Tag Archives: Hunter Valley

10 top wineries to go to in the Hunter Valley

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Keith Tulloch

For a nice relaxed wine on the balcony, Keith Tulloch is my pick.

  1. 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.

  1. De Bortoli Wines

Well known for its award winning Hunter Valley Semillon and classic Hunter Shiraz. It also has an infamous wine dog.

  1. Gartelmann Hunter Estate

Another new favourite, Gartelmann has a lovely woodland setting and cute Magpie mascot.

Happy tasting!

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

Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley

I had wanted to go hot air ballooning for a long time. I saved up birthday and Christmas money for 2 years and finally had enough for the ride and some nice accommodation in the Hunter Valley. I jumped on Red Balloon straight away and booked the experience with Balloon Aloft and then counted down the days until it was time to take flight.

The excitement started the night before when you have to check in by phone at 6pm to make sure the next days flight is going ahead and to confirm you were coming.

The next day I woke at only a little earlier time than usual at just before 5am- yes, my name is Roshan and I have a toddler. I drove myself to Peterson’s Champagne House to check in in person with my pilot Richard, by all accounts a very experienced hot air balloon pilot who had flown everywhere from the Swiss Alps, to, well, the Hunter Valley.

There was 20 to a balloon basket, so our team, the blue team, piled into our allotted bus and we drove to the first launch site to release a test balloon- the same as the ones you get at kids parties- except with a red light on it.

The wind was not right, so we were driven past Margan and Cockfighters Ghost to another launching site in Broke which was nestled at the foot of a very nice looking mountain range.

We got off the bus into a very chilly field, just as the sun started rising. And then we all spread out the balloon in a fashion reminiscent of the parachute game I used to play at school.

I met a balloon enthusiast and his wife, who had been ballooning in my dream destination, Capadocia, plus also Egypt and a few other places. They were planning for Portugal or Morrocco next.

Our balloon was inflated with cold air by dangerous looking and noisy fans. While this was happening I watched 3 other balloons be inflated and take off into the dawn. It was a beautiful sight and you could almost feel your spirits lifting up with the balloons as they went. My excitement built as I knew we would soon be joining them in the air.

Richard added hot air to the now inflated balloon, using four gas cylinders and then the basket started lifting from horizontal to vertical and it was time for all the passengers to jump in quickly before the man on the ground holding the balloon was taken away. I had to switch sides and was scared the balloon would take off without me.

And then we lifted up and drifted off. It was so quiet and still that you could hear dogs barking in the nearby farms.

We floated around, away from the mountains that now had the early morning sun shining over them.

Taking in the other balloons drifting around us and the shadow of our own in the fields.

The scenery was shrouded by early morning fog that lifted to expose vines, farmland and kangaroos, just waking up and hopping around.

A camera suspended on the balloon took a group photo and I took a terrible selfie shot.

We flew up and down and through the valley taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the moment.

The silence only punctuated by the occasional burst of gas into the balloon to keep us afloat.

Before too long, it was time to land in a friendly field with enthusiastic cattle dogs and startled kangaroos. We braced in the landing position, took a couple of hops and then it was all over.

Time to pack up the balloon- a lot harder than unravelling it- and head back to Petersons for a champagne breakfast with chocolate. We were also given a thoughtful thank you pack with discounts at other wineries and shops for rest of the day.

What a great experience, definitely not one for adrenalin junkies. More peaceful than I thought it would be, I was glad that I had done it. Now, just to get myself to Capadocia for round two.

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Change is the new black

This year has been a year of changes for me. One of realisations, discoveries and learnings.

I have realised the strangeness of my past and accepted those things I cannot change. Rather than dwelling on what was not, instead I am looking towards what can be in the future and how I can change the patterns of the past.

I have discovered strength in myself that I never knew I had, as well as several professional strengths that I sort of knew were always there. Clarity of, and confidence in, these strengths is what will lead me to my next adventure in the New Year.

I have learnt how to be flexible and change my approach. A different path forged can sometimes be lonely, but prioritising what is important to you helps lead the way.

I have realised the greatness of people around me once again. Conversation, human nature and the desire of the majority to be friendly, helpful and kind.

I have discovered the joy of a little growing person who I actually get a kick out of spending time with. Going to the movies, the zoo or just being at home.

I have learnt a new appreciation of the city I live in. Drinking, dining and boating on the harbour. Date nights, work outings and hanging with friends.

The biggest change has been the discovery of exercise. That’s right, you heard it here first, this non-gym goer now has a personal trainer and loves it!

