Easy Lasagne Recipe

One of the recipes that I love to follow when the weather is cold and I feel lazy is a good Lasagne. I have only started to make lasagne after I moved to Australia, simply because I always thought it to be something too rich and filling to cook for 2 people. But during the cold winter months here, one can really eat more than usual! :) So I scouted around for recipe and after some trial and error, came up with my own modification of a quick and simple lasagne recipe. I love this recipe because I only need to spend about 20 minutes preparing and cooking the ingredients, then chuck it into the oven and let the house be filled with the glorious smell of cheese! I can even use the time while it is in the oven to take a good long shower and food will be ready right after that. :)

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Lasagne fresh from the oven

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 100g button mushrooms sliced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 4 slices pork bacon chopped
  • 575g bottle of tomato pasta sauce
  • 6-8 pasta sheets
  • 2 cups thick cream
  • 2 cups grated / 6 slices cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Steps:

1. Heat the olive oil on a large frying pan.

2. Add in garlic and onion and fry until fragrant and onions are soft.

3. Add in bacon slices and fry for 2 minutes.

4. Add in beef mince and stir fry until brown.

5. Add in mushrooms and pepper.

6. Pour in pasta sauce and season with pinch of salt and pepper.

7. Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer for about 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

8. While waiting for the sauce to be ready, preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan-forced.

9. Spoon 1/4 of the pasta mixture onto a baking dish.

10. Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of cream on the mixture.

11. Drizzle 1/2 cup or 2 slices of cheddar cheese on it then cover with pasta sheets.

12. Repeat steps 9 to 11 for 2 more times.

13. Pour the remaining pasta sauce on the top layer of pasta sheet and drizzle the rest of cheddar and parmesan cheese.

14. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.

15. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until cheese is golden. Rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Glorious piece of cheesy lasagne

Easy Lasagne Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Quick and easy lasagne for a cold winter day.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 100g button mushrooms sliced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 4 slices pork bacon chopped
  • 575g bottle of tomato pasta sauce
  • 6-8 pasta sheets
  • 2 cups thick cream
  • 2 cups grated / 6 slices cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil on a large frying pan.
  2. Add in garlic and onion and fry until fragrant and onions are soft.
  3. Add in bacon slices and fry for 2 minutes.
  4. Add in beef mince and stir fry until brown.
  5. Add in mushrooms and pepper.
  6. Pour in pasta sauce and season with pinch of salt and pepper.
  7. Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer for about 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
  8. While waiting for the sauce to be ready, preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan-forced.
  9. Spoon ¼ of the pasta mixture onto a baking dish.
  10. Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of cream on the mixture.
  11. Drizzle ½ cup or 2 slices of cheddar cheese on it then cover with pasta sheets.
  12. Repeat steps 9 to 11 for 2 more times.
  13. Pour the remaining pasta sauce on the top layer of pasta sheet and drizzle the rest of cheddar and parmesan cheese.
  14. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.
  15. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until cheese is golden. Rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Visiting a Beer Brewery

It has been ages since my last update, I know. I have been so busy with work recently with a new task assignment on top of my current workload that I found it difficult to allocate time for blogging! Anyway, I looked through my album and discovered a place that I had been wanting to share for the longest time. It was a visit to a beer brewery in Hunter Valley! Now, when we mention Hunter Valley, most of us would just think about wines, vineyards and cellar doors. But during our visit, we passed by the Potters Hotel Brewery Resort which houses the Hunter Beer Co. brewery right next to a hotel.

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Potters Brewery

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Entrance to the pub

It was around 3pm in the afternoon when we arrived, which coincidentally meant the pub was rather empty. I guess the scene would change come night time. Walking into the pub, the first thing that came to mind was the strong smell of hops! Yes, it was unmistakable and it was pungent. I couldn’t decide if I liked or hated it. We walked over to the bar and asked about the brewery tour and beer tasting as shown on the entrance. It turned out that the brewery tour was only held during specific hours so we missed the chance, but we could still opt for the beer tasting at $10 for a selection of 4 beers.

