The Hunter Valley – Day 2

The Hunter Valley – Day 2

WINE TOUR DAY! Today marked our full wine day experience with Two Fat Blokes wine tours. We had a delicious breakfast at the Kirkton Hotel (that was included), went and checked out the smelly pigs in their barn, and got picked up for our tour promptly at 9:30 AM. Our super energetic guide, Julie, told us to keep our eyes out for kangaroos as we set out to pick up additional guests. It was only about 10 minutes into our drive to the next stop that we saw a bunch of them in the bush! It was so awesome to see them hopping around in the wild.

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We picked up a total of 10 other people and were on our way to our first winery by 10 AM. Apparently we were a bit early so Julie took us to her “secret” kangaroo spot in a vineyard. We pulled up and there must have been about 100 of them all hanging out along the road! It was so cool to see – there were even some mums with their joeys!

After snapping a few pictures, we were back in the bus and off to Mistletoe Winery. The vineyard was very pretty and chockablock with beautiful sculptures in the yard and an art gallery inside.

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We all lined up at the bar and started our tasting. The lady leading that tasting told us to be aware that, if we drank all of the wine at all of the tastings we would be drinking 2-2.5 bottles of wine each! Not including the glass of wine included for lunch and 3 beers at the brewery stop at the end of the day! Geesh! I usually never waste wine but that knowledge made it easier to just taste some of the pours I didn’t prefer. (I am a light weight after all!)

Our second stop was the Two Fat Blokes wine and cheese shop to sample 9 cheeses with 9 wines! We were taken to this cute room in the back of the shop and had quite the spread.

We were told to have a bite of the cheese to get the full flavor, sip the wine, and then have another bite of the cheese to see how that flavor changes with the wines influence. It was pretty substantial! I love cheese and wine so I was in truly a happy place! There was this feta with chives that was so to-die-for we bought some to share with my sister back in Sydney.

After we ate all of our cheese, we relaxed in the winery grounds for 15 minutes before heading to the next place for lunch. I was glad some hearty food was coming our way because I needed something to soak up all of the yummy wine (as you may start to tell from the photos moving forward)!

Our next stop was the Audrey Wilkinson winery. Julie told us that the wine makers used Audrey’s old photo as the logo for the winery and on all of the bottles. A few years in, an older local man came into the winery and asked why they used a photo of Audry’s brother as the main logo for the winery! Apparently, the wine makers didn’t realize the mistake but already had brand recognition and all of their marketing materials with the brother and not Audrey. To fix the problem, the took the photo of Audry’s head and photo shopped it on his brothers body to keep similar imagery. How crazy, right?

We had lunch on the veranda of the winery. Lunch was included with the tour and I assumed it was going to be something like our fabulous lunch on our Tuscany wine tour, but I was a bit wrong. We brought the lunch in coolers from the Two Fat Blokes restaurant and it consisted of pretty average cold meats, salad, and pasta salad. I was slightly disappointed but the rest of the day was so amazing that it did not bug me too much.

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Lunch’s disappointment quickly evaporated as we went inside after we ate for yet another tasting! We started with a Semillon, a wine specific to the Hunter Valley that has strong notes of lemon and lime. The white wines at Audrey were a little to tart for my taste, so we did not buy any, but they were still decent. The best was the desert wine at the end. It was delicious and our host even gave me extra when I finished mine first and joked that I never got any to start with!

The view from the winery was beautiful and we had to snap a pic – even our guide Julie wanted to be included!

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After another quick ride on the bus, we arrived at winery number 4, Ivanhoe. It also had amazing views and we sat on the porch tasting about 7 wines. Our host at this winery was very lively and apparently worked at Disney for several years so he could travel the world to the various parks. What a great way to see the world!

Our last winery for the day was one of my favorites because it included the chocolate pairing! We had 4 chocolates to taste with 7 different wines and they were soooo yummy (at least that is how I fuzzily remember it at this point). Ryan and I bought two bottles of wine and a few of the white chocolate coconut truffles to share with my sister. One of the bottles we bought had a picture that was supposed to be Marylin Monroe but she didn’t look anything like her.  She didn’t even have her signature mole! We still bought it though since, apparently on trips, we randomly buy things related to Marilyn like we did in Santa Fe!

