On a recent trip up Australia’s East Coast, I was lucky enough to spend a day in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s oldest wine regions.
While a few hours are certainly not enough to drink or eat your fill around this awesome region, here are a few of my favourite wineries to check out if you get the chance. Pro tip: it’s pretty great passing through the region on an Adventure Tours trip, as you don’t need to worry about staying under the blood alcohol limit and driving.
1. Audrey Wilkinson
Touted as one of the best views in the Hunter Valley, Audrey Wilkinson has stunning views of the Brokenback Mountains and some pretty delicious wine. The winery is over 150 years old, so it’s no surprise that these guys know a thing or two about a decent drop. Audrey Wilkinson himself was only a teenager when he took over the family vineyard, but he certainly developed a name for himself. He died in the 1960s, but the vineyard has continued to go from strength to strength, winning awards such as Top 10 Cellar Door from Gourmet Traveller. Well-known for their Chardonnay and Tempranillo, you can drop by for a tasting, or stop for food and wine with a view.
2. Scarborough Wines
Scarborough Wines cellar door kind of feels like stopping in at a friend’s place for a cheeky glass of wine after work – if your friend had impeccable food and wine and stunning vineyard views. But it’s cosy and homely and the staff are friendly and up for a chat. Scarborough are known for their Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz – all classic Hunter Valley varieties. Plus, when you do a tasting, you get a complimentary cheese platter to go with it. WHO doesn’t love free, delicious cheese?
3. Pepper Tree Wines
While Pepper Tree may be a relative newcomer to the Hunter Valley, it’s by no means any less worthy of a visit. Started in 1991, Pepper Tree is lucky to have award-winning winemaker Gwyn Olsen behind the barrels, whose passion for the Hunter Valley wine industry is unparalleled. Visitors to the area can expect a relaxed, quaint cellar door with pretty gardens to explore and plenty of wine to try. The Shiraz is not to be missed by red lovers and the Semillon is a must-try for white drinkers.
4. Tyrrell’s Wines
Like many of the wineries in the Hunter Valley, Tyrrell’s Wines cellar door is not only chock-full of tasty wines, but also comes with a side of fascinating history. When you visit, you can take a tour to see the original oak vats and the red cellar that are still used today in the vino-making process. The vineyard was originally started by Edward Tyrrell; you can even check out the iron bark hut he used to live in. Don’t miss out on tasting their Semillon – it’s hyped as Australia’s ‘most’ awarded white wine. Mmm.
5. Oakvale Wines
Oakdale is all about ‘minimal intervention’ wines. Basically, this means less chemicals and additions to the wine, to make sure it’s as pure as possible (which I took to mean a less severe hangover!). Their vineyard is vegan-friendly and ethically run, which makes it the perfect stop for responsible travellers. And their cellar door is dog-friendly, so aside from tasting wines, you may also get the opportunity to pat a pooch or two – you can’t beat that.
A newer vineyard by the Hunter Valley’s standards, Brokenwood’s cellar door is casual, with plenty of award-winning wines to try. In particular, their Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz is a consistent high-achiever at wine awards nights, having been graded with the highest honour at the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine since 1991. At the cellar door you can purchase wine that has food pairing suggestions – the perfect justification for buying a few different bottles to road-test with different meals back home.
Hero image by Andrey Bayda via Shutterstock.