48 Hours in Winter Wine Country
It's winter in Wine Country and the perfect time to don the puffer jacket and get out and about!
Of course, there's so much to see and do here that we could easily give you a 96-hour itinerary – so don't limit yourself! Just remember that to avoid disappointment, it might be wise to jump online and book where possible. Visit www.huntervalleyguide.com.au for help.
Get back to nature, check out some artwork, sip on some shimmering spirits and savour exceptional Hunter wines.
RISE AND SHINE
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 Lovedale is located on Lovedale Rd and is just the place for breakfast (or brunch if you're keen on a sleep-in). The cafe provides a fantastic breakfast menu with a generous range of beverages and Premium Vittoria Coffee. Slip in your first wine-tasting for the day at Gartelmann Wines, which is also located on-site.
Stop in at Binnorie Dairy on your way down Lovedale Rd to your next destination and pick up some cheeses and cured meats for later, or why not grab a takeaway picnic box for a tasty lunch in the sunshine at your next destination.
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. This month you can also enjoy the snow-filled slopes at Snow Time in the Garden (until 24 July).
SIP, SAVOUR, BLEND
Time for some tasting of a different kind! Before you leave the gates of the Gardens Village, stop in at Small Mouth Vodka (it's on the right- hand side just before you exit). Here you'll find a small family-run distillery specialising in hand-crafted, quality spirits, including shimmering vodkas and gins using only premium and organic ingredients. You're sure to leave shimmering on the inside!
While you're there, pop in next door to The Garden Cellars and browse their range of premium wines from award-winning vineyards, the most extensive range of local craft beers in the Hunter Valley and a fantastic range of Gin, Vodka, Liqueurs and other spirits.
Stomachs lined and taste buds awakened, it's time to tune up your wine-tasting palette and sniff-swirl and savour Wine Country. The first stop is McDonald's Rd (just around the corner from Hunter Valley Gardens) at Tamburlaine Organic Wines. It's 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.
For a tasting that will satisfy every taste bud, turn right out of Tamburlaine and head back to the big roundabout, where you will turn right onto Broke Road. A little further up on the left-hand side, you'll find a winery, brewery and distillery – all in one at Hope Estate – which is also host to the Hunter Valley's famed Concert Season (the big stage is a bit of a giveaway!). Here you can taste a range of estate-grown varietal wines, a whole lot of hoppy ales, distinctively recognisable by their black cans and amp design and a small batch distillery producing premium Australian grain spirits.
Top off your tasting a short distance down Broke Road at Hungerford Hill. Guided by highly accomplished and award-winning winemaker Bryan Currie, the Hungerford team consistently produces wines of character and interest that focus on the Hunter Valley and NSW's cool-climate regions, including Hilltops and Tumbarumba.
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. Hunters Quarter (at Pooles Rock vineyard) and The Cellar Restaurant (back where you began the day at Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village) are both highly recommended. For something a little more casual, take a look at élements Bar & Dining or Oishii Japanese Thai Restaurant – which is the local's favourite – and also does takeaway if you're too exhausted to dine in!
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.
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 countryside views. 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 one and 1.5-hour guided trail rides being the most popular for both beginners and experts alike.
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-wares (check out Byvonne and Australian Alpaca Barn), 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 cafes available.
Before heading off, stop for a light lunch and a treat at Gigi & Chix Bonbon. Located within the Village, the menu includes light meals, brunch, high tea French pastries and coffee from the Grounds of Alexandria.
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. If you love all things chocolate, you'll love their exquisite range of chocolate, so take the time to visit their two retail outlets in Pokolbin and see what everyone is talking about. Located at 2320 Broke Road and Peterson House.
INDULGE A LITTLE
After an arduous day of adventure, Sabor in the Hunter Dessert Bar (2342 Broke Road) 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.
GETTING BACK TO THE WINE
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). Kelman focuses on classic Hunter varietals, a well-established boutique vineyard in a quiet corner of the Parish of Pokolbin below Mount View.
Just around the bend in Marrowbone Road, you'll find Saddler's 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 crafting premium quality wines.
Continue along Marrowbone Road to Mount Pleasant Wines. One of the area's oldest vineyards (currently celebrating 100 years), Mount Pleasant produces iconic, elegant and expressive wines championing the fruit and individual character of four vineyard sites.
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!