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The pub

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Brewery area

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Brewery Chart

The Hunter Beer Co. is a microbrewery that brews several award winning flavourful beers – from its award-winning Kolsch and to the easy drinking German Ale. Even though we didn’t go for the brewery tour, there were plenty of information around the pub that described the brewery process and the different ingredients used.

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Information about beer and taste

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Beer ingredients

The bartender told us there were 10 different types of beer to choose from, and we had to pick 4. It was not easy since we didn’t know which were good and which were not. We were given some recommendations though, and decided that we must try the award-winning Hunter Kolsch. We also picked a Pale Ale and a Hunter Witbier in the mix.

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Ten types of beer to choose from

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The different beer logos

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Our choice of 4 beers

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Hunter Beer Co. coaster

Of the 4 beers we had, I remember that both of us unanimously agreed that the Hunter Kolsch was the best of all. It was not too light or hoppy, and had a refreshing aftertaste which was perfect to drink in the afternoon. We didn’t quite enjoy the pale ale, which turned out to be rather bitter for us. The Witbier was somewhere in the middle, but we still preferred the Kolsch above all. We wished that we had ordered more of that! :)

Kolsch – A refreshing easy drinking ale with flavour, perfect for summer drinking. Pale golden colour with light honey-biscuit malt character, subtle passion fruit and pineapple flavour is delicately balanced with a restrained bitterness and drying finish.

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Saucer enjoying his beer

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Award-winning Hunter Kolsch

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Beer barrels outside the brewery

After drinking our beers, we took some time to walk around the Potters Brewery surroundings – partly to let the alcohol subside, and partly to take in the gorgeous decor. The surrounding grounds were massive and had plenty of greenery for us to lie down and enjoy the blue sky and nice weather. Coincidentally, Potters is also a hotel so if you’re looking to visit Hunter Valley, you could choose to stay here right next to the brewery and have freshly brewed beer any time you want!

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Potters Brewery

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Potters Brewery, Hunter Valley

Hunter Beer Co. @ Potters Hotel Brewery Resort 
Wine Country Drive,
Nulkaba NSW 2325
Australia
Tel No: +(612) 4991 7922
Opening hours: Open 7 days 10am – 5pm
Email: info@pottershbr.com.au
Website: www.hunterbeer.com.au

All-You-Can-Eat Lebanese Food

A couple of weeks back, we spotted a Groupon deal for all-you-can-eat Lebanese food and contemplated on whether to get it since we didn’t quite trust group-buying purchases. We decided to get it in the end because it had been a while since we last had Lebanese food and we missed the bread with hummus! After making reservations, we made our way to River Canyon Lebanese Restaurant near the Parramatta river on a weekend. It was surprisingly quiet even on a Saturday afternoon, but we’re not complaining. We had a table just next to the window that overlooked the river below.

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Appetizer

Our deal came with only food, with drinks separately charged. Saucer ordered a cold beer since it was quite warm that afternoon.

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 Cascade beer (AUD$5)

Our all-you-can-eat deal is served in 3 courses – Starters, Entree and Mains. There were several items within each course, and right after they’re done serving, we were free to re-order the items should we wish to. The first starter to be served was the Lebanese bread with various dips including the Baba Ganough – Char grilled eggplant, pureed with fresh garlic, lemon juice and tahina and Hummus Bi Tahina – Puree of chickpeas, sesame seeds, garlic, lemon juice & olive oil. I absolutely adored the hummus served, it was smooth, creamy and full of flavour. I could go on and on eating that with the Lebanese bread, but that wouldn’t be a wise choice.

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Dips: Baba Ganough, Hummus Bi Tahina

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Pickles & Olives

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Lebanese Bread

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 Hummus with bread

We were also served 2 types of salads:  Tabouli – salad of parsley, tomato, mint, onion, burghul (cracked wheat), lemon juice & olive and Fattoush – salad with sumac, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, red onions, mint, toasted pita, lemon juice & olive oil. Tabouli was something that I had had before in Malaysia, so there were no surprises with this dish. It was very green, crunchy and went well with the dips and bread too. The Fattoush salad, however, was something new to me but something impressive. It was filled with a variety of vegetables and well-seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, giving it a very fresh twist without being boring.

