Wine, wine and whine
You’ll enjoy the Hunter Valley more when experienced with plenty of local wine, new gay friends and an entertaining tour guide, as Barry Lowe discovered during a Bear Essentials excursion.
It was 11am and I was well on the way to being pissed. Wally and I had been plied with reds and whites until I couldn’t tell a Framboise from a Shiraz Grenache. Can you believe we’d never visited one of Australia’s famed wine growing areas before? We remedied that in the week prior to Mardi Gras thanks to Bear Essentials and Harbour City Bears. Part of their celebrations this year involved a number of one-day excursions, including a visit to the Hunter Valley and its wineries, organised by gay and lesbian travel company, Planetdwellers.
We were an intrepid bunch, up at sparrow fart for our wine tasting expedition, a mixture of Brits, Canadians, Americans and two locals (us). I think I learned more about the vagaries of Canadian spelling and punctuation than I did about wine. Fortified by delicious mini-pastries from Bourke Street Bakery as we sped north, entertained by tour guide Barry Warner and his driver, Dave Batson, I didn’t really wake up until we hit an industrial strength truck stop somewhere near Wyong.
Once we hit the Hunter Valley it was a non-stop orgy or reds, whites, sparkling, desert, stinky cheese and chocolate. I was three sheets to the wind after our first stop, Tamburlaine Organic Wines, where we were treated to so many samples I could have easily jumped the nearest truckie. Their Reserve Framboise Raspberry Liqueur is heaven in a bottle.
Another highlight was Kylie from McGuigan’s with an accent so thick you could bottle it and a personality lively enough to front a reality TV show. We all adored her, the Black Label, and a rather enticing Botrytis Semillon.
We had such a ball at the three wineries, the lavish luncheon – the non-vegos tried kangaroo – the cheese shop and the chocolate factory and the sparkling wine/champagne tasting we ignored our exhaustion by signing up for the Blue Mountains/Jenolan Caves tour the following day, again with Barry and Dave.
Bigger crowd but the day was wet and miserable, the Blue Mountains shrouded in mist, the rain sheeting down. The Three Sisters were invisible. On top of that, at Scenic World, there was something wrong with the electricals on the Skyway and the doors wouldn’t open, the Railway was closed for improvement, and part of the Walkway was a washout. At least the Cableway was still working and Max, the attendant, was as spectacular eye candy as the rainforest itself.
Didn’t stop one or two of the overseas tourists whining about the conditions. Lunch at the Paragon where local gay men stared open-mouthed at the large group of bears and admirers whooping it up after a special showing of the chocolate-making facilities – all that cocoa must have gone to our heads – then we set out for the caves. The spectacular underground exploration, plus the stops along the way to photograph wallabies, and feeding rosellas in the caves’ car park, made everyone’s day and put paid to the whingers.
As if the weather wasn’t enough entertainment, two members of the group decided to get up close and very, very personal. It seems Planetdwellers tours are the most fun you can have this side of an orgasm.