Sport, Puppies, We Meet Kamahl & The Hunter Valley Goes Medieval

It’s been a busy week or so for us, full of sporting events, trips to the Hunter Valley (I know, tough life, right) and hobnobbing with celebrities. 

But from all of this, we’ve got some excellent recommendations for you on Hunter Valley cellar door experiences to try, how to find places to stay in the region and even where to hire a suit of chainmail armour!

Jim & Christina x

Jim at the EVH in Balmain watching the Women's World Cup

Tonight, we’re out at our local to watch the semifinal of the Women’s World Cup–the much anticipated Australia vs England game.

With me coming from England and Christina being Australian, it’s going to be interesting for us, no matter who wins. I’m at the bar, so I’m smiling. Will I still be smiling by the end of the 90?

At the EVH in Balmain watching the Women's World Cup - Mary Fowler

Things aren’t looking good for the Matildas with England dominating much of the possession. The mood in the pub is still good though, especially after Sam Kerr’s miracle goal.

At the EVH in Balmain watching the Women's World Cup - Pixel the Golden

It hasn’t turned out well for the Aussies with the Lionesses taking the other spot in the final against Spain.

To make herself feel better, Christina turns her attention to the local celebrity in the pub. This is Pixel Osbourne Morningstar. How good is he?!

Tiny puppy at Snog the Frog costume store

This little nugget hasn’t got an Instagram account (yet), but what do you expect from something that’s the size of an EFTPOS machine?

I’m at Snog the Frog costume shop in Surry Hills collecting my outfit for the weekend, and this little fella’s helping me with my booking.

What’s the outfit for? Well, let me show you!

Jim as Medieval Knight at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

Yup. That’s me. We’re in the Hunter Valley for a Medieval banquet that our friend Lisa McGuigan is throwing at her cellar door, Vamp.

Check out our review of this unique winery here.

Helmets at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

Jim & Christina dressed up at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

Vamp is amazing–decked out with all kinds of Medieval artefacts, helmets, armour and even curtains of real chainmail that section off the VIP booths.

The theme of this fancy dress party makes perfect sense.

Us and our new friends at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

Jim & Christina dressed up for a night of Medieval fun at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

There’s a photo booth at the party too, so of course, we hop in with our new friends that we shared a cab with to get to the winery.

And obviously we have to have a couple of shot on our own.

Knights battling at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

Halfway through the feast, we’re entertained by two knights hacking lumps out of each other in an impressive display.

Jim and Kemahl at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

I’m lucky enough to be sat next to the celebrity VIP for the party and one of Lisa’s personal friends: Kemahl!

He’s a fascinating man with incredible stories and I get to chat with him for the whole evening. Even after dinner, when we move to the bar, Kemahl and I just hang out sharing a yarn and a glass of Lisa’s excellent Spartacus Shiraz.

And after an impressive rendition for the whole party of Old Man River, Kemahl sits back down to chat to chat with just me and Christina.

It’s been an awesome night, but that’s exactly what we expected from Lisa. I don’t think she knows how to throw a bad party.

Villa at Ironbark Estate in the Hunter Valley by Weekenda

This afternoon, we’re relaxing over a glass of wine in our villa at Ironbark Hill Estate.

Booked through Weekenda, an accommodation site specifically for the Hunter region. It’s a great way to find places to stay in the area that are better than most things you’ll find on AirBnB and is locally owned too.

Glass of wine by the dam Villa at Ironbark Estate in the Hunter Valley by Weekenda

Christina at Villa at Ironbark Estate in the Hunter Valley by Weekenda

This lovely, private cottage has a full kitchen-diner and lounge, as well as a back veranda that faces out over a dam. The acreage here is so pretty, and as spring is making its way into the year, the cherry blossoms are out too.

Peter Drayton and Ironbark Estate winery

But even better than that, not far up the drive is the Ironbark Hill Brewery, making its own excellent beers and serving delicious food too.

As well as the brewery, Peter Drayton Wines have their cellar door onsite too!

Of course, it would be rude not to, so we have a beer paddle each to taste some of Ironbark Hill’s brews, then do a quick wine tasting as well!

If you haven’t tried Ironbark Hill’s beers or Peter Drayton Wines, you’re missing out.

Our advice: book a cottage here, then spend an afternoon enjoying the food, beer and wine on offer here. The added bonus is you don’t have to worry about driving to get home!

Jim at Jimmy Joans in the Hunter Valley

When in wine country, you drink wine. It makes sense, doesn’t it.

But before we get stuck into a few wineries, we decide to follow our friends’ recommendation and pop into Jimmy Joans.

