Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Hidden Treasure of the Hunter Valley........ Broke

This post has been a little while in coming because I was not sure how much of me I was going reveal, but the truth, I find, is always the best place to start.  This is a post about the Hunter Valley, the closest wine region to Sydney....but it is about the non touristy side of the Hunter....in my view the best side. But first some background as to why we were there tasting wine last weekend in the first place.
Krinklewood Vineyard Homestead at Broke
 It was 1999 and my  father was about to retire.  He had worked in the Australian wool industry since the 1950's and was one of those breeds rarely seen today.  He had ridden out the highs and lows of the wool market, stayed with the same French company for 40 years and been a loyal foot soldier in making his masters wealthier than they already were.  In his work, he had been to most of rural Australia and decided that upon his retirement, he fancied a life as a vigneron in the Hunter Valley.

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Homestead at Broke
So in March 1999 we purchased a beautiful little property on the Wollombi Brook at a place called Broke, a 15 minute drive from the hub bub of the main touristy area of the Hunter, Pokolbin.  As he was putting the wool industry away in his life, that's what we called it....Woolaway Vineyard.   We moved in in April  and by December of that year he was dead.
Talits Vineyard and Homestead at Broke
It was one of those terrible cancer stories.  Diagnosis to death in three weeks...none of us saw it coming and to say it rocked our world would be the under statement of the century.  But by this time we had gutted the homestead and the vineyard was a mess, as we bought at a good price and the idea was my mother and father were going to renovate and replant the vineyard in their retirement.

Elmsmores Homestead and vineyard at Broke
Now anyone that has been involved in agriculture has some idea of the huge running costs involved....well with vineyards they are extreme.  We were unable to sell the property in it's current state....so our only choice was to renovate it and live out my father's dream and this we did.  I have no digital photos of our time there but our renovation was lovely and we stayed on for another 5 years.  I quit my law job and mum and I worked very hard to get the place up and running.  Although Mr Beach House was not around at the beginning, he came along not long after and helped us alot too.

Krinklewood Vineyard at Broke
The property also had stables and as our neighbours had horses and were wanting to expand into wine production, they purchased the property....so the sale was quick and relatively hassle free.  It was a great relief to sell my father's dream to such a sweet lady, and whilst it was with much sadness that we left the place, it was an era of our lives that was now closed. That was all seven years ago.

Krinklewood Vineyard
My father's ashes are spread there and so call it a seven year itch if you like, but I wanted to go back for a visit.   I rang our purchaser last week to say we were coming up.  She kindly invited us to afternoon tea, which was one of those lovely country ones, with lots of home made delights, where you really don't need dinner later on.

We had a great catch up and heard all the local news, walked the fence line and were happy that all seemed well.

We made a weekend of it and visited some of our old haunts and favourite cellar doors.  The Beach House Brats tagged along and were under pain of death to behave to a very high standard, which I am happy to say they did.  The following restaurant is a case of 'build it and they will come'.  Margans is a recently hatted restaurant and it is magnificent, even though it is in the non touristy area of the Hunter it is well worth a visit.  Andrew Margan is a fantastic wine maker and his Semillion, for which the Hunter is famous, is to die for.  I don't even drink white wine and I absolutely loved it. 

We chose to sit outside so the kids could run around after their lunch.  It wasn't that cold and  after deploying the blankets left for us, we wanted to linger longer, so when the waitress arrived at our table with a bucket and asked the kids to head off to the chook house to collect the eggs we were delighted.  Even though they had laid that morning the kiddos found another seven eggs for the chef.

The tasting rooms at Margans are delightful and the wines are truly spectacular.

 After lunch we took a little turn about the kitchen garden, which was lovely,

 and rather extensive

The hen house was rather palatial as well

As we drove away from Broke, I turned to Mr Beach House and asked him if he was sad we had sold out.  He just smiled and shook his head.  'When would we have had time to do all that?' he said with a grin.   I had to agree, it was fun while it lasted, but we have passed the baton to someone else now.  I know how short life can be and we are really only the custodians of the land and possessions anyway.  I'm with the French, who work so they can live.  It was much more fun swanning around the area wining and dining, than working really hard to produce the stuff.

