Things To Do in the Wine Region of Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley - a fine drop and a produce shop
The magic of nature is at work in this wonderful wine country. The minute you arrive you feel yourself relax and smile at the possibilities. This place is designed to increase your wellbeing.
Whether you are a wine drinker, a chocolate connoisseur, a cheese fanatic or just someone in need of some down time, this is the place for you to visit. The locals are friendly, the food is fresh and satisfying and the activities are invigorating. It won’t take long for you to be under the spell of the Hunter Valley, NSW.
Just a leisurely 1 hour drive from Newcastle, or two hours north of Sydney rentals, the Hunter Valley is easy to get to by car or bus. As you make your way from the hustle and bustle of the city, the spectacular landscape unfolds as you meander into the Valley. The air is clean, the towns unhurried and the richness of the countryside is obvious.
Clearly this is a wonderful place to taste a grape or two. Home to many successful big name brands – Lindemans, Tyrell’s, De Bortoli - you’ll also be pleasantly impressed with the quality and number of boutique players that dot the countryside. Australia’s oldest, and arguably best known, wine region there are over 110 wineries and cellar doors offering tastings. With all this choice, your head will be spinning even before you take your first sip!
To start any well-rounded winery tour you must begin with champagne. And the Peterson Champagne House is a beautiful place to sample the bubbles. Specialising in the traditional méthode champenoise sparkling wines, there is a style to suit all occasions. The easy drinking ‘Blush’ is pink and girly and you’re sure to hear much giggling and laughter emanating from this cellar door. And if it’s all too much, around the corner is something for the lads, the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company which offers divine handmade chocolates and fudge.
Another couple of stand-outs on my recent tour of duty were Gartlemann Wines and Tower Estate. Both more on the ‘boutique’ side of things, Tower produces small parcels of outstanding classic style wines; production is limited to 1000 cases of each style. They use local varietals as well as fruits sourced from the Australian region that best suits that variety. The Spanish inspired design of the winery has an open plan cellar door with highly knowledgeable staff. If you’re feeling completely indulgent you could stay at the luxurious Tower Lodge.
Gartelmann is by contrast distinctly ‘Australian country’ in look and appeal. The cellar door was built to blend in with its surrounds and includes a more recently added semi-enclosed deck overlooking the dam which is home to many interesting birds. It specialises in the Hunter Valley classics, Shiraz and Semillon, but also produces a stunning Chardonnay, quite different to the oaky drops of the 90s. You can spend a long time here, whiling away the hours.
Tempus Two Winery was last on my agenda. This place is all about image and style. The brand ‘applauds those who appreciate quality wine’ and uses innovative winemaking techniques along with unique packaging to offer an elegant, ultra-premium wine brand. There are three distinct ranges – Varietals, Copper and Pewter – each offering different varieties and price-points. The cellar door feels more like a slick city bar than a country winery and the expansive property plays host to many outdoor concerts and events. The aptly named Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop is also located here. It offers an impressive range of handmade local and international cheeses as well as a great range of deli foods and seafood. For other wonderful local produce check out the Australian Regional Food Store and Café in Pokolbin. It’s three stores in one – cellar door, all day café and gourmet food supply store. You can sample housemade produce such as jams, relishes and fudge and then indulge in a breakfast or lunch indoors or alfresco overlooking natural bushland.
Once you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, take a wander through the Hunter Valley Gardens. There are 10 magnificent feature gardens set on 60 acres, including a peaceful Oriental garden, an Italian grotto and a gorgeous Storybook garden for the children. The colours and fragrances are stunning.
Or if you are unable - or unwilling - to take a walk, why not enjoy a therapeutic treatment at one of the many day spas in the area. I was lucky enough to enjoy a massage and body wrap treatment at the Hunter Valley Reflections Day Spa. Pure indulgence.
There are dozens of interesting places to stay in and around the Hunter Valley, with something to suit all tastes. Pokolbin and Rothbury in particular have a lot of wonderful holiday homes to rent and provide great proximity to the wineries and attractions.