There’s a reason the Hunter Valley’s Pokolbin area is an incredibly popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Its diverse offering ensures there’s something for every person and purpose… Keen to spend a day sampling the finest wines and spirits the Valley has to offer, or dining in style against a bucolic backdrop? Pokolbin’s got you covered. Looking for a memorable wedding or event venue? A way to entertain the whole family on a weekend out? A chance to simply soak up the serenity and atmosphere of the countryside? Look no further than our very own Wine Country.
The only problem you might run into is deciding how to fit it all in. With such a vast array of experiences and destinations to explore, it can be tricky to decide exactly where to go and what to see to get the most out of your visit. But that’s where Around Hermitage comes in.
Imagine a trail that encompasses all the best attractions of Pokolbin’s northern end: award-winning wineries and restaurants, boutique accommodation, wine and cooking schools, breweries, galleries and antiques, day spas, horse riding, bicycle hire, Segway tours… even a wine-themed escape room! All this and more is exactly what you’ll find on the Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail, a comprehensive network of places to taste, play and stay in Pokolbin.
The trail is curated by the Around Hermitage Association, a group formed over 20 years ago that now counts over 70 local businesses as its members. Formally registered as ‘The Brokenback Trail Association’ back in September 1996 (a nod to the area’s scenic backdrop of the Brokenback Mountains), the Association became ‘Around Hermitage’ in 2006. It has continued to grow as a thriving community collective, focused not only on showcasing what Pokolbin has to offer but on a sense of kinship between local businesses as they come together and support one another.
“The Around Hermitage members consider themselves to be advocates not only for their own businesses but for the others in the area as well,” explains Vicci Lashmore-Smith, Association member and owner of Misty Glen Wines, Vineyard and Cottage.
"We work well together in referring business to each other, including accommodation. We also hold familiarisation days where we visit selected businesses – this keeps the offering in the area fresh in our minds."
The Association offers a tight-knit community environment where members not only advocate for one another but regularly meet, mingle and collaborate with their fellow business owners. “Another great way to network in our area is coming along to one of our many members’ social events,” Vicci says. “We have a great sense of community.”
The Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail covers an expansive area of Pokolbin. The majority of businesses are located along its namesake Hermitage Road, but you’ll be well served by doing the full circuit: traversing Old North Road and Sweetwater Road to the north, then coming back down Wine Country Drive, along Deasys Road and down to Broke Road to ensure you experience the 100+ offerings from the Association’s members.
So what exactly can you expect to come across when wandering the trail? Vicci explains: “Primarily smaller boutique businesses, where you will meet the owners and their families.” In this way, the community feel of Around Hermitage is extended to guests – you’ll often get to meet the makers behind the wines, products and venues, many of whom have been in the business for decades.
Around Hermitage founding members, Mistletoe Winery and Tintilla Estate Vineyard and Olive Grove, are two such cases. Established by its current owners back in 1989, Mistletoe is a family-owned and -operated winery, with three generations actively involved in its day-to-day operations. Counted among the top 8% of wineries in Australia by way of consistent five-star ratings in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion, Mistletoe provides a range of premium-quality wines and a welcoming, informative cellar door experience. Visitors will also be enchanted by the Mistletoe Sculpture Garden and intrigued by the Pokolbin Fine Art Gallery.
Tintilla Estate is a similarly family-focused affair. Established in 1994, this warm and welcoming destination produces distinctive, award-winning wines and a range of olive products. You’ll enjoy taking a seat out on the deck, overlooking the picturesque vineyard with a glass of wine, a cheese platter and a sampling of some delicious olive products made with secret family recipes. Tintilla also hosts annual Tuscan and French Provincial Long Lunches, serving up four courses and wines to match.
Near Tintilla and Mistletoe, you’ll find Hunter Valley Resort – 70 secluded acres with cosy rooms and cottages, function spaces and its very own Adventure Centre (complete with electric bike hire, Segway tours, horse riding and more). The Resort is also home to the Hunter Wine Theatre and Wine School, perfect for those seeking a more in-depth, educational wine experience. Matilda Bay Brewhouse and Hermitage Road Cellar Door are also on-site for beer and wine tasting as well as tasty meals.
Just off Hermitage Road on Broke Road is one of the more unique Around Hermitage destinations: Hunter Distillery. The only locally owned and operated distillery in the Hunter Valley, the Distillery uses premium organic and natural ingredients to create its award-winning vodka, gin, liqueurs and schnapps. Tastings are delivered in test tubes in the same building as the production area, so you’ll get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the distilling process while you sip away at some intriguing flavours.
Once you’ve had your fill of spirits, pop around the corner to Oakvale Wines to get back on the grape, then head up to Deasys Road to continue your wine journey at Hunter’s Dream and Misty Glen Wines. Thomas Wines is also tucked away on nearby Mistletoe Lane. Head to the end of Sweetwater Road for a bite to eat at RidgeView Restaurant and Cellar Door, then down Old North Road to discover the French Provincial-inspired Black Creek Farm/Thélème Wines.
If one day in the Hunter just isn’t enough, you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay in between all your sipping, eating and adventuring. Estate Tuscany and Berenbell Vineyard Retreat provide boutique accommodation just off Hermitage Road, as does Bracken Ridge Vineyard Estate, just off Old North Road.
All of this is just a taste of what’s on offer when you set foot (or wheel, or hoof) on the Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail. But the Association’s work doesn’t stop there: it’s also involved with a number of events each year, bringing its members together to create special experiences and bring even more visitors to the Hermitage neck of the woods.
Next up on the event's agenda is First Release Wine Week 2019. From September 25th–29th, this special week gives visitors the chance to taste an exclusive range of premium Hunter Valley wines from some of the greatest vintages of the century. White, sparkling, rosé or red – whatever your style, there’ll be some incredible first release wines to try on exclusive daily tours and at selected cellar doors. There’ll be plenty of other events and activities, too: think chocolate tastings, electric bike tours, vineyard picnics and long lunches. And you won’t want to miss the First Release Signature Dinner on Saturday 28th at The Mill Restaurant – a five-course degustation hosted by vineyard owners and winemakers, featuring local produce matched with first release wines. Throughout the week, visitors can also participate in the Taste and Play Challenge by posting shots of their favourite First Release experiences to go in the draw for tickets to 2020’s Signature Dinner – so be sure to get snapping.
Looking ahead to 2020, the Hunter Valley Wine Food and Film Festival will be hitting Pokolbin once again on Saturday, 2nd May. The FLiCKERFEST Short Film Festival will be screening the best international short films for your entertainment as you sit back with some local cuisine and a bottle of your favourite Hunter Valley drop. There’ll also be plenty of wine and food experiences on offer ahead of the film screenings, so keep an eye out for further festival details and ticket sales, which will be available soon.
The success of events like these is a testament to the community spirit that fuels Around Hermitage. The Association and its members are the heart and soul of Pokolbin, focused on what’s important to the area, its businesses and its visitors: good food, good wine and good times with family and friends. And the more members who join the collective, the more Pokolbin expands as a flourishing tourism destination that keeps visitors coming back for more. “It’s developed into a sophisticated, boutique area with some of the best offerings in the Hunter Valley, while still maintaining much of its rustic charm,” Vicci concludes. “We aim to provide visitors with a truly memorable experience, leaving them with the desire to return.”
Find out more about Around Hermitage and plan your own visit to Pokolbin’s best attractions at www.aroundhermitage.com.au