Here's the link for the Broke Forwich website if you want a delightful bespoke experience, in the most well kept secret of the Hunter.

Linked up today with


  1. What a delightful post and lovely photos, too.
    You are always entertaining and thoughtful. I enjoy your blog very much.

  2. What a lovely story Carolyn, I can see the connection with France now :).. beautiful photos and place x

  3. What a beautiful post and such a gorgeous place. I am so glad that you were able to go back and visit and share some of your memories with the kids.

  4. What an enchanting place! Thanks for sharing those lovely photos!

  5. Thanks for sharing such an intimate and personal story. What a lovely legacy you created which must have been very hard at the time. It's beautiful and you should be very proud.

  6. lovely buildings and a beautiful area!
    cheryl x

  7. Wow what a post! So glad you were able to go back and enjoy it somewhat! And of course to be able to share the story. :) Wonderful.
    It looks beautiful and those peacocks look very happy and handsome indeed!

  8. What a nice post. Your father would surely be proud of you and your mom for helping to live out his dream. I think it is so neat you went back and were greeted buy the 'new' owner so warmly. We went to the Hunter Valley a few years ago while visiting AU and just loved it. How special to have lived there and still living so closeby now. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. ooow, so sad. I didnt realise it was only 3 weeks, I am so sorry, I thought it was a longer illness. I am so sorry for not realising. (remembering) What a shock for you both. What a wonderful legacy though, a part of your family history, in the Hunter. Nic xxx

  10. What a beautiful place and story. Thanks for sharing it here at WUW.

  11. Carolyn, Thank you for sharing this beautiful post at my Open House party. What a wonderful tribute you created for your dad.

  12. I so enjoyed your story. So sad but with a happy ending! It's a lovely place.

  13. What a beautiful story and a beautiful place! Thanks for linking up to Share the Love Wednesday!

  14. What a gorgeous post! As soon as I saw the thumbnail I knew where I was! It looks a bit like Tuscany, but it's right here, near Newcastle! I always think of lavender when I'm in that part of the world. Would you give me permission to use one of your photos for poetic inspiration sometime? I'll let you know when and acknowledge you, if you agree.

  15. What a wonderful story for you to share~ So great that you could share this experience with the kiddos- and that the current owners were delighted to have you.
    Loved the photos too, Pat

  16. What a lovely story and very heart-felt. That is fabulous that the now-owners were so kind. It is a wonderful story. I'm so sorry about your dad. No matter what, that was very sudden.
    Thanks for sharing this story and all the gorgeous pictures.
    xoxo, cami

  17. That's such an interesting story! I think that its great that your father got to begin living out his dream, I can imagine that he was very happy for those few months living there. The photo of your daughter is precious.

  18. Oh, what a beautiful story, I cried at the end. What is so tremendous is that your Dad must be shining down blessings on this property, because it looks so beautiful.

    You are so right life is short, and you must be true to your own dream.

    Lovely to meet you, Karen

  19. So enjoyed your walk thru memories, Carolyn. Beautiful land, gorgeous pictures.

    Happy PS weekend ~
    TTFN ~

  20. Such a beautiful tour and post. Thank you for sharing it with us at FNF this week.

  21. I've just discovered your blog via Savvy Southern Style. Your post was so engaging. I loved reading it.

  22. What a very lovely and moving story Carolyn. I hadn't realised that you had been there for so many years, did you come and go from Sydney or did you live there all the time with your Mum. How terrible terrible that your father passed away so suddenly and far too young. We must seize the day.

    What a gorgeous drive up here through Wollombi. Early night as I'm hoping there's a nice sunrise tomorrow. Will toast you tomorrow night at Margans.

    1. We had a Sydney base and came up as often as poss. Ended up leasing out the vines to another wine maker which took alot of the pressure off. It truly is a lovely part of the world. Enjoy Margans, I know you will.

    2. Ps my boy was Christened in the Wollombi C of E....great town and cute pub.


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