Local Tour operator Debbie Maiden of Hunter Valley Cadillacs works hard to show you the best the Hunter Valley has to offer.
What do you love about your current job?
Well firstly my Cadillacs. What’s not to love about gleaming chrome, tailfins, whitewall tyres and the purr of a big V8 as you drive around the vineyards? On a beautiful sunny day with the roof down on my convertible, wind in my hair, sun on my face, happy tour guests, who could ask for more?
What is the most unusual request you’ve had from someone on a tour?
I haven’t really had any unusual requests – more like challenging ones. Such as the international tour guest who booked a half-day tour and wanted to visit the wineries with the best Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz with the view to sending purchases back home. Not easy when we normally visit three wineries on a half-day. With so many fantastic examples of these wines, the pressure was on to select the right ones to suit the customer.
Who is the one person you would like to take on tour and why?
I’d love to tour with Billy Connolly. He’s my favourite comedian and the very thought of him makes me laugh. I reckon Billy would have a blast on one of my tours and so would I!
Your favourite food and wine match?
I love Semillon paired with beautiful fresh seafood, but I would have to say I can’t go past a juicy Angus porterhouse steak, cooked to perfection by my husband on the barbie – the best I’ve ever had! Team this with some crisp green beans, homemade chips and, of course, a glass or two of a yummy Shiraz, and I’m happy, happy, happy!
What would you have on your Hunter Valley bucket list?
A wine tour in one of my Caddies, visiting amazing cellar doors, sipping a glass of Semillon with seafood, enjoying lunch at one of the great restaurants in the Valley, having a picnic at a vineyard, relaxing and unwinding, spoiling myself at a day spa, taking a jet ride, sunrise in a hot air balloon.
Most amazing sight in Wine Country?
Hmmm, it would have to be one of my Cadillacs parked along Mistletoe Lane with the sun going down behind Brokenback Range, giving my Caddy and the vineyards an amazing golden glow. Now that’s an awesome sight.
Your favourite thirst-quencher after a hard day’s work?
A glass of water? No, on a hot summer’s day it would have to be an ice-cold beer, followed by a refreshing glass of Hunter Verdelho. In winter by the fire, it must be a Shiraz.
What do you like most about Hunter Valley wine?
I’m a big Hunter Shiraz fan. What I love best is the earthy flavours with that hint of spice or white pepper – it’s quite savoury to me and lingers on the palate. I find Hunter wines full flavoured, and you can really taste the intensity of the fruit.
Favourite cellar door and why?
You want me to give away my secrets? I don’t have just one favourite cellar door, I have many. They know who they are, and so do my tour guests who have been cruisin’ with me over the years. If people want to find out who these great cellar doors are, then come jump in my Caddy and I’m happy to show you.
The Hunter Valley’s best-kept secret?
Hunter Valley Cadillacs, of course! I don’t have any advertising plastered all over my Caddies, so many people are unaware that my cars can be hired for wine tours and weddings. I don’t want to spoil the beauty of these events. We rely a lot on word of mouth – that’s the best advertising you can have.
How would you sum up the Hunter Valley in 10 words or less?
Relaxing, indulgent, friendly and fun.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian, in particular for large animals. I love horses, so to work with them would have been wonderful. However it was not to be, and I think for a good reason – I was meant to drive Caddies around the Hunter Valley vineyards! Cadillacs and horses (in particular, heavy horses) are my passion. I have my horses and cattle at home, so I have the best of both worlds now and couldn’t be happier.
If money was no object, you would…
Nowthat’s easy. I’d take my list of classic American cars – and let me tell you it’s a long one! – then grab my kids and husband and jump on the next plane to the US with all intention of bringing back as many of those beauties as I can!