This year has also been a year of domestic travel. Back on the wine trail in Tasmania, the Barossa and the Hunter Valley with good friends and my small family of three.

Next year I look forward to more of the same, plus hopefully more international travel to destinations unknown. I can’t wait to realise my own potential, discover the value of a mentor and learn more about other people and places.

I have definitely achieved my end of year goals from 2014 of trying to appreciate the little things and dream bigger about the big things, beyond even what I had thought was possible.

Yes, change has definitely been the new black for me in 2015 and may 2016 continue this exciting trend.

Catch you in the New Year, and as always, thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I can’t take credit for the title of this week’s blog post, but it got your attention didn’t it?!

P.S Thanks to all the website owners that have published my 2015 travel tales from Barcelona, traveling with kids, Sri Lanka and closer to home.

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Australia vs New Zealand

There is a long-standing rivalry between Australia and New Zealand that I am sure goes deeper than if you play AFL or Rugby.

The first time I visited Auckland, I couldn’t help but see similarities between Viaduct Harbour and Sydney Harbour. Both cities also have tall viewing towers and a park called the Domain. I thought Auckland was basically Sydney, about 20 years ago.

Many New Zealanders actually come to Sydney to work for a while, and it was through these people that I learnt what Pinky bars were and discovered the differences in our accents.

Of course, you should never compare countries, but it’s human nature to do so.

They have kiwi’s and we have kangaroos. We have the better beaches, but they have the better snow. Historically, the New Zealander relationship with their native culture- the Maori’s- has been much more progressive than our relationship with the Aboriginals. Part of the New Zealand national anthem is sung in Maori and the haka is performed before rugby games.

They have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and we have Hunter Valley Semillon. We have desert and they have glaciers. Australia was a well-known filming destination for movies such as The Matrix, but it seems like New Zealand has now cornered the market with productions like The Hobbit.

Australians are often accused for taking credit for New Zealand talent, such as Crowded House and Russell Crowe; but can we help it if global perception naturally attributes these to Australia?

After recently exploring more of New Zealand, I have fallen in love with the city of windy Wellington and the small town of Akaroa. Driving around the South Island, I was struck by the natural beauty of the country, and of the west coast in particular which reminded me so much of the west coast of Canada.

I would love to go back and explore Milford Sound and Mt Cook.

I hope that the rivalry between Australia and New Zealand is just skin deep. Personally, I like both countries and can see the advantages of each culture. Isn’t it time we all just got along?

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It’s a winery thing

This month I am super excited to be going on a winery weekend away to the Barossa with a couple of my besties. This will be my third visit to the well-established wine region and it is my favourite in Australia so far due to its historical charm (i.e. old buildings).

I am an avid weekend wine tripper from way back and my husband and I have systematically worked our way around most of the states in Australia by wine region.

We have been to the Hunter Valley 6 times which is known for its Shiraz and Semillon and will be returning in June to prune my husband’s adopted vine at Drayton’s Family Wines. We also travelled to Tasmania in January to check out the Sauvignon Blanc down there.

I’ve sipped Pinot Noir at the Mornington Peninsula (Victoria) Winter Wine festival and had a personalised bottle of champagne made for me the French way. I’ve shared a Chardy with a famous wine dog at Voyager Estate in the Margaret River, WA, learned what a GSM is in McClaren Vale (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) and how to appreciate a good Riesling in the Clare Valley, SA. Next on the list is the Yarra Valley in VIC.

We usually drag a group of friends along with us and I’ve converted a red drinker to a white drinker and myself from a white drinker to a multi drinker in the process.

So what keeps me coming back for more winery trips?

Wine regions are typically set in scenically beautiful areas and are a great way to see the landscape away from the major cities. I always enjoy discovering a new part of the country this way.

It can be a lovely romantic trip for two and is also a great relaxing weekend away with friends. Even if we have been to a wine region before, going with different people usually means finding new hidden gems along the way.

Most wine regions also have good food to go with their great wine. Some of Australia’s best restaurants seem to be popping up in wine regions.

It’s also not a bad option with the kids. They don’t get bored, you can get tipsy during the day with free tastings (with one designated driver of course) and return to your self-catered apartment at night to polish off some new wine and cheese purchases from the day.

And of course it is the opportunity to try some different wines that peaks our interest. Each winery is a new cellar door to explore and new varieties I’ve never heard of to taste. Discovering a new favourite wine to enjoy when you get back home is one of the best ways to keep the memory of a good trip lasting.

Beautiful surroundings, great friends, good food and tasty wine- what’s not to love?

I can almost taste that Barossa Shiraz now…

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