The month was August and the year was 2017.
I had bought a ring and had plans to propose to my now wife, Callie. But wanted to do it in style. You know – the story really helps to make it! So I booked us in to the Crown Plaza Hotel in Lovedale (Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia) – the closest and largest wine region to Sydney. And organised for a helicopter to pick us up out the front of the hotel and take us from winery to winery for the day – where we would get to taste the different varietals in true red-carpet style.
It was our second-year anniversary and I told Callie very little. Only that she had to keep the whole weekend free and that we were heading out of Sydney. I didn’t tell her which direction we were going in or the destination. Nor did I give anything else away regarding my intentions.
We met up at home after work on a Friday – where I had the car packed and ready to go. We both jumped in and I began driving. Callie was quite tired and let her eyes close for most of the drive, only opening them when we were driving through Singleton. Of course – at this point she figured out pretty quickly that we would be spending our weekend in the Hunter Valley.
We arrived at the Crown Plaza shortly, thereafter (the grounds are massive!) and checked in. I had to manoeuvre Callie away from the concierge so that I could ask them where the helipad was for the next morning. She told me that it was right out front (easy!) – and Callie didn’t hear a thing.
I told Callie that I had a big weekend planned, so we had a pretty early Friday night. Maybe one or two drinks and then straight to bed.
The next morning, Callie and I wandered on down from our room to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. We took our time – enjoying the morning, the buffet and most of all – the coffee. After trying to navigate my way through the breakfast conversation without giving away what I had planned, we polished off our breakfast. And then we got up and I began to lead Callie through the foyer of the hotel towards the front. Callie was like “We’re going wine tasting aren’t we?”. Couldn’t hide this given that, that is what the Hunter Valley is known for.
But I could tell that she was expecting a bus. So I led her straight past the bus towards a patch of field about one hundred metres from the front of the hotel – where the helicopter was waiting. She clicked on pretty quickly at that point that we would be going for a helicopter flight and guessed that I’d mashed it up with the tastings at the wineries too.
The pilot let us pose for a few photos in front of the helicopter before we climbed on in and took off.
We flew around for a little while (maybe 15 minutes) with the pilot pointing out highlights across the landscape all along the way.
Before long, we landed at our first stop-over – the Peterson House Winery – where the pilot helped us out of the helicopter and gave us a small tour of the place. Before introducing us to our waitress who took us to a table. At this point, our pilot excused himself, and took off to go do another flight for someone else.
Meanwhile, we got cosy at the table at the Peterson House Winery – where we were given a Champagne breakfast – including two glasses of Peterson’s sparkling and a MASSIVE hot breakfast that neither of us could finish (given that we had already eaten back at the hotel).
Following breakfast, we stopped by the cellar door to sample the different wines of the estate and then checked out a lolly store that they had on-site. But before long, our helicopter flew in and the pilot came over to us to let us know that it was time to fly to the next winery. We hopped in to the helicopter and were off to the next winery.
I can’t recall what the next winery was called. Only that we got a private tasting with our very own representative from the winery. He sat us down and placed a plate with a variety of cheeses, crackers, fruit pastes, currents and more in front of us. And then proceeded to take us through a variety of different wines from the winery. All the whilst telling us about the history of the winery, the varietals that were their focus and how its become the winery that we see today.
On display at the winery were a number of interesting bottles – including some quite large magnums.
After spending about an hour at this winery, tasting cheeses and a selection of different wines – our pilot flew the helicopter back in and we boarded it – ready to be taken to our next destination.
Our next destination was a small winery that had a selection of different wines that we tasted as well as a number of deli-style food stuffs for purchase. On our way in to the winery (as the helicopter was coming in to land) we noticed that the landing zone had a red carpet leading away from it towards the winery. Not to mention – a group of people standing around watching the helicopter come in for landing – and a dog barking at the sound of the helicopter. Once inside – we sampled the wines here and bought a few bottles (as well as some flavoured olive oil, I think). But before long, our pilot had returned to pick us up again and take us to our lunch destination – Lion’s Gate Winery.
We flew in to what appeared to be quite a large property, with function rooms, a restaurant, quite a large cellar door area and so much more. Upon landing, we walked directly on over to the restaurant as it was time for lunch.
Lunch was three courses – the main course being duck with a side salad that had pieces of rabbit in it which came encased in a glass dome full of smoke which imparted an interesting and tasty flavour to the salad and rabbit contained within.
After the first two courses, the waitress came over with our desert and I passed her our camera and asked her to take a few photos of us. Callie – none the wiser smiled as the waitress prepared to take a few photos. Meanwhile – I reached inside my pocket and pulled out the ring that I had bought (inside of its own little case). And then presented it to Callie whilst the waitress began taking photos.
Callie was evidently taken aback – with my presenting her with a ring being a completely unexpected occurrence. As I asked her to be my wife, tears (of the happy variety) were flowing and she put her hands up to her face in a somewhat shocked manner. I had to prompt her for an answer – which ended up being a resounding “yes – I will!”.
I placed the ring upon her finger, and then after the shock has resided we tucked in to our desert.
After a few more photos, the owner of the winery came on over to us to pass on her congratulations, give us a few free bottles of wine and to tell us about how Lion’s Gate Winery was the perfect location for weddings, supplying us with some flyers and guides to weddings at the winery.
We then wandered on over to the cellar door and samples a few more wines, buying a few as well. And then went for a walk around the property of the winery – sitting down on the grass and taking in the view.
After we decided that we’d had enough of this particular winery – we opted to cross the road – over to a small distillery on the other side. Within the distillery we sampled a number of different liqueurs and spirits and purchased a couple of bottles too.
And then wandered back outside just in time to walk back on over to Lion’s Gate Winery and get picked up by the helicopter.
After doing a bit of scenic site seeing within the helicopter, our pilot dropped us back at our hotel at the Crown Plaza – as the sun was beginning to set.
It had been a big day – of wine tasting, and a great selection of food for breakfast and lunch. We were tuckered out and thus decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel room.