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Fattoush

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Tabouli

For Entree/Hot Mezza, we had a huge platter of Jweneih – Chicken wings marinated in lemon, garlic, olive oil and char grilled, Arnabeet Mekli – fried cauliflower florets served with tahina, Batata b-kizibra – diced potatoes sautéed with garlic, coriander, chilli & lemon juice, Falafel – fried croquettes made of burghul, chickpeas, broad beans & herbs with a side of Garlic Sauce & Tahina. Of the 4 items presented, it was surprisingly the sauteed potatoes that got me hooked! They were fluffy on the inside, will-seasoned and very very fragrant. I know it’s not a good practice to fill up with carbs on an all-you-can-eat quest, but I just couldn’t help it. They were just so good and addictive! I swear I had never eaten that much potatoes in one sitting! :) The chicken wings were well-marinated and delicious too. And we were glad that they didn’t overfeed us with meat because we had another plate of meat coming up for our mains.

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Hot Mezza platter

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Chicken wings, sauteed potatoes, falafel and cauliflower

At this point, we were already full with all the bread and hot entree served. In fact, we had not even finished the items on our platter, but our mains were served. They consisted of Shish Lahmeh – marinated lamb cubes & onions skewered and barbequed, Shish Kafta – char grilled skewers of minced lamb with parsley, onion & spices, Shish Tawouk – char grilled chicken breast skewers marinated in special herbs and potato chips. They might not look like a lot on the plate, but these skewers were solid with meat and packed a punch. Each piece was well-marinated and grilled to perfection, with the insides of the meat still tender and juicy. We were honestly impressed that good quality meals were served even when we were using group-purchase deals. We also had pretty good service from the only waitress that was on duty that afternoon (there were only 3 tables occupied), asking us occasionally whether we wanted any of the dishes refilled. They had obviously tailored the set such that there would be enough to stuff any adult without having to request for a refill, for we were beyond full by the time we stomached the last bit of meat on our plate.

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Mains

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Marinated lamb and chicken skewers

Overall, we were pretty impressed with the quality of food served in this Lebanese restaurant, considering we paid a discounted price of $19/person (normally $39) for the all-you-can-eat package. The food was authentic and delicious, and we definitely had a great time enjoying the peaceful afternoon on a Saturday away from the city. Did I mention the gorgeous potatoes? Someone has got to teach me how to make that! :)

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Dining by the river

River Canyon Restaurant
96 Phillip Street
Parramatta 2150
NSW, Australia.
Tel No: +612-9689 2288
Website: www.rivercanyon.com.au

A Taste of Grill’d Burgers

There must be a burger craze going on in KL recently, for there are plenty of new burger joints mushrooming around and about town. Looking at all these lip-smacking burger pictures got Saucer and I craving for burgers too! So one day, we decided to have burgers for lunch at Grill’d. Priding themselves to serve delicious and healthy burgers, Grill’d has a fuss-free menu with quite decent prices too. Going there on a weekend was not to stressful either, with tables easily available, probably due to the fast turnover of customers. I mean, how long can eating a burger take? :)

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Burger and chips from Grill’d

Ordering at Grill’d means going to the cashier and pointing out what you want, then paying before you’re given a table stand with a number on it. When the food is ready, it would be served to you by a wait staff. While waiting, one could help oneself with a bottle of drinking water placed at the back of the restaurant.

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Self-service drinking water

Before long, our orders arrived. Saucer had the Moroccan Lamb burger that came with a grilled 100% grass fed lean lamb, roasted peppers, tzatziki, salad and relish. We were also allowed to choose the type of buns to go with the burger, either the traditional wholemeal sesame bun, gluten-free bun or panini. Saucer had his burger with the traditional wholemeal bun, which was nicely toasted and still warm when served.

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Moroccan Lamb (AUD$12.90)

Saucer gave two thumbs-up for this burger! He loved that they paid attention to detail. The bun, for example, tasted like it was freshly baked. The crust was crispy and inside it was warm and fluffy. The lamb was lean, tender and juicy without overpowering gaminess. What I loved the most was the combination of roasted peppers in the burger, that seemed to have brought the flavours to the next level. I thought that made a whole lot of difference, as my burger didn’t have it, and ended up sort of paling in comparison.

