When you think of Australia, you picture kangaroos, the Sydney Opera House, the vast Outback, and the first fireworks of the New Year over Sydney Harbor. It’s important to note that Australia is also well-known for its wine, producing over one billion liters each year. Australia’s most famous wine regions include Barossa Valley, Margaret River, Coonawarra, and the Hunter Valley.
Australia is a massive country and unless you fly from region to region, it would be difficult and time-consuming to wine taste your way through it. Fortunately, most visitors start their trip in Sydney, and Hunter Valley is just a 2-hour drive away. Australia’s oldest wine region or “the Hunter” as locals call it, is famous for its Shiraz and Chardonnay. Home to 150 cellar doors, the Hunter is a popular destination for Sydneysiders and international wine lovers, alike. Be sure to bring your VinGardeValise® wine suitcase. After you’ve tasted some of the region’s best wines, you’ll want to safely take a few home.
Where there’s good wine, there’s plenty of gourmet cuisine. Hunter’s well-known food and wine trail is filled with 60 tempting restaurants. The region also offers boutique shops, the acclaimed Hunter Valley Gardens, and nearly 200 lodging options. Here’s a list of our favorite places to taste, eat, and stay.
Where to Wine Taste in Hunter Valley
Leogate Estate, a five-star winery, prides itself on providing a luxurious cellar door and tasting room experience and we can verify that it does indeed fulfill that promise. Built as a centerpiece in the middle of the original Brokenback Vineyard, the cellar door is housed in a white-columned cloistered facility. Its restaurant features regional flavors, textures, and innovative dishes that pair nicely with their premium wines.
The 2015 Vicki’s Choice Reserve Chardonnay displays the complexity of fruit and oak with elegant peach flavors, complemented by a soft and creamy finish.
The estate’s motto should be “come fly with me” from the popular Frank Sinatra tune, as Leogate supplies Shiraz to Qantas First and Business class cabins on international flights. Also, if you fly into the Hunter Valley and make arrangements with Skyline Aviation Group at the Lake Macquarie Airport, their helicopter will fly you directly to lunch and wine tours in the region and your flight will land on the grassy expanse of the lawn at the Leogate Estate.
1693 Broke Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 7499
Tamburlaine Organic Wines
Tamburlaine has gained a reputation as an innovative vintner without compromising wine quality by embracing a modern-day organic approach to winemaking. Tamburlaine’s enthusiasm for experimenting with sustainable viticulture and wine making practices is the driving force behind its success. It produces brilliant wine that exudes both body and soul.
If you want to see how organic wine is made from the ground up, take the tour that goes behind the scenes of one of Australia’s largest organic wine producers. Tamburlaine’s “Tour and Taste” experience gives you a guided glimpse into the wonderful world of wine growing. It includes a short stroll down to the estate vineyard, a peek inside the aroma-scented barrel hall, followed by a wander through the winery where you may even get to taste some wine from the tank. The tour finishes with a structured wine tasting experience back at the cellar door. Tours cost $65 per couple and include a complimentary bottle of wine.
The 2018 Wine Lover’s Grenache, Shiraz, and Malbec (GSM) is a gold medal winning blend that offers aromas of blackberry, dark plum, and cherry, with a generous dark berry palate, complemented by a touch of spice and gentle tannins.
358 McDonald Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 4200
This family-owned business is one of the leading names in quality Hunter Valley wine. Chardonnay is their specialty. You’ll be wooed by the distinctly regional wines and sweeping views. The bright modern cellar door offers a relaxed, seated tasting with a complementary cheese platter. For the Scarborough family, it’s not just winemaking, it’s a way of life that they generously share with visitors.
The Yellow Label Chardonnay is their flagship wine. The 2016 tastes rich and generous, with opulent fruit and cashew-like complexity, but it was the 2013 Yellow Label Chardonnay from their museum collection that caught our attention. This classic chardonnay, with notes of pear, peach, and biscuit with a soft, round finish, proves that a well-made white wine can indeed age for several years.
