When it comes to opportunities for wining and dining, the Hunter Valley is second to none. Home to one of Australia’s premium wine-growing regions, the Hunter is also well known as a hot spot for fine dining and fresh produce.
While anytime is a good time to check out what’s going on around the vineyards, May marks the start of a particularly purple patch of events and festivals, providing countless options for residents and visitors alike to eat, drink and be merry.Tuck straight into a feast for the eyes, ears and stomachs at the Hunter Valley Wine, Food and Film Festival. Presented by the Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail and now in its third year, the festival takes place during the first weekend in May and last weekend in June, kicking off with Flickerfest at Peter Drayton Wines’ Ironbark Hill Brewhouse on Saturday, May 5.
The short film festival, which debuted at Bondi Beach in January and is now travelling around the country, will visit the Hunter for the secondconsecutive year for a screening of the “Best of Australian” short films. With seven 20-minute films on offer, tickets are $20 for the films only or $55, which also includes a tasting of three local wines, souvenir wine glass and platter of food. A second food-inspired film event will be held at Peter Drayton Wines on Saturday, June 30, with the screening of Cookery for the Many, as well as for the Upper Ten Thousand.Produced by Around Hermitage’s Hunter Valley Wine Country Diners Club’, the film is based on Australia’s first cookery and home entertaining etiquette book, which was published in 1864 by Tasmanian aristologist Edward Abbott. The film investigates to what degree modern Australian dining and entertaining habits have been influenced by our European ancestors and features Hunter winemakers, chefs, historians and celebrities.
Those looking to get a little more hands-on in their enjoyment of the region’s food and wine can check out this month’s cooking classes at The Verandah Restaurant. Led by local chef and restaurant owner Tim Suffell, the three-and-a-half hour classes on May 6 and 20 will teach participants how to cook a selection of traditional Spanish fare, including a tasty paella, sweetly delicious churros and a full-bodied sangria. If you want to sit back and relax while someone else does the cooking, the Verandah Restaurant will also take your tastebuds on an international adventure during their May 13 Locals’ Night.A firm favourite among Pokolbin residents and visitors alike, the popular monthly event starts with complimentary canapés and a glass of bubbly followed by a five-course tapas style degustation menu, which is based on a different country’s cuisine each time.
The international flavours will also be out in force at Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen this month, with owners Matt and Jimmy Kerr hosting a Thai Feast on Saturday, May 12. With everything from Kai Kuha (Thai curry dip with vegetables) to Pla-Meuk Pad Kai Kem (stir-fried calamari with salted egg yolk) and Ka Nom Ba Bin (Thai coconut cake) on the eight-dish menu, there is sure to be a traditional Thai treat to suit every taste bud. The boys will also be putting their own delicious spin on the Cancer Council’s Biggest Morning Tea fundraiser on May 24. With seven sittings throughout the day, Nanna Kerr’s will be aiming to host 700 guests and raise $7000 for the charity. There will be two mouth-watering menus to choose from, including Healthy Hippy Happy, which features vegan and gluten-free options, as well as the Hunter Natural Beef Banquet, complete with barbecue brisket slider and mini steak and Shiraz pie. For those looking for a long lunch rather than a big morning tea, the Hunter is the place to be on May 19 and 20 when the ever-popular Lovedale Long Lunch puts on its progressive style party for thousands of food and wine lovers.
A decadent line up of the Hunter Valley’s leading chefs will once again team up with seven of Lovedale’s finest wineries (Allandale Winery, Emma’s Cottage Vineyard, Gartelmann Wines, Saltire Estate, Sandalyn Wilderness Estate, Tatler Wines and Wandin Valley Estate) for a weekend of food, wine and fun. Aside from each of the estate’s premium local wines, long lunchers can also savour a selection of gourmet main, dessert and cheese offerings, soundtracked by some of the region’s finest musicians. For those looking for an experience they can take home with them,the monthly Handmade in the Hunter Market will return to Kevin Sobels Wines on May 12 and 26 featuring a range of locally-made and unique handcrafted items. The markets are also a great place to pick up some of the region’s finest food and produce, with stallholders including Hunter Valley Cookies, Moorebank Vineyard, Pink Whisk Chocolates, Pokolbin Purple, Tomalina Ridge Honey, Riverflats Estate and The Hot Chilli Woman among many others.
There will be plenty to do when the sun goes down in the Hunter this month as well, including the Hunter Classics Fireside Tasting at RidgeView Restaurant on Saturday, May 19. Take a seat by the fireplace and enjoy a tasting of six of their premium Generations Series Semillon and Shiraz to discover why these varieties are Hunter Valley royalty.Compare Ridgeview’s current releases to rare museum vintages and experience how these wines mature with age. Each wine will be perfectly paired with canapés prepared by executive chef Donna Hollis. From fireside classics to black tie legends, the best of the Hunter’s wine industry will be on show at the end of May as part of the 12th Annual Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Industry Awards.
The Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Industry Award winners will be announced at a black-tie dinner at Ben Ean Estate on Thursday, 24 May, with renowned wine judge Sally Evans MC on the evening. Awards will be handed out in four categories- Rising Star of the Year, Winemaker of the Year,Viticulturist of the Year and Cellar Door of the Year –and are designed to recognise and honour those who have made major contributions and excelled within the Hunter Valley wine and tourism industries.Last year’s winners included Mark Richardson (Tyrrell’s Wines), Andrew Pengilly (Tyrrell’s Wines),Rauri Donkin (Bimbadgen Estate) and Thomas Wines, with previous winners not eligible for renomination for a minimum of two years. Of course these are just the tip of the events iceberg in the region, with the renowned Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival also kicking off this month. Presented by Wine Selectors, the festival features more than 40 events across May and June, showcasing everything from delicious gourmet dinners at award-winning restaurants, wine and cocktail masterclasses to food and wine trails, hands-on cooking classes and vertical tastings. Organisers have added 15 new experiences to the already bumper line-up for this year’s festival, while firm favourites including the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, Tyrrell’s Winemaker’s Luncheon, Glandore Estate Burning of the Barrel and By the Fireside with Lisa McGuigan at Hunter Valley Resort returning once again in 2018.■