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Nicely grilled lamb

As for me, I had the first item on the menu, which I suppose was also the most popular one - Simply Grill’d. It was made from grilled grass fed lean beef, salad, relish and herbed mayo. I opted for the panini bun, which was tasted really good. I loved the crusty exterior and warm, fluffiness within, making this burger stand out from the rest. The lean beef was pleasantly tender and juicy, while the herbed mayo gave it a nice flavour and fragrance. Best of all, it also came in a good size – nothing too huge that gets you feeling sick after too much of it, or too small that leaves you still feeling hungry. It was the right size, both of us agreed. However, if you still feel that the burger is too big to handle, there are knives provided on every table for the convenience of customers.

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Simply Grill’d (AUD$9.50)

The Hot Chips were available as a side order, and seeing that it’s quite popular among other tables, we decided to have one too. And we didn’t regret it. The chips were thickly cut (as how good chips should be), fried to a crispy finish and generously drizzled with herbs.

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Regular Hot Chips (AUD$3.50)

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Knife wrapper

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Cutting across the Simply Grill’d burger

True to their promise, Grill’d has indeed delivered gorgeous burgers with good quality ingredients without putting our health at risk. We definitely enjoyed our experience here, and wouldn’t think twice about returning for the many other burgers listed on the menu.

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Dining at Grill’d

Grill’d (at Macquarie Centre)
Level 4 (next to Max Brenner Chocolate),
Entrance via Herring St
North Ryde,
2113 NSW, Australia.
Tel No: 9888 7700
Opening Hours: Daily (11am – 10pm)
Website: www.grilld.com.au

Grill'd on Urbanspoon

My Kind of Breakfast

I’m sure by now you would agree with me that dining out in Sydney is not cheap. Almost every meal costs about AUD$10 per dish, and that is in a food court. In a restaurant or cafe, prices would most certainly be more than that. Which is why I was extremely excited when I found out that I could have a nice and satisfying breakfast for less than AUD$10 each! Located in Carlingford Village, North and South Gourmet doesn’t look like a very appealing restaurant from the outside. If not for the decent crowd we saw inside, we wouldn’t have gone in to try. And boy, were we glad we did!

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My ideal breakfast

Serving breakfast until 11am, North and South Gourmet had a continuous stream of customers heading in and out of the restaurant in the morning. Once we were seated, we were handed a menu filled with a mixture of English and Chinese characters, detailing the different set menus available for breakfast. We almost couldn’t believe it when we saw that the set meals were priced at $6.50 each, including a drink! That’s probably the cheapest meal we found so far in a cafe or restaurant. Without further ado, we ordered a set meal each, which came with a bowl of congee, a choice of noodles or you tiao or cheong fun and a hot drink.

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Pork and Century Egg Congee

Both of us ordered the Pork and Century Egg Congee, which came in a few minutes. The congee was piping hot and smooth, just how we liked it. There was also a decent amount of lean pork and century egg bits inside which gave the congee much flavour. Our little gripe would be that the lean pork was a tad too salty, but I suppose it was deliberate to sort of flavour the congee at the same time.

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Decent amount of century egg and pork slices

The You Tiao or Chinese crullers that came with one of our sets were hot, freshly fried, crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. A plate of you tiao on its own would have cost about $3-4 elsewhere, so we were overjoyed that these were included in the set. I mean, a meal of congee would not be complete without you tiao, don’t you agree? :)

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You Tiao / Chinese crullers

For our second set, we opted to order the Fried Soy Sauce Noodles. These looked exactly like the noodles we used to have in Hong Kong. In fact, this complete meal really reminded me of our breakfast at Hong Kong, where noodles and congee always went together. Ah, memories! The noodles were plain and simple but that’s how they’re supposed to be – nothing fancy and nothing special. But that’s how I like them to be!

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Fried Soy Sauce noodles

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Set 1 – Congee + noodles + drink (AUD$6.50)

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Set 2: Congee + you tiao + drink (AUD$6.50)

Finally for drinks, Saucer had the hot Milk Tea, which turned out to be quite strong and fragrant, while I had the Soya Bean, which was not too bad. In fact, we initially thought we would be charged extra for drinks since these were listed as Chinese characters in the menu (which we couldn’t read) next to a $1 sign, but apparently they’re part of the set. There’s a only a surcharge of $1 if we had opted for cold drinks.

