3 July 2022
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The valley of dreams

Angus Hughson
14 January 2010

For over 150 years, the Hunter Valley has been a wine region of great renown.

With famous names such as Maurice O’Shea, Len Evans and James Halliday having made some tremendous wines there it remains an iconic Australian wine region.

In fact, today more than ever before it is a fabulous place to travel through and taste wines from many boutique and high quality producers. Among the old historic names of Mount Pleasant, Tyrrell’s and Lakes Folly there are also a new breed coming through, such as Andrew Thomas and Meerea Park, who are also now making a name for themselves with some sensational wines.

But the last 20 years has also seen the Valley extend past simple pleasures of the vine to become a vibrant place to visit that offers something for every traveller making it is a must-see destination and one that is conveniently located only 90 minutes north of Sydney.  

First and foremost wine is still the greatest attraction for visitors to the Hunter Valley. All guests, even if they are simply here to play a round or two of golf, will inevitably taste and probably visit at least one cellar door.

The Hunter Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Australia having been first planted in the 1820s.

Ever since its fortunes have ebbed and flowed with a current resurgence as drinkers increasingly look for wines of subtlety and finesse. Before you start tasting, there are a few important features of the local wine industry.

First and foremost, the Hunter Valley is not your average wine region.

While many Australian wine regions make big, full-bodied reds, the Hunter Valley is renowned for medium weight wines that trade more on complexity and subtlety than upfront fruit. But don’t think they won’t age well with wines such as the Andrew Thomas Kiss Shiraz, Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz, Brokenwood’s Graveyard Shiraz and Mount Pleasant Rosehill Shiraz all capable of aging in the bottle over the medium to long term.

There is also the widely misunderstood and low-alcohol Hunter Valley Semillons. These are fresh and lively wines when young that can also age beautifully for up to 15 or 20 years.

Classics worth tasting, and buying, include Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon, Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon, Andrew Thomas Braemore Semillon and Pokolbin Estate Semillon.

But that’s not all that is to be found with grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir also planted with the Cabernet blend and Chardonnay from Lakes Folly regional standouts, and wines that age handsomely.

Cellar doors that should be on every winelover’s itinerary include Lakes Folly, Tyrrell’s, Mount Pleasant, Brokenwood, the Boutique wine centre, the Small Winemakers Centre, Capercaillie and De Iuliis Wines.

Unsurprisingly, the wide assortment of quality wines available has also bought with it plenty of establishments to serve up superb food, in a range of styles. One of the best places to spend a lazy lunchtime is at the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, which is located on McDonalds road and is a part of the McGuigans Cellar Door complex. There you will find a wide assortment of locally made and perfectly ripened cheeses for sale that can be enjoyed at the outdoor seating or if you are really well prepared, relished on a blanket under the trees. Cheese and wine are natural partners and behind the doors at the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, there is a smorgasbord of delights including Branxton Brie and goats cheese dusted in grapevine ash. But don’t stop there because nearby a wide variety of restaurants and cafes for the more serious diner are easily spotted.

The most recent addition is Bistro Molines under the stewardship of local legend Robert Molines. Robert was behind the burners at Robert’s Restaurant for a number of years and has bought his usual flair to the new venture.

Another standout is the two-hat Rock Restaurant, above the Poole’s Rock Cellar Door, where intricate and thought-provoking cuisine is combined with a serene atmosphere and fine wine-list. This is a true fine-dining experience in a country setting.

Inevitably, with so much grand food and wine around the Hunter Valley there are some whom will be looking for a way to burn off some of those extra calories. For visitors with an interest in golf, there are four quality courses that attract players from Australia and overseas. Perhaps the greatest recent addition has been the Greg Norman designed Vintage Golf Club, on McDonalds Road. Other courses worth visiting include the Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club, The Oaks Golf and Country Club and the Hunter Valley Golf and Country Club. Each of these courses is also paired with some luxury accommodation that can act as a base for a tour of the vineyards or a home for the total golf experience.

Talking of accommodation, the Hunter Valley has every level of comfort you could hope to find. At the very top end are venues such as Tower Lodge, the brainchild of the late Len Evans. Guests staying at Tower each have their own themed rooms with the Chairman’s room and Oriental Room the pinnacle of luxury accommodation. There is also a stunning lounge and bar where guests can enjoy the finest of local wines or partake in the odd bottle of Single Malt Whisky, Cognac or Champagne, should the need arise. Other venues of note are the Sebel Kirkton Park, the Crowne Plaza and the stylish Peppers Convent.

While wine tasting is the local hobby there is plenty more to be enjoyed in the Hunter Valley. Adventurers will feel at home with sky diving and ballooning available close to Cessnock. There are also regular concerts with the annual Tyrrell’s Jazz in the vines and Opera at Wyndham Estate. These events plus the stunning local wine and food scene make the Hunter Valley an attraction that is not to be missed on any tour around Sydney.

Important information:This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


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