48 Hours in Wine Country
As the June/July edition goes to print, we’ve just experienced our first weekend of regional travel, which saw Hunter Valley Wine Country a firm favourite for visitors who were desperate to get out of home and enjoy a weekend away. Regional travel was amongst other welcome new steps in the post-pandemic reopening of our local economy which also saw restaurants, cafés and pubs host up to 50 patrons, the long-awaited return of cellar door wine tastings and galleries, zoos and beauty salons all reopen.
We can’t wait to see tourism and hospitality operators in our region benefit from the relaxation of restrictions on travel and social gatherings and encourage visitors to support local businesses that have been doing it tough by spending the weekend here.
With this in mind – we’re happy to give you a helping hand with our itinerary to your winter weekend getaway in Wine Country. Of course, we could easily give you a 96-hour itinerary there’s so much to see and do – so don’t limit yourself! Just remember that due to social-distancing regulations, it might be wise to jump online and book where possible. Visit www.huntervalleyguide.com.au for help.
Above: Taste of the Country
DAY ONE Get back to nature, check out some artwork, visit a distillery and savour exceptional Hunter wines.
MORNING WARM-UP – GRAB A COFFEE Start your weekend morning off in the rural locality of Pokolbin which oozes Wine Country chic and laid-back luxury any time of year. Grab some fortitude with a cup of coffee, tea or a hot chocolate for a bit of decadence! And the Winner Is Oscars café at Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village serve up an awesome coffee. Also nearby is Taste of the Country which is a little like walking into an old fashioned country kitchen.
COOL BEAUTY Now you’re awake, head off to the spectacular Hunter Valley Gardens to experience a beautiful display of sight, colour and fragrance from the ten feature gardens. Discover the Formal Garden – the largest of its type in Australia or the magnificent Rose Garden with its lavish array of colour and perfume. Or pay a visit to the Oriental Garden surrounded by natural Australian granite and winding streams full of spectacular water lilies and irises and the Italian Grotto Garden with its statue of Saint Francis of Assis – the patron saint of animals and the environment.
SIP, SAVOUR, BLEND
Stomachs lined and taste buds awakened, it’s time for a real taste of Wine Country. First stop is one of the smallest boutique estates in the Hunter Valley. Pokolbin Estate on McDonalds Road has a reputation for producing outstanding wines, particularly with their Riesling, Semillon and Shiraz. They have also had a great deal of success with their three Mediterranean-style red wines – the premium Spanish variety Tempranillo and the Italian varieties that include Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
Just a little further down the road and you will be warmly welcomed by the team at Tamburlaine Organic Wines – Australia’s largest certified organic wine producer where you can choose from an extensive range of red and white wines, sparkling and fortified from their Hunter Valley and Orange Vineyards.
Also on McDonalds Road, is Ivanhoe Wines (pictured top) – home to a complete range of premium Hunter Valley wines and big, gutsy reds. It’s also one of the most picturesque and most photographed properties in the Hunter Valley.
Time for some tasting of a different kind! Do an about-face on McDonalds Road and head back towards the big roundabout – where you will take a left onto Broke Road. No trip to the Hunter Valley is complete without a visit to the Hunter Distillery. One of the Hunter Valley's most unique and fascinating experiences, Hunter Distillery is the first 100% organic distillery in Australia and the only organic distillery in the southern hemisphere. Try their exclusive range of premium Organic Vodkas, Schnapps, Gin and Liqueurs tasted from traditional test tubes and even take a guided tour of the distillery production area.
Take a left out of the Distillery to get back onto Broke Road, then a right onto Hermitage Road will see you headed to two of our favourite wineries. At three-generation family-run Mistletoe Winery you will not only find exceptional award-winning wines, but you will also find Pokolbin Fine Art Gallery and Mistletoe Sculpture Garden so that you can lock in a culture fix at the same time. You’re going to want to linger a while here.
Top off your tasting a short distance down Hermitage Road at Tintilla Estate. Taste award-winning wines and estate-grown olives with a cheese platter and all the trimmings. Surely sun-downers do not get any better than this!
ROUND OFF THE DAY WITH A SPOT OF FINE DINING It’s no coincidence that some of the finest restaurants in the world can be found in the best wine growing regions. Where there is great wine, great food usually follows, and the Hunter Valley is considered one of the finest most authentic culinary destinations in Australia. Highly recommended
are, Hunters Quarter (at Cockfighters Ghost vineyard) or The Cellar Restaurant (back where you began the day at Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village). For something a little more casual, take a look at Andanté Brasserie (located at the Leisure Inn on McDonalds Road) or visit Oishii Japanese Thai Restaurant – which is the locals favourite – and also does takeaway if you’re too exhausted to dine in!