972 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 6538
Awarded International Winemaker of the Year four times and International White Wine Maker of the Year three times, McGuigan is a must visit destination in Hunter Valley. You can enjoy a tour of their museum and cellar door-only wines in the recently refurbished tasting rooms. “Come on in” is their visitor-friendly expression inviting you to sample an offering of 11 whites, 17 reds plus several “sticky” dessert styles. With so many to choose from, you’ll be glad you brought your VinGardeValise® wine luggage with you.
The Bin 9000 Semillon 2018 is a good example of a dry white wine with classic Hunter Valley characteristics; restrained, yet acidic with lemon flavors and well-renowned for aging well.
447 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 4111
A sharp contrast to many of the larger, contemporary, opulent cellar doors of the Hunter Valley, Piggs Peake is, well…different. A weathered life-size copper pig greets visitors at the entrance to this boutique winery. Surrounded by cardboard cases of wine stacked against walls, giant chalkboards, winemaking equipment, and makeshift counters, the cellar door is in the middle of the winery’s production operation. This place has real character, but the wine is outstanding and well worth a stop, especially if you’re looking for classic wines, unusual varietals, or something you’ve never experienced before.
The 2017 House of Sticks Shiraz, a soft but delicious, varietal, is one of the most popular wines. The Big Pig is the winery’s biggest Shiraz. It’s fermented in newer oak and has higher alcohol content. It is medium bodied, showing red and dark berries, spices, a great deal of tannin, and should age well. We were fortunate to taste with the owner and winemaker, Steve, and his faithful sheepdog.
697 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin
02 6574 7000
Where to Eat in Hunter Valley
Located in an historic cottage on a tree-lined driveway of Roscrea Estate, Circa 1876 offers modern Australian cuisine. Guests can enjoy fine dining in the eclectic charm of this popular restaurant with food supplied from its own organic garden, paired with premium Hunter Valley wines. Choose from a two-course, three-course, or five-course chef’s tasting menu to suit your appetite and palate.
64 Halls Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 4999
Smelly Cheese Shop
Pack a picnic lunch for your wine tasting excursion with a visit to the Smelly Cheese Shop. Located in the Roche Estate complex, the Smelly Cheese Shop sells a range of pungent fromage, but it also offers a wide variety of milder, gourmet cheeses, deli meats, olives, and more than 200 flavors of gelato. Guests can choose to dine in or take out antipasto platters, pizza, wraps, and burgers.
2144 Broke Road, Pokolbin
02 4998 6713
Also located in the Roche Estate complex, Oishii offers casual Asian fare with indoor and outdoor seating. California rolls, prawn tempura, and the oh-so-spicy Thai beef salad are popular with diners.
Corner of Broke and McDonalds Roads, Pokolbin
02 4998 7051
Where to Stay in Hunter Valley
Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort
Positioned among sweeping vineyards, rolling golf greens, and the spectacular Broken Back Mountain Range, Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort is a destination of choice in the Hunter Valley wine region. You can stay, play, and indulge in an enticing meal at one of their award winning restaurants, enjoy panoramic views over the valley while you challenge their championship golf course, cool off in the swimming pool while overlooking dramatic views of the lakeside, or sample some of Australia’s finest wine varieties in their cocktail lounge and clubhouse. You may even see a kangaroo or two hopping about outside your one, two, or three-bedroom villa. Want to try hot air ballooning while you’re in the Hunter? Oaks Cypress can supply that as well with their own hot air balloon.
15 Thompsons Road, Pokolbin
+61 7 3246 1700
If You Go to Hunter Valley
So close to Sydney, yet truly a world away, the Hunter Valley is the birthplace of Australian wine. It’s been recognized for 180 years as a world class food and wine destination. Wind your way between the regional wineries, including old delights and new surprises, as you relax and explore this remarkable region. If you haven’t invested in a VinGardeValise® wine suitcase yet, you’ll want to buy one before you head to Australia. Taking it to safely transport the wine treasures you select will allow you to relive your memories of Hunter Valley with each bottle you open at home.
For more on planning your trip, visit WineCountry.com.au.