The Hunter Valley – a land of wine, donkeys and stories that need to be told

I have just arrived home from what was a very relaxing three days away in the Hunter Valley in NSW, about 2 hours north of Sydney. The Hunter Valley is a wine region, with over 100 vineyards and wineries, many of which are boutiques and only sell wine to the public from the cellar door. This had been a mini-getaway in the making for months, purposely planned during the week to avoid the crowds, and for me it was a chance to do something I haven’t done for a long time – switch off. Just switch my brain off, stop writing, stop thinking about all the things I have to do, and just relax.

The Hunter Valley - View from the Audrey Wilkinson Winery

There is a lot to be said for switching off every now and then. We all like to push ourselves in something, whether it be our jobs, our family or personal lives, sports and hobbies, or creative interests. A few days ago I felt myself come unravelled with my writing and knew that I needed to just let it go for a few days, and so this little wine trip couldn’t have come at a better time, really. We spent the first day there riding around between wineries on bicycles, wine tasting at each one while enjoying the glorious views of the valley (though I did also discover that you can in fact forget how to ride a bike, despite the popular saying – it had been over a decade since I had last ridden, and it showed). The second day we had a tour mini-bus taking us around to some more wineries for more tasting and buying, as well as visiting a pub for lunch, and a cheese shop and chocolate shop on the way back to the little house we stayed in. Today, before we left, we enjoyed a champagne breakfast, and visited yet another chocolate shop.

In the short time we stayed at the house, we explored the large block of land we were on, and got to meet this guy:

In fact, there were four of these donkeys all up. There was a story behind them, in that they were all rescued from various places and had all been traumatised in one way or another, and so were currently being rehabilitated by the owners of this land, who allowed them to wander freely, and who fed them daily. Two of the four donkeys were very shy, including this one, who would happily stare at me from a distance of a couple of metres, but just after taking this photo, as I tried to pat it, moved away from me quickly. For me, it was my first time ever seeing a donkey up close before, so I quite enjoyed it (there were also wild kangaroos hopping about the place, though not in our particular block of land).

But this brings me to my next point – one thing that really interested me about the Hunter Valley was that there are so many stories there, particularly behind the vineyards and wineries themselves. The land we stayed on had an old, run down vineyard that clearly had been abandoned a decade or so ago, and although there was nothing growing, the support rows for the grapevines were still standing, hinting at the past use of this land. There were many vineyards we visited that had begun life as family owned ventures, only to be abandoned for one reason or another during last century, and eventually picked back up again by another family many years later. These stories intrigued me, because while some were for simple reasons like financial struggles or the end of a family line, others were shrouded in much more mystery. One of my favourite stories was behind the Audrey Wilkinson vineyards, which were abandoned in the 1970s when the family line died out, and by the time it was bought again a few years later, cows had come along and eaten all of the old vines, completely destroying the majority of it, so it had to be started from scratch all over again. Such stories as this just seem to be shouting out to me to write them down, to turn them into some short stories or something along those lines.

My wine stash from the Hunter Valley - 15 bottles in total. A bit of everything in there.

So it has been a good few days, learning about the histories behind these places, learning about the art of both wine making and wine drinking, meeting real wine connoisseurs, and of course, buying and drinking copious amounts of wine. Now let’s see if this is a positive or negative influence on my writing…

16 thoughts on “The Hunter Valley – a land of wine, donkeys and stories that need to be told

    • Hahaha yeah, the four donkeys were all super cute. But they all looked really sad too, which was sad knowing their histories (we knew about it because there was a note inside the house explaining it to us). But yeah, we were like little kids when we finally ventured out to meet the donkeys, hahahah 😛

      • Well, it’s sad about the traumatized donkeys – but – donkeys always look like that 🙂 Plus they are now probs the happiest donkeys in da worrld! Free food, giant spaces to run or just being lazy in… what more canz a donkey ask for? ;D

        • Hahaha yeah they seemed fairly content. Except for a white one which kept running away every time we approached it. Mind, they happily came up to us the next morning when it was feeding time and they thought we had the food 😛
          And a donkey could ask for Parfait? Everybody loves parfait! 😛

            • Hahaha, parfait does indeed translate as ‘perfect’, but yeah it’s a French frozen dessert, usually made with layers of different flavours of ice creams, ices, creams, syrups – it varies a lot, but it is usually serves in tall glass. I don’t know why it ended up being called parfait, but perfect dessert might be a good guess! 😛 But there is nothing imbecilic (oh hey, that’s a real word, I’ll be darned) about not knowing what parfait is, it is confusing.
              Though the reason I mentioned it is because Donkey from the Shrek movies talks about parfait like that, hahahaha.

              • Hhahah I had forgotten about the shrek-connection haaha 😛 Yeah.. I’ve never eaten parfait so I guess it’s not all that strange that I didn’t know. It does sound lovely though!

  1. Oh man, sounds like an awesome vacation. I agree about needing to get completely away from things from time to time.

    And how cool to discover stories while you were there.

    Now if only I could find a way to Australia for a winery getaway….

    • Yep, it was a nice vacation. I have been up there before for a day, but never several days before. 🙂

      And actually, out of all the Australia wine regions, the Hunter Valley is one of the smaller ones. It just suits me because it’s close to where I live (and as it is close to Sydney, it gets massive tourist crowds on weekends). But there are much bigger wine regions in Australia, such as the Barossa Valley down south, and the Margaret River over in Western Australia (my personal favourite is Margaret River – I always love the wine that comes from there. Shame it’s several thousand kilometres away).

      But yes, you should find a way to Australia for a getaway haha. We’re pretty relaxed here too, it’s a good place to getaway…or live. 😛

    • It was a lot of fun! 🙂 That part of the country is beautiful actually, as well. I think a lot of people think Australia is either beaches, bush or desert, but we do have nice, greener areas such as this (though not as many as much of the world).

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