking the size of the ring, I of course said YES!

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We spent the next few hours enjoying the locally sourced picnic which seemed to include all the savoury and sweets items you could imagine, soaking in the Australian sun, admiring the views, and talking about how perfect the ring was.  

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After the most exciting day, it was time for a celebratory meal at Restaurant Botanica, set in the Spicers Vineyard Estate. The restaurant offered a Modern Australian menu with vineyard views. We were presented with champagne upon arrival and enjoyed a three-course meal with matching wine.  

The next morning, after a well-deserved lie in, we woke up in the beautiful Déjà Vu Estate and enjoyed breakfast in bed, still a little overwhelmed from the day before. 

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The surprises were still not over, as at midday we were booked to go horse trekking through the Valley. Being only 5ft 2, I was given Cherry, who can only be described as a short fat Shetland pony and who was far more interested in eating then walking. Simon was far luckier and got to ride ‘Star’, a beautiful brown stallion.

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We mounted and set off on the 1.5-hour trail ride, over the Molly Morgan Range, and through the forest. As we trekked through the valley, we took in the breathtaking views of the patchwork valley, we had viewed from above the day before. Despite several of the horses threatening to gallop off towards the end of the ride, we made it safely back to the stables after a great ride.

We managed to squeeze in a visit to one more winery, where we enjoyed yet another picnic although not quite as fancy as the previous day. Completely exhausted after three very busy days we began our journey back to Sydney.

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After what can only be described as the best weekend ever, it was now time to let our friends and family know our exciting news and begin planning the Floyd Wedding.

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