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40 hours in Broke-Fordwich

January 14, 2014

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“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” asks Koji, only somewhat casually, as we rumble over a low-lying wooden bridge.

We coast past the town of Wollombi, windows down, serenaded by cicada song.

“It’s what the map is telling us.” I reply, glancing ever-so-briefly at my phone.

The air smells different here. Cleaner. Fresher. Somehow more… alive.

“It’s just, I usually the the other way up to Pokolbin.”

“Oh… well, we’re not going to Pokolbin now, are we?”

“I thought you said…”

“There’s more to the Hunter Valley than Pokolbin, darling. You’ll see.”

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And, over the course of 40 glorious hours’ worth of eating, drinking, laughing and lying under the stars as guests of the Broke-Fordwich Wine Region, we did see.

We saw small-batch producers whose livelihood rested on the next vintage of grapes. We saw restaurant gardens that would make any Sydney-sider match the greenery in envy. We saw the water-line that stretched across the mountains and curious chooks that asked us, politely, for dinner. We saw caves whose history stretched beyond the imagination and waterholes where German WWOOFers ran shrieking back to homesteads at the sight of a snake skin shed in an overhanging tree.

The stars were brighter. The air was purer. The wine left us speechless (and not because we drank too much of it).

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But more than anything, we saw a community of winemakers that took pride in their product and who weren’t afraid to make a drop they liked. Who weren’t afraid to recommend the cellar door down the road, who also happened to make a wine from that grape you’d just discovered (and happened to like). Who were willing to sacrifice quantity for quality. For whom Broke-Fordwich wasn’t just a space for commercial opportunity, but a home.

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It’s hard to know where to start when describing a region.

Do you focus on things to do, places to see and where to stay? Do you search out little known hidey-holes and publicise long-lost locations for adventuring? Or do you do neither, and maybe start from the start and end at the end and hope to goodness that someone out there feels what you are feeling and comes back for a second bite?

At the beginning, you see, was Baiame, who came down from the sky to the land – creating mountains and rivers, forests and valleys. He gave life, tradition, song and culture to the local people before returning to the skies to look over them.

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We were taken to visit Baiame on the first day of our trip, after an offhand comment by Koji asking about the Aboriginal painting.

And so we drove, just a little off-course, past a herd of disinterested cattle, an embankment on which the monster trucks raced and towards a wooden sign. Up the steps we climbed, all the while sweltering in the still heat of a 34 degree day.

From his cave, you can see the whole valley – a circle of rocky mountain and lush land in the middle.

It was here that we were first shown the waterline – a mark against the mountains, and a constant reminder that we were in some of the toughest wine-growing land in the country. Water is scarce in Broke-Fordwich. Well, unless its harvest season. Then, it rains. It rains so hard that the fruit bursts on the vine. It falls each year and, even this year, all of the winemakers we met were keeping their fingers crossed that they’d be able to finish harvest before the deluge set in.

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Seven vineyards later, we found ourselves at the end.

More specifically, Broke’s Promise, where Graeme and Deborah had offered us a final meal by way of farewell (and one that was kindly received – not least of all because the two major restaurants in the Broke-Fordwich wine region are closed on Sunday evenings).

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We tumbled out of the car, heads swimming with knowledge and the effects of tasting more wines in a day than I’d normally sample in a half-year, towards the cellar door.

On the wall, an Aboriginal painting commissioned by Graeme of the vineyard and surrounding areas – one that made its way onto the label of their best selling wine.

We nibbled on olives from the grove just outside and a bruschetta topped with vegetables from the garden.

And then we retired to a table among the trees.

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Cured salmon with capers and a wasabi dressing, slow cooked pork belly and home made salads.

A trio of poached stone fruit and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

And wine. Oh! The wines!

Koji was so enamoured by the Barbera and Chambourcin that he could hardly say which he preferred.

And I?

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Well, I was lost to the stars.

To the sight of dusk over the olive grove.

To the gentle clink of a little bit more Verdehlo flowing into my glass.

To the firm handshakes, twinkly eyes and big fat cuddles of goodbye.

And to the already fading memory of a region so lovely I can hardly believe I stayed unaware of it for so long.

 

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I’ll be a little bit more practical in my following posts, I promise. There’s eight vineyards worth of wines to show you and a couple of truly amazing meals besides.

(But for now, all you need to know is that Broke-Fordwich is a two hour drive from Sydney, that the picking is starting in as little as two weeks and that 2014 promises to be an amazing year for shiraz.)

 

Disclosure: Shez & Koji travelled to the Broke-Fordwich region as guests of the region and for the purposes of onebitemore’s role as an ambassador for the region. 


  • #1
    January 15th, 2014

    your awesome human GPS skills strikes again! looks like you had a great time!

  • #2
    January 19th, 2014

    I think Broke Fordwich really chose the perfect person to be their ambassador. You’ve showcased the area so well everything is so charming! What a great experience. I know I just had a 3 week holiday but I’m just about ready for my next getaway haha

  • #3
    February 13th, 2014

    Nice review! How does one become an ambassador for the region?

  • #4
    March 12th, 2014

    As I can see Baiame is a love place. I wanna get there! I hope it is lovely as Australia.

Shez