Tourism Australia/Oliver Strewe
Just north of Sydney lies one of the most impressive wine regions on the globe: The Hunter Valley.
Wine connoisseurs from across the globe are fond of an Aussie tipple, so this wine region extraordinaire is a perennial favourite with thirsty travellers who enjoy tracking down the finer things in life. There they’ll find everything they need for a completely self indulgent experience, from destination spas and golf courses to wonderful gardens and deluxe accommodation.
But for all of its sublime distractions, wine still stands as the region’s raison d’être.
This is a relatively easy wine region to get round, with most of the cellar doors pretty close to each other. There are close to 180 wineries in the region, so there are plenty of cellars to choose from.
Primarily due to its proximity to Sydney, the Hunter Valley remains the nation’s most visited wine region. Armed with a map from the tourist office, the best place to start is bang in the middle of the region, at the intersection at McDonald and Broke Road.
Tourism Australia/Richard Powers
If you want to keep your itinerary simple, take in some of the region’s more beautiful vineyards. Start at Capercaillie on Londons Road, which has a gallery attached. Semillon is the key grape there, as it is right across the region, except at one of the best little wineries in the Hunter Valley, Lake’s Folly. Set just off Broke Road, Lake’s Folly specializes in just two wines – but they’re among the nation’s best.
Drive further along Broke Road and Tower Estate, which was founded by late Hunter Valley doyen Len Evans, is a fine cellar door that showcases wines drawn from around the nation’s wine regions. There it’s all about the great combinations such as Hunter Semillon, Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet.
Right on the corner of Broke Road and McDonalds Road, Tempus Two is a massive complex with restaurants, a cellar door and a fine food purveyor attached. Up on McDonalds Road, things get even better. Drive one way and you’ll encounter Brokenwood and – again – some of the nation’s finest wine, or drive in the other direction and you’ll discover Bimbadgen, where you’ll find reasonable multi-regional wine and excellent food at the Esca Restaurant.
Drive along the backblocks towards Hermitage Road and you’ll encounter Mistletoe Wines, where winemaker Nick Paterson is creating wonderful wines, especially Shiraz. He is just one of a newer generation of Hunter Valley winemakers creating a new style by embracing the past. Mike De Iuliis of De Iuliis Wines is another who has embraced the Hunter Valley’s heritage and has even leased one of the oldest vineyards in the region – the Lindeman’s Steven Vineyard. The resulting Shiraz is a knockout.
Tourism Australia/Masaru Kitano snaK Productions
If you’re on the cellar door trail, the Scarborough Wine Co. offers one of the best wine-tasting experiences anywhere in Australia. Rather than standing at the bar, you sit and are given a few crackers and cheese to enjoy while an employee talks you through the wines.
One of the most beautiful vineyards anywhere in Australia is Audrey Wilkinson. This old homestead sits at the top of a hill and the vineyards roll down to a dam in front. Winemaker Jeff Byrne is a transplanted Canadian. He is especially passionate about the region’s history and the work of his fellow young winemakers in the Hunter Valley.
Two of the big guns of Australian wine, McWilliams and Tyrrell’s also have large operations in the Hunter Valley. Both are must-sees on any trip through the region. The Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon is still acknowledged as one of the world’s best Semillons, while the winery also turns out some of Australia’s best Shiraz. At McWilliams, the wines are also excellent, with its aged Semillons and Maurice O’Shea Shiraz among the nation’s best.