We were getting very chummy and silly with the rest of our tour group by this point and the photo bombing continued at a hilarious pace!

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One last bus ride later we arrived at Hunter Valley Beer Co. – a micro brewery that only serves the surrounding area. The beer was pretty good and I know this because I usually don’t like beer and I LIKED the beer at HVB. We played some Aussie beer trivia (which I quickly lost at) and then got a tour of the beer making process. It was a nice way to end our big day.

Julie did a fabulous job of getting all of us safely back to our accommodation. One guy even drunkenly ran out of the bus at our hotel to go pee in a bush. That took us all by surprise!

Ryan and I had a 6:30 reservation for dinner at the hotel restaurant because we definitely we re not driving anywhere at that point. It was a set menu and we were already pretty full, so we decided to cancel our reso and get a pizza from the bar instead. We played pool while waiting and I did not get one single ball in! Of course, that had nothing to do with my skill and everything to do with the wine… right?!

Our dinner was served at the bar and my award-winning food photography skills really captured my bbq pork pizza….

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It truly was delicious though! After we filled up and I gave up trying to win at pool games, we relaxed on the patio of our room with another glass of wine before zonking out.

Continue on this adventure…

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Taos Day 2

Another 6:40 AM wake up on New Year’s Eve to head to the ski valley by the 9 AM lift start. Our skis were waiting for us at the ski shop and we were on the ski lifts in no time. We were much more adventurous in day 2, shooting down blues, testing out some moguls, and going over a few jumps! So much fun!

Taos Ski Valley

We brought some Quest / Cliff Bars for snacks and decided to eat them going up the lift around 11. It wasn’t until we opened them that we realized the bars were totally frozen! Not only that, but our iPhones stopped working because it was so cold! I would get out my phone for a photo and it would turn off within 1 – 2 minutes with “zero battery” even though it was fully charged. So annoying! We had to have both our phones and bars in our inner-most pockets so that they would stay warm enough to use.

Taos Ski Valley was having a laser light show, ski parade, and fireworks starting at 5:30 PM, so we decided to pace ourselves throughout the day so we could last longer on the mountain.  With that said, we had lunch at the Mexican restaurant at the base of the ski lifts around again. I had some chicken tacos and Ryan enjoyed Christmas enchiladas; one with red and one with green chili salsa. Red and green chili salsa are New Mexico staples and you will find dishes cooked with those salsas in almost every restaurant! So yummy.

Lunch in Taos Ski Valley

At one point, someone left one of the beer taps running behind the bar and we yelled to one of the waiters to turn it off. Beer went absolutely everywhere behind the bar, over the counter, and on the floor. The bar tender was so upset and was running around like mad trying to clean up. Needless to say, he was pretty entertaining to watch while he cleaned and tried to play Clue while figuring out “Who Done It”.

After lunch, we hopped back onto the ski lift which took us into a cloud filled with snow! It was so beautiful. The snow wasn’t coming down too hard but the flakes were huge and it was beautiful. The change in visibility atop the mountain a little scary to ski in. The sun creates shadows in the snow, making it easier to see bumps, dips, and differences in the snow while skiing. With the snow coming down and clouds blocking the sun, you couldn’t see any of those things until you were almost on top of them. We had to be much more cautious on our decent! Even with the trepidation, I couldn’t have been more elated about the snow situation. I loved every second of it and we skied for another few hours until our legs couldn’t take it anymore.

After putting our skis up and changing into our snow boots, we decided to walk around the Ski Valley area. There were quite a few hotels / Inns, ski shops, and cute restaurants to visit and we decided that, on the next trip, staying in the Valley was a must. Knowing it was going to get crowded, we decided to find a good spot to view the festivities on the second floor Martini Bar patio overlooking the mountain side. We enjoyed some hot chocolate and Bailey’s while waiting in the snow flurry for the show to being. The snowflakes coming down were all in star patterns and looked so cool!

