Get down to one of the best wine regions Australia has to offer!
Head to the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney, to wile away your weekend in wine country. From the historic amateur oenological undertakings of James Busby nearly 200 years ago, Hunter Valley wines have developed a world-class reputation amongst connoisseurs and quaffers alike. If you’re planning a visit to The Hunter, as it’s affectionately known by locals, you’ll not only be seduced by the region’s wonderful wines but other tantalising temptations, including gourmet restaurants, luxurious accommodations, salubrious spas and spectacular scenery.
Driving into the Hunter Valley, you’ll be met with rolling vine-covered hill after rolling vine-covered hill; with such rich growing soil, much of the Hunter Valley region is ‘under-vine’, predominantly Shiraz and Semillon varieties, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and small quantities of Pinot Noir.
Pop in to the award-winning Pepper Tree Wines for a tasting. We recommend the Alluvius Semillon 2013, an intensely aromatic wine with a distinct bouquet of lemongrass and lime with a crisp yet elegant finish. It pairs well with subtly spiced foods and is can be cellared for up to 10 years.
Get hooked on one of the region’s best single vineyard producers, David Hook Wines. We recommend the Old Vines 2011 Shiraz; deep crimson, this wine is strongly peppered but balanced by a lovely blackberry fruit and a savoury oaked finish. Drink now or cellar for up to six years.
Other wineries worth a visit include: Meerea Park, Lake’s Folly, Stonehurst Wines Cedar Creek and Whispering Brook. If you’re interested in organic/biodynamic wines, check out Macquariedale Organic Wines near Pokolbin; as the first certified organic/biodynamic winemaker in the Hunter Valley, they’re setting the standard for natural and sustainable wines. If you’re pressed for time, a visit to the Small Winemaker’s Centre offers visitors an exceptional selection from 26 of the region’s most acclaimed small producers.
With great wine comes great food, and the Hunter Valley’s sensational seasonal produce doesn’t disappoint.
Esca at Bimbadgen Estate offers diners a contemporary Australian culinary experience while enjoying the cascading views of the local landscape through towering windows. We recommend the seasonal degustation menu – five courses plus palate cleanser and coffee with petit fours, $95pp or degustation menu paired with wine for $125pp. The Autumn 2014 menu includes tuna tartare with togarashi mayonnaise, roasted macadamia and citrus seared duck breast and Greek yogurt crémeux. Bookings are strongly recommended.
The people behind Peterson’s House believe that life’s flat without bubbles and are the regions sparkling wine specialists. Your visit to the Hunter should start, or finish, with a stop at this iconic specialist producer and their multiple award-winning restaurant. Restaurant Cuvee prides itself on blending old with new; sweet with sour; smooth with crisp. For breakfast, you can’t go past their buttermilk pancakes topped with warm espresso caramel sauce, pistachios and mascarpone. For lunch, we recommend the parmesan crusted oysters with seaweed salad.
For a truly local flavour, Margan Restaurant at Margan Estate is a cut above the rest. Consistently voted one of the best restaurants in the country, Margan Restaurant’s success rests on its ‘garden to table’ philosophy; the menus are seasonally driven and over 90% of the produce used in the Margan kitchens comes from their one-acre onsite kitchen garden. They also raise their own free-range chickens, Black Suffolk lambs, bee hives and olives. Under the motto ‘Estate Grown, Estate Made’ Margan make their own butter, soft cheeses, pasta, gelati, small goods and bread on site. Their menu changes daily depending on what produce they are harvesting from their garden, so you’ll always be surprised and delighted by the ever-changing menu.
Other foodie destinations include: The Smelly Cheese Shop, Bistro Molines, Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, Mojo’s on Wilderness, Old George and Dragon, and Oishii.
Accommodation & Spas
For weary city slickers in need of a pampering weekend in the country, The Hunter is the perfect place to get away from it all. Wrap yourself in luxury at Chateau Elan; book their Essential Escape spa package and surrender yourself to half a day of well-deserved indulgence.
Couples can book a romantic, immersive nature escape at Wild Edge retreat; this retreat caters exclusively for couples (no children allowed), with only four ‘pavillions’ available for guests. Luxuriously quiet and exclusive, Wild Edge is located just off the Wollombi Wine Trail and 40 minutes from the centre of The Hunter wine country, Pobolkin.
For those in search of a holistic escape, they’ll find it at Golden Door Health Retreat in Elysia. Although they offer an all-inclusive wellness program, clients can also book in at the renowned Spa Elysia for day treatments. Their three-hour Spa Fusion package will melt away the knots and stresses of frantic city life and leave you relaxed and revitalised.
Other accommodations include: The Carriages at Diamond Estate, Mystwood Retreats, Cedars Mountain View and Deja Vu Estate.
The Hunter is a driver’s paradise with winding roads cresting on tree lined ridges over cascading vine-covered valleys; check out Europcar’s car hire deals to get you between restaurants, wineries and quaint country towns. Drive safely and enjoy responsibly.