Some days in Sydney are better than others and Friday was one of those better days where I got a leave-pass from my usual chores and had a day that was only all the more perfect because of the glorious weather.
I drove to Rose Bay which isn’t that far from home but experienced terrible traffic so ended up running late and just as I was almost at my destination I was singled out and pulled over for a random breath test. At 11am. I did try to explain to the officer that I had a very important appointment that involved wine tasting and perhaps it would be in his best interests if he breatholised me after the event rather than before, but no, he made me do the test not once but twice – just to be sure.
After passing my two tests I drove on to Rose Bay then had to find somewhere to park. Mission completed I ran in my heels to Sydney Seaplanes where I was given my boarding pass for a flight across Sydney Harbour, along the Northern Beaches and up the Hawkesbury River. Flying altitude is 1600ft which is low enough to see all the famous landmarks and sites you normally only have the opportunity to view from the ground.
Three seaplanes operate out of Sydney Seaplanes and the company specialises in scenic flights, charter flights and packages with restaurants. A return flight to one of the waterfront restaurants including lunch will cost around $500.00. The seaplanes don’t operate at night.
See those narrow little steps up to the plane? Now I’m wishing I wore sensible flat shoes and a longer dress, preferably jeans or pants to avoid an unflattering display as I fall into the plane with bystanders viewing from below!
The pilot asked if anyone wanted to sit next to him. The other four passengers were silent. I yelled, ‘I would’, and scrambled into the front seat.
The flight was around 15 minutes and took us to a well-known restaurant on the Hawkesbury River called Peats Bite. Today, times aren’t easy for restaurants yet here is a restaurant that’s in an isolated spot, is only open three days a week, is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and yet it survives and does well. As we were landing the American pilot said to me that the setting of Peats Bite reminds him very much of the Caribbean.
It was a very hot day and we were all looking for a bit of shade.
As soon as we arrived at Peats Bite we were handed chilled glasses of white wine from Brancott Estate. Brancott Estate Wines are from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. They are one of New Zealand’s largest producers of organic wines. 400 Acres have been certified organic with another 600 acres growing grapes organically but not yet certified.
I had a chat to Tony Robb, one of the winemakers from Brancott Estate who told me growing grapes organically involves the use of sheep. The sheep wander along the rows of vines and eat the grass keeping it at a manageable level and they also ‘leaf pluck’ which is where they assist by eating the lower leaves off the vines. Sheep are used instead of tractors which stops the soil from becoming impacted and the labour costs of sheep are much lower!
In time for the festive season, Brancott Estate has just launched a new range called ‘Flight’ that’s a lower alcohol white wine available in Sauvignon Blanc or Pino Gris. Traditionally, lower alcohol wines have the alcohol removed after the wine is made which can cause the wine to lose flavour. In order to avoid this Flight has retained its full flavour by the grapes being harvested earlier in the season before the sugar percentages increase.
A traditional white wine has an alcohol level of around 11-12% and the Flight range wines are 9% alcohol. Both wines are very light in colour yet full flavour and that typical Marborough taste and smell has been retained.
After a welcome drink we were invited to sit down at a long table that had been set up on an undercover terrace to enjoy a six course degustation menu.
For the first of six courses we had…
I didn’t actually get to have any of the flat bread. There were a lot of foodie people about and they all like to try everything and sometimes you have to be very quick if you don’t want to miss out. Messing about with a camera can cause disappointment!
Yes, this was very smoky.
The prosciutto and chorizo were lovely. I missed out on the rocket and parmesan!
I loved this dish and the presentation was beautiful. Tony told me asparagus is a very difficult vegetable to pair with a wine and he believes the Pinot Gris matches it perfectly.
Isn’t this pretty. I especially liked the touch of edible flowers.
And that was the first course! For the second course we had…
Very local produce! As you fly over the Hawkesbury you can see all the oyster farms.
Tony loved how well the sauvignon blanc went with the salmon. As for me, I had both wines in front of me and was hoping I wasn’t getting them mixed up and creating my own blend as they were being re-filled.
For the third course we had…
The apple and fennel salad with a lime juice dressing was very fresh and crisp and went well with the wine.
For the Fourth Course we had…
My lamb could have been a little more pink but the pickled cucumber was a lovely accompaniment to the lamb.
For the fifth course we had…
I couldn’t taste the pernod in the pineapple but never mind! This dessert was sweet but also refreshing and I could have eaten a whole plate of it. The coconut pannacotta was smooth and creamy and delightful paired with the blueberries.
For the sixth course we had…
I wanted to try the apple jelly but it didn’t fare well in the heat and quickly melted. The walnuts with the brie were a wonderful combination.
The degustation menu costs $130 per person. I found the staff to be relaxed and friendly without being overly familiar. This is a family owned restaurant and that warmth, love and care that comes from a family-run business is reflected in how they welcome and respond to their guests.
It was then time to board the seaplanes for our return flight only a thunderstorm came in and because the planes fly below the storm level we had to wait for it to pass before we could fly.
As I had some time I went for a wander around the grounds and discovered a swimming pool as well as six cabins for overnight accommodation. Handy if you don’t need to rush off anywhere.
Brancott Estate Flight wines are available now and are being distributed through Woolworths Liquor, BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores. The RRP for both wines is $18.00/bottle.
Sydney Seaplanes are at Lyne Park, Rose Bay. Ph: 1300 732 752
Peats Bite is at Sunny Corner, Brooklyn. Ph: 9985 9040
Hotly Spiced was a guest of Brancott Estate Wines and she wasn’t breatholised on the way home.