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Milk tea

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Soya bean

Overall, we thought the breakfast sets here were definitely good value for money, all things considered. The environment was not overly crowded that you would feel rushed to finish your meal, which was perfect for a relaxing family outing during the weekends. Needless to say, we’d definitely be back whenever we’re craving for something hot and comfy in the morning, or whenever we felt like eating congee!

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Dining environment

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North & South Gourmet at Carlingford Village

North and South Gourmet Carlingford Village
Shop G2, 372 Pennant Hills Rd
Carlingford, NSW 2118
Australia
Contact No.: +612 9871 2819

Most Scenic Vineyard in Hunter Valley

So far, we have been to several good vineyards in Hunter Valley including Wyndham Estate, Tyrrell’s Wines, Pepper Tree Wines and Tower Estate Winery. But I have to say that the one that offers the best and most picturesque view has to be Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard! We were there once during our trip to Hunter Valley last year, and we went there again last month when my family was here. The view, as usual, was absolutely breath-taking.

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View from Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

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Driving to Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

The drive to Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard was about 10 minutes from Tempus Two Winery grounds, where a number of restaurants, including The Smelly Cheese Shop, are located at. There is a stretch of about 500m of gravel road on the way there, so don’t be puzzled if you think you’re on the wrong track. Pretty soon, you’d come across a huge signboard telling you that you’ve reached the vineyard.

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The huge signboard

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We’re there!

What I love about Audrey Wilkinson’s vineyard is how close you can actually get to the grape trees! They’re surrounding us at all angles, and at such close proximity too. Sure, you’re not allowed to go in and pick the grapes, if that’s what you’re wondering, but you could go close enough to take a picture with it. And if you go during spring or summer season, you might even spot some ripe and juicy grapes hanging from the trees!

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Grape plants during end of winter

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Gorgeous view of the vineyard

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Another view of Audrey Wilkinson’s vineyard

When we were there, the weather was simply perfect! Bright blue skies with some clouds, warm sun and cool breeze made us just want to lie down on the green grass and savour the moment. When we’re done admiring the scenery, we made our way to the wine cellar sitting majestically on top of the mountain.

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Audrey Wilkinson wine cellar

Audrey Wilkinson wine cellar

Entrance to the wine cellar

Since we went during a public holiday, the wine cellar was pretty busy but not overly crowded. We took a short tour around the wine cellar and saw a group of people attending what looked like a wine appreciation class at one corner, having fun. There was another corner dedicated to the process of wine-making, with plenty of information and wine-making tools on display. It was good that we could go and stuff ourselves with educational information while waiting for the wine-tasting counters to be available. :)

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Wine-tasting counter

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Multi-award winning wines

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One of the prized wines on display

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Wine appreciation class in order?

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Wine-making information area

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Place to sit down and have a glass

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Wine barrels and table tops

Pretty soon, we saw an empty spot at the wine-tasting counter and made our way to it. As usual, we were presented with a list of wines and were asked to pick the ones we wanted to try. We started with a couple of white wines, to a red wine and ended with a sweet dessert wine. I remember loving the taste of the Muscat, but only because I have a soft spot for anything that is sweet! :)

Audrey Wilkinson wine tasting list

Wine-tasting list

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Love this pretty bottle

Both Saucer and I agreed that this vineyard offers the best view of all in Hunter Valley, and we’ve been to around ten of them! So if you have to choose a selected few vineyards to visit, make sure Audrey Wilkinson is one of them! Even if you don’t drink, this is a good place for photographs.

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Final view of Audrey Wilkinson’s vineyard

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard
DeBeyers Road,
Pokolbin (Hunter Valley),
NSW 2320 Australia
Phone: (+612) 4993 3600
Email: wines@audreywilkinson.com.au
Cellar Door direct phone number: 02 4998 1866.
Business Hours: Daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Weekdays (10 am ~ 5pm) Weekends (10 am ~ 5pm)
Website: www.audreywilkinson.com.au