Hot coco to stay warm while waiting for the Taos Ski Valley fireworks

When it got dark, the laser show began on the main slope facing the ski area. The show was a hodgepodge of random patterns and designs, mirroring what looked like the old Microsoft logo. There were a couple of cool looking patterns but, overall, it was underwhelming.

The real show began once the ski parade started. There were about 20 people at the top of the slope with red flares. They skied down in a snake-like pattern, making a neat effect against the dark, snowy backdrop. As soon as they finished, the fireworks started! They were so close up that they looked huge and made the snow sparkle all different colors with each explosion in the air. It was breathtaking! We headed out about halfway through the show so that we could beat the traffic out of the Valley, though we could see the fireworks as we walked to the parking lot. Overall, the day was just amazing and we enjoyed every minute of it.

I am a planner and I usually have every minute of each trip planned out to a tee. Unfortunately, we forgot to make NYE dinner plans and most things were booked up by the time we looked. Our hotel was having live music, so we ended up planning to do dinner and watch the show there, but Ryan had a bad migraine, we were tired, and not super hungry, so we ended up spending the evening by the fire in our hotel room and munching on the snacks we picked up from Central Market for our road trip to bring in 2017.

Road Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Road Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

There are so many options around Texas for three-day weekend trips from wine in Fredericksburg, art in Marfa, music in Austin, to the River Walk in San Antonio – all within a few hours and full of great food, culture, and good times. The one thing Texas doesn’t have though is skiing and, ever since our trip to Snowbird, Utah, we have been hooked on the slopes. With all of that said, when we were trying to plan a quick get away for our 2 year anniversary and realized that Santa Fe’s highly recommended slopes were just a 9.5 hour drive away, we just couldn’t stay in Texas.

Road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Fe are so authentically “Santa Fe”. They are all decorated in the local adobe style and have so much personality. Additionally, most have special rates throughout the year so you can find buy 2 nights, get the third free deals, and much more if you do your research. We found a charming place in the middle of town called the Hotel St. Francis, and were totally sold when we found out the hotel was dog friendly. We were planning on road tripping so why not bring our best friend Dakota?! We bought the HosPETality package which waved the pet-fee and had a doggie bag full of treats ready for us upon arrival. With that taken care of, Dakota was all ready to go for her first big family vacation:

Road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

After packing for our trip (See my Ski Trip packing list here), we took off on our adventure after work on a Thursday night, right before rush hour. Unfortunately, the road to Santa Fe took every heavy rush hour route all the way through Dallas, but we were lucky that we were at least constantly moving. Our ETA to the hotel was roughly 1:30 AM on Friday morning so we packed lots of high energy drinks, snacks, and adrenaline. Pro-tip, we went to the bulk section at Central Market for snacks which was not only cheap but relatively healthy and definitely delicious. See my upcoming Road Trip Tips post for additional details!

Road Trip Snacks

Our trip was pretty uneventful.. until I took the wheel. It was around 12:30AM in the middle-of-no-where New Mexico where I accidentally hit a piece of tire that was laying in the road and then all hell broke loose noise wise from the passenger seat tire area. We had to pull over in the pitch black on the side of the freeway and use our iPhones as lights to fix the damage. The tire piece hit the wheel well and ripped off a lot of the plastic. We had to drive with some horrible sound effects for about 15 miles to the nearest gas station to buy duct tape and a pocket knife to rip the piece out. It’s never a dull moment, huh? Thankfully, my mister-fix-it boyfriend was able to jimmy the car back together and we didn’t have any issues before arriving at the hotel.

Tired and ready for bed, we walked into the hotel at 2 AM and were greeted by Kevin, the long gray-haired, incredibly nice and puppy obsessed front-desk guy. He was all about Dakota and she was trying to rip her doggie treat bag out of my hands as soon as he gave it to us. The hotel itself was clean, charming and candle lit. We went up to our second floor deluxe king suite and Dakota immediately tested out the bed with its 30 pillows. The whole place was just very comfortable and relaxing overall.