Known as “Wine Country,” Hunter Valley in New South Wales is the oldest wine region in Australia. Home to more than 150 wineries, travelers won’t be short of places to visit, and there’s plenty on offer too: private tastings, wine tours, gourmet food shops and more fine dining restaurants than you can shake a fork at.
Ideal for a couple’s weekend away, Hunter Valley has got romance down to a fine art. From wining and dining to scenery and history, couples won’t be disappointed. This excerpt from the Hunter Valley 2013 Visitor’s Guide captures the experience pretty well: “Evocative, engaging and frankly quite delicious, the Hunter Valley is truly a feast for the senses. The region is the ultimate escape, a sophisticated adult playground that invites you to laugh a little louder, drink a little better, breathe a little deeper and love a little more.”
Sleep: Hermitage Lodge
Stay right in the midst of sprawling vineyards in award-winning, boutique accommodation at Hermitage Lodge. Within an impressive, 25-acre site you’ll find Lodge Rooms, Studios and Suites, many of which come complete with large, oval spa tubs. The best parts of the rooms are the balconies, which practically extend right on top of the grape vines.
The private feeling you get at Hermitage Lodge is a huge part of its charm. You could go your whole stay without seeing a single other guest. An added bonus is that you can wonder down to a number of Pokolbin’s great wineries on foot. Remember to try one of the home-grown bottles of Shiraz that you’ll find in your room – best enjoyed from the comfort of your private balcony whilst admiring the vineyard view.
Lunch: The Olive Tree Restaurant
Open only on weekends, a Sunday breakfast or lunch at The Olive Tree Restaurant is a must. Eat off antique crockery in a stylish country setting with the option of sitting either indoors in the cosy, brick dining room, or outside on shaded picnic tables. Like many vineyard eateries in the Hunter Valley, this one has very specific opening hours (they open for lunch on Saturdays, 12