I’ve got post-weekend depression, and it’s almost Friday again! Last weekend a small group of boys and I went down to the Hunter Valley to celebrate my brothers Bucks party. Matty didn’t want a typical party – no regular weekend on the town with strippers and too many beers – so I drew up the plans for a weekend away playing and staying at a luxury golf resort amongst the vineyards in the Hunter Valley.
Cypress Lakes Golf Resort became our home from Friday to Monday. We had an early morning flight to make the most of the weekend and Emmy graciously offered to drive us to the airport. Unfortunately, I misjudged the check-in time and we missed check-in by about 60 seconds (I blame my post-exam brain)! JetStar wasn’t much help in the situation; they were too happy to take the noob-tax that we were charged to reschedule the flight. Thankfully, we got on another flight later in the day.
We passed the time in the airport by enjoying a catch up over a few beers – some would say one too many beers as we ended up running to the gate after an “absolute final boarding call”! Talk about stressful! On the plus side, we didn’t have to sit on the plane for long before take-off – we also got the emergency seats! Winning!
We landed in Newcastle and hired a car for the weekend. The Hunter Valley is about an hour drive from Newcastle airport – a bit less if you spool the turbo a few times. I showed the boys what I could remember of the local area when we got there – the last of the boys were arriving later that evening. Our cabin for the weekend overlooked one of the end holes on the course. It was comfortable and cosy and had a lovely deck too.
For dinner, we headed to one of the local pubs that is also a functional brewery. Potters Brewery served up some delicious food and we enjoyed a few beers and a spin on the pokies before catching the courtesy bus home.
The highlight of the night was definitely a Scottish ex-soccer player trying to serenade some local gals, who were eating dinner, with his rendition of “I will walk 500 miles” after about 1000 pints of lager. What a mess!
I had planned for Saturday to be an awesome day: we had time in the morning to look around and relax before hitting a quick 9-holes and finishing off the day with a lovely dinner at one of the best local restaurants. We all got some time for a few cheeky morning beers and a catchup after enjoying the buffet breakfast. While the boys were relaxing, I ducked out quickly to Pepper Tree winery to grab some reds to go with dinner.
Golf was booked in for 1pm, but we planned to get there earlier to work on the swing at the driving range. Luckily, we slipped into the bottom 9 early and had a bit more time between golf and dinner.
We played a rosetta tournament – we split into teams of 2 and played from the best partners shot after both having a go at the ball. It made the game a lot faster and evened out the handicap. It was the first time I played and I absolutely loved it. It doesn’t hurt having a course that winds in and out of vineyards – simply stunning. Here’s a few shots of the action.
The lovely Spanish tapas restaurant, Verandah, hosted us for dinner Saturday night. Each of the boys ordered one of the tapas options for everyone to share and I ordered an equivalent number of vego delights too. The food was amazing! Plates came out in waves and it was a lot of fun to watch the boys try new flavours and foods they have never eaten before. Surprisingly, the red wine I had purchased to go with dinner went down a treat too – some of the boys consumed not only their first glass of wine – they enjoyed 3 different styles!
I must have consumed a few plates before snapping a photo because these are the only ones I have! From top to bottom, left to right, you can see the marinated artichoke heart with a potato nest and whipped goats cheese; house made sour dough and dukka rolled labna; panko crusted duck egg with truffle oil and pecorino (this one was served with a delicious apera sherry); and finally the chocolate churros. I also tried the pan seared haloumi, the four cheese arancini and pomodoro and the thyme and beetroot gnocchi with walnut burnt butter sauce. It was all delicious!
We had a hilarious lady serve our table – when she discovered we were in the Hunter for a bucks party, she slipped my brother a note with her phone number on to watch his response. It was priceless! Finally, after explaining to the boys who weren’t at the brewery Friday night how drunk and random the singing Scottish man was, he ended up being right in front of us singing again for the owner of the restaurant. Needless to say, he was escorted out quite quickly.
Breakfast back at Cypress Lakes was great. They had a selection of self-serve hot foods, a decent choice of fresh breads and pastries, a fruit bar with a tasty toasted muesli and a man making pancakes to order. I even enjoyed a nice coffee from the cafe their too. One of the best features has to be the morning view over the lake while sitting outside among old wine barrels and climbing vines.
We got picked up at 10am Sunday morning and headed to the first winery of our 5-hour tour. The nice lady who hosted us at the first vineyard explained to everyone how to taste wine, however, no one was really sold on the wine we tried there.
The driver then took us out to an organic winery just out of town. It was a nice drive, but the wine and winery was unimpressive. Finally, I requested the driver take us to Pepper Tree, as I knew the boys enjoyed the wines the previous night. Most of the party tried every wine on the list at Pepper Tree and loved every single drop! Many bottles were purchased from Pepper Tree to take home – I grabbed 3 myself!
We then headed to Bluetongue Brewery for a pub lunch and a few beers. For $15, I grabbed a paddle of sample beers – it was hard to choose a favourite but the surprise definitely came from the ginger beer! When you return the paddle, you get a schooner of your favourite beer to enjoy with lunch.
After lunch, we visited one of the bigger local cellar doors and a cheese factory. We sampled many locally made cheeses before heading back to the resort in time for some of the boys to head home Sunday evening.
My brothers and I stayed for another night and enjoyed a few more beers Sunday evening. It was a great night as we got a good chance to catch up with Cam who has been living in the UK for AGES.
We checked out Monday morning and finished our weekend with the back 9 holes. I had some great shots on the back 9, unfortunately, they were overshadowed by some of the worst shots in golfing history. One of the par-4-holes saw me on the green on the 4th shot – much to the amusement of Matt and Cam, I putted and chipped my way to finally sink the ball in the hole after 14-shots! That damned ball didn’t want to go in! After finishing the 18th hole, we returned the carts and the shoes, got changed by the car and jumped in the pool. After feeling a lot more refreshed, I drove the boys around to some of my local favourite wineries.
We headed up to Audrey Wilkinson Winery to enjoy the great scenery and fantastic wines. In the essence of staying under-the-limit, I had to tip a $65 shiraz in the spittoon. Sad-face. We headed back to the cheese factory to grab some cheeses to take home and quickly visited the Brokenwood cellar door that was part of the golf resort we stayed on. We sampled a few more wines and headed back to the airport to fly home.
What a weekend. I had an amazing weekend with the boys and importantly, so did Matt. I am heading out to Tenterfield tomorrow morning for the wedding on Saturday. It is predicted rain – but that definitely won’t stop the day from being beautiful and full of fun! I’ll be sure to post about the weekend when I get over my next bout of post-weekend-depression.