Above: Balloon Aloft
Soar above the vineyards, indulge in a dessert, go horse-riding, shop a bit (or a lot), take a tour, visit a brewery and warm up by the fireplace.
SOAR TO NEW HEIGHTS For an iconic wine country splurge, skip breakfast and book an early morning hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft. Taking off at sunrise, ascend into the sky and float gently along with the breeze, taking in views of the picturesque wine regions of Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury or Broke – from just above the treetops or at heights of 2000 feet or more.
The one-hour balloon flight is followed by a delicious ‘bubbly-breakfast’ at Pokolbin’s Restaurant Cuvee. If spine-tingling action is more your scene – check out Aerohunter Adventure Flights located on Wine Country Drive (Cessnock Airport) for an experience that is, shall we say, turning it up a notch or two hundred!
SADDLE UP If having your feet firmly on terra-firma is more your thing, why not venture out on an early morning escapade perched atop a trusty steed, while enjoying the natural bushland and stunning views of the countryside. At Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures in Lovedale, you can ride the unique and beautiful Molly Morgan Range while experiencing the spectacular scenery from as far north as the Barrington Tops. Whether you’re an old hand on horseback or not, there’s a ride for every experience level, with the 1 and 1.5 hour guided trail rides being the most popular for both beginners and experts alike.
RISE AND WINE & DINE We take breakfast very seriously in Wine Country, so make today’s count by spending the morning at one of our local favourites. The Deck Café at Lovedale is just the place for breakfast (or brunch if you’re keen for a sleep-in). Enjoy a fantastic breakfast menu followed alongside a generous range of beverages and premium Vittoria coffee, then slip in your first wine-tasting for the day at Gartelmann Wines, also located on-site. After brunch, duck around to Wilderness Road where you’ll find the gorgeous Emmas Cottage Vineyard. For history buffs, a stroll around the old Rothbury Cemetery on the property is also a must (if you dare). From here it’s just a short trip to one of Wine Country's newest Cellar Doors on one of the areas oldest vineyards – Theleme Wines at Black Creek Farm.
SHOPPING If shopping is more your thing, then the ultimate Wine Country shopping experience is a trip to Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village located en-route to the gates of the world-famous gardens themselves. Here you will find a variety of galleries, fashion stores, home ware, gift shops and other boutique speciality shops to choose from and just when you feel you need a break, there is a choice of restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy a much-needed coffee, tea or snack.
Above: Sabor Dessert Bar
INDULGE A LITTLE After an arduous day of adventure, Sabor Dessert Bar is a sweet diversion for those who love to indulge in decadent cakes and pastries or have a soft spot for the rich flavours of the cocoa bean. Sabor has over 50 desserts on the menu, as well as local wines, dessert wines, ports and liqueurs to perfectly match the flavours of your dessert. Also offering great coffee – this is a haven for those people wanting to experience an entirely new level of culinary delight in desserts.
Universally adored, chocolate is one of life's perfect indulgences and in the Hunter Valley, the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is the sweetest and most addictive attraction around. It's so popular that they have three retail outlets in Pokolbin – at Peterson House, Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village and at 2320 Broke Road. If you love all things chocolate, you'll love their exquisite range of chocolate, so take the time to visit their three retail outlets in Pokolbin and see for yourself what everyone is talking about.
GETTING BACK TO THE WINE There are numerous ways to work your way around the wineries by yourself or with a group of friends, but if you want to sit back, relax and let someone else do the organising and driving, then book yourself on one of the many wine tours heading around the Hunter Valley. Choose from a full day, half-day or private wine tour from operators like Best Tours.
If you’re here for the wine, then our wine tasting itinerary for day two is a boutique experience starting at Kelman Vineyard on Oakey Creek Road (at the roundabout intersection with Marrowbone Road). A well-established boutique vineyard nestled in a quiet corner of the Parish of Pokolbin, Kelman's focus is on classic Hunter varietals.
Just around the bend in Marrowbone Road, you’ll find Saddlers Creek Wines. Established in 1990, by two friends with a passion for fine wine and a serious love of horses, the Halliday-rated 5 Star Winery specialises in the crafting of premium quality wines.
Continue along Marrowbone Road to Mount Pleasant Wines and pick up an (Out of) Isolation Pack. Curated by Chief Winemaker Adrian Sparks, this selection of premium wines is sure to add something extra-special to your out-of-iso celebrations.
The Hunter is certainly not short of an adventure or two – it just comes down to choosing to make the absolute most of your time in the area. Enjoy!