Living in Sydney, I have been to the Hunter Valley many times. For weddings, hen’s parties, with friends, as a couple, as a family and for experience activities such at hot air ballooning, husky running and music festivals.
Accommodation is best sorted in a group as there are many houses to rent on different estates. However if there are only a few of you, Cypress Lakes Resort and Harrigan’s Irish Pub offer more expensive hotel accommodation.
Most of the wineries are centred around the Pokolbin region, so plan your trip if you don’t want to be wasting time driving from one end of the valley to another. For a quieter trip with less of a wait at the cellar door, try the Lovedale region.
Not every winery serves food, so if you’re not self catering at a homestay, make sure you plan to visit a winery that serves meals around lunchtime, head for Hunter Valley Gardens for a cheap eat or visit the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop for some night-time nibblies.
There are over 150 wineries in the Hunter Valley and I’ve been to about a third of them. There is no accounting for taste and even though these are my top 10 wineries, they may not be yours.
I’ve also had a couple of days where we went to 7 wineries in a day, so by then end you don’t really know what you’re tasting. I recommend no more than 5 wineries per day, and of course, have a designated driver or hire one to take you on a tour.
- Tintilla Estate
By far my favourite winery in the Hunter Valley for red wines is Tintilla Estate. They have many varieties, including my favourite Sangiovese’s and Tempranillo’s. Most times, a trip to the Hunter Valley isn’t complete for me without a visit here to stock up.
- Scarborough Wine Co
Scarborough is my favourite vineyard in the Hunter Valley for white wines. They have many different varieties from soft to bold creamy Chardonnay’s and the way they set up the tasting with a placemat for each wine is genius. I once took a non-white drinker here and by the end of the tasting they were converted.
- First Creek Wines
First Creek is one of my new favourites. The setting is beautiful as they often have kangaroos hopping by in nearby fields and a horse drawn cart out the front. The cellar door overlooks the winemaking facilities and the relaxed atmosphere makes the wines taste all the more sweet.
- Tatler Wines
The owner of Tatler made this a winery to remember for me. Not being a big fan of dessert wines, he taught me a trick: add ice, swirl and the taste is completely different.
- Marsh Estate
Unfortunately, I believe Marsh Estate is no longer open. When it was, it was only open 6 months of the year as the owner was a surfer who spent the other 6 months chasing waves. The wines were expensive, but worth it.
- Hope Estate
Hope Estate is now well known as it hosts many outdoor live music concerts. The wine is reasonably priced and the cellar door is roomy.
- Keith Tulloch
For a nice relaxed wine on the balcony, Keith Tulloch is my pick.
- Peterson Champagne House
Champagne, oysters and a chocolate shop next door- what’s not to like? Perfect for a hen’s party and many different types of yummy traditional method champenoise to try.
- De Bortoli Wines
Well known for its award winning Hunter Valley Semillon and classic Hunter Shiraz. It also has an infamous wine dog.
- Gartelmann Hunter Estate
Another new favourite, Gartelmann has a lovely woodland setting and cute Magpie mascot.
Related posts: It’s a winery thing, Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley, 10 things to do in the Gold Coast, 10 things to do in Melbourne, 10 things to do in Sydney, 10 things I have learnt from travelling, Marlborough to Akaroa, 2012