Sunday 24 October 2010

Coffee, Olives, Cheese, Food & Wine in the Hunter Valley

We started the day with a coffee and loaf at the Bliss Coffee Roasters in the Hunter Valley Gardens.  One thing I continually forget is that skinny lattes (as they’re known here as opposed to trim lattes in NZ) are usually a single shot of coffee and not the double shot I have been accustomed to in Auckland.

IMG_3996 The Hunter Olive Centre was packed with people when we arrived, and for good reason, since they have an excellent range of oils, tapenades, vinegars and jams to taste.

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese (yes, that’s its official name) was our next stop.  This is located in a magnificent complex with Tempus Two and another winery or two.  Here, we enjoyed some more excellent cheeses.

Tempus Two has a very upmarket cellar door presence and some lovely wines to taste.  I particularly enjoyed the Pinot Gris which had a nice passionfruit flavour.  The Chardonnay (50% Hunter Valley Grapes) is big and oaky and whilst it is quite drinkable now I fear it will become too oaky over time for my palate.  Their Shiraz is a very light style that I can imagine being a nice and easy drink on a hot summers day.

We popped into Adina Olives and tasted their small selection on offer.  The Green Olive tapenade was my pick before I was also tempted to taste some of their wines.  Of Adina Vineyard’s wines, I particularly liked their light and crisp Semillon, and found the Verdelho to be nice and dry with lots of flavour.  Jane’s pick was the Dessert Semillon (an ice wine)  that she found was more viscous than a table wine but not as sticky as many dessert wines.

IMG_3997 Leaves & Fishes is a beautiful restaurant located nestled back into the trees on Lovedale Road overlooking their pond.  It is a lovely setting, has nice ambience and great service.  I had a beautiful sesame-crusted fish fillet that was done in a Thai style with coriander, fish sauce and a very light chilli, and micro-greens.  Jane had crispy pork belly with a magnificent side salad comprising caper-berries, gherkins, olives, sweet garlic, feta, fennel, pea sprouts, coriander and various lettuces.  We would happily return although the prices are certainly premium.

The Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory was our next stop, and we tasted a number of lovely chocolates and fudges.  Great friendly service.

After a detour via a geocache we had a cheese tasting at Benorrie Dairy.  The Herb & Garlic Fromage Frais is lovely.  I enjoyed the Valencay (white mould goat cheese), although this was too strong for Jane.  The Marinated Fetta Gold Medal was exquisite and very smooth.  The Labna had a nice garlic/rosemary flavour and lots of exciting complexity.  The Brie was a bit mild for me, but the Washed Rind was more to my liking.  The Duetto is a dessert style cheese that they do and I quite enjoyed the sweeter flavour however Jane was not keen on this one (which is not surprising given that it contained gorgonzola).  The Apple & Rosemary paste was also really good.  We were also appreciative of the friendly service of the woman in the store.

In the same complex as the Benorrie Dairy is Arrowfield Estate.  Once I finally got some service I decided to try their Riesling.  This is a citrus-dominated Riesling that is enjoyable.  I also enjoyed their Cabernet Merlot.

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