It’s a surprisingly big and very busy eatery in Lovedale. It’s got a great local vibe with lots of families enjoying the sun here. The food menu is packed with tempting options (I’ve got my eye on the scotch egg) and some good beers on tap too.

Definitely worth checking out next time you’re in the Hunter.

John Wallace Wines' cellar door

Our first winery stop, we’re excited to visit John Wallace Wines, not far from Jimmy Joans. We’ve been wanting to come here since it opened last year.

It’s the baby of our friend Richard Done, who’s the head winemaker at Bimbadgen Estate in Pokolbin. Somehow, Rich is also making his own wine at the same time and has created this beautiful space to sell it.

Rich takes us through his full collection of seriously good wine (his Sisters Chardonnay and BPD Shiraz are spectacular) and we sit and chew the fat for a while. I love talking to him about how he makes wine. He’s so honest and smart, but also incredibly humble too.

John Wallace Wines' cellar door

Soon enough, Richard’s fiancee Beth, their two lovely little daughters and the family dog Tilly arrive, we get to see the whole family unit – warms the heart.

If you’re looking for a small, family-owned winery with a cellar door that feels like home and whose wine will make you want to take up drinking professionally, you’ve got to head to John Wallace Wines on Palmers Lane in Rothbury just north of Pokolbin and Lovedale.

Brokenwood cellar door

Next stop is to Brokenwood – home of the famed Graveyard Shiraz, a perennial contender for the best wine in Australia.

We’ve been meaning to come here for ages since the multi-million dollar refurb to the cellar door, but never quite made it.

The tasting we do is excellent – interesting and delicious. But it’s nowhere near as personal as John Wallace Wines. The tasting room is a series of hoop bars, each of which has a member of staff in the middle. You book in your tasting time at the front desk and then are ceremoniously taken through to your seat at a bar.

The basic tasting is $25 per person, none of which doesn’t come off any purchases, and you try seven wines. It’s a beautiful cellar door, and it is a great experience, but a bit impersonal and more expensive than most.

McGuigan Wines' Hunter Through The Ages tasting experience

Our last wine stop for the day is just next door to McGuigan Wines.

This Hunter Valley icon has been going for decades and is an easy must – especially if you’re new to the Hunter or to wine-tasting in general.

The wines here are approachable but still win major awards. They have a range of tasting experiences here ranging from a free 30-minute tasting at the bar to more in-depth, private ones.

Christina at McGuigan Wines' Hunter Through The Ages tasting experience

We’ve gone for the the Hunter Through The Ages vertical tasting, which is an hour-long experience that shows you how wine ages and includes a bit of local cheese and crackers too.

We’re taken through to the impressive private tasting room where we taste multiple vintage of McGuigan Semillon, which does crazy things (flavour wise) the older it gets, and their Personal Reserve Shiraz.

Jim & Christina at McGuigan Wines' Hunter Through The Ages tasting experience

It’s a fascinating experience and Steve, the cellar door manager, takes us through the wines in such an interesting yet friendly way. He even offered to take a photo for us! Highly recommend this tasting.

Jim, Christina Steve and Anton on the way to and at an NRL match - Roosters vs Tigers

This weekend, my brother Steve’s down from Brisbane, so we’re heading to Allianz Stadium in Sydney to catch the last NRL game of the season. And with us is our excellent mate Anton.

It’s a local derby too – our team the Wests Tigers are playing the Easts Roosters. Tough game, with the Roosters on a winning streak and the Wests have just come off a 10-game run of losses, plus this is the Easts’ home ground.

Let’s see how it goes.

Last game of the season at Allianz Stadium - Take The Turf pitch invasion

It’s the end of the game and sadly Balmain succumbed to the Roosters’ efforts, but it was good game still.

And at after the match, the crowd’s invited onto the grass to ‘Take The Turf’. I don’t know how many people really are taking pieces of the pitch home with them, but it’s cool to see so many people running around the ground.

AFL at the SCG - Sydney Swans vs Melbourne Demons

Match day part 2!

Today, we’re at the hallowed grounds of the SCG for the last game of the regular AFL season for Sydney Swans.

They’re up against the Melbourne Demons, who are higher in the league than them, but there’s plenty at stake to motivate them. Winning will take the Swans well and truly into the finals.

We’re pretty happy with our seats by the way. Not only are they only about 20 rows back from the grass, and in the row right behind us are some of our finest friends!

AFL at the SCG - Sydney Swans vs Melbourne Demons - Steve, Jim and Christina

Sydney might not have won today, but it’s still been a lot of fun coming to a capacity SCG and spending the day with Steve.

Here’s to plenty more.

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