48 Hours in Winter Wine Country
It's winter in Wine Country and the perfect time to rug up and get out and about!
With its rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and delicious food scene, the Hunter Valley has everything you need for a relaxing short break away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And with just a few days to explore this foodie's paradise this winter, it's best to focus on the region's highlights: wine, food, and views.
First off, we're going to get the taste buds tested while savouring exceptional Hunter wine and food and sipping on shimmering spirits before spending some time in one of Australia's most extensive private gardens.
RISE AND SHINE
Start the day by grabbing breakfast at local favourite, The Deck Café Lovedale, located on Lovedale Rd and the perfect place for breakfast or brunch. The cafe provides a fantastic breakfast menu and premium Vittoria coffee. Slip in your first wine tasting for the day at Gartelmann Wines, also located on-site.
Stop in at Binnorie Dairy on your way down Lovedale Rd to your next destination and pick up some cheese and cured meats for later, or why not grab a takeaway picnic box for a tasty lunch in the sunshine at your next destination?
SIP, TASTE & SAVOUR WINE COUNTRY
Stomachs lined and taste buds awakened, it's time to tune up your wine-tasting palate with a stop at Hungerford Hill at the start of Broke Rd. Guided by highly accomplished and award-winning winemaker Bryan Currie, the Hungerford team consistently produce wines of character and interest that focus on the Hunter Valley and NSW's cool-climate regions, including Hilltops and Tumbarumba.
On leaving Hungerford Hill, head across the road to experience one of life's perfect indulgences. In Hunter Valley, the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is one of the most addictive attractions around. If you love all things chocolate, you'll love their exquisite range of chocolate and fudge, so take the time to visit their two retail outlets in Pokolbin at 2320 Broke Road and Peterson House.
Continuing your efforts to explore some of the region's finest wines, the next stop is Tamburlaine Organic Wines. Located on McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin, Tamburlaine is 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.
After a morning of wine tasting, continue to spoil the senses with a trip 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, the magnificent Rose Garden with its lavish array of colour and perfume, or the Oriental Garden, surrounded by natural Australian granite and winding streams full of spectacular water lilies and irises. Until 23 July, you can also enjoy the snow-filled slopes at Snow Time in the Garden.
Time for some tasting of a different kind! Before leaving the gates of Hunter Valley Gardens, stop at the local shopping village to visit Small Mouth Vodka. 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 next door to The Garden Cellars and browse their range of premium wines, the most extensive range of local craft beers in the Hunter Valley and a fantastic range of gin, vodka, liqueurs and other spirits.
ROUND OFF THE DAY WITH A SPOT OF FINE DINING
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), The Cellar Restaurant (at Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village) and Pescara Italian Restaurant at Hermitage Lodge are all highly recommended. For something more casual, consider local favourite Oishii Japanese Thai Restaurant, who also offer 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), visit another distillery, go wine tasting and warm up by the fireplace.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS
Book an early morning hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft for an iconic Wine Country treat. 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.
Alternatively, if having your feet firmly on terra-firma is more your thing, why not venture out on an early morning horse ride and experience the spectacular scenery with Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures in Lovedale. Whether you're an old hand on horseback or not, there's a ride for every experience level.
If shopping is more your thing, the ultimate Wine Country shopping experience is a trip to Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village, located en route to the world-famous gardens. Here you will find a variety of galleries, fashion stores, homewares (check out Australian Alpaca Barn), gift shops and other boutique specialty shops to choose from and just when you feel you need a break, there is a tempting choice of cafes available.
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 match the flavours of your dessert perfectly.
Get back into the spirit of things and continue along Broke Rd to the Hunter Distillery (1686 Broke Rd), where, with so many flavours of liqueur to choose from, there is always something new to try from their range of top-shelf spirits that include gin, vodka, liqueurs and schnapps.
GETTING BACK TO THE WINE
If you're here for the wine, our wine-tasting itinerary for day two is a boutique experience starting at Kelman Vineyard on Oakey Creek 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 cross the 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.
The Hunter is certainly not short of an adventure or two, and it won't be long until you are planning a return to see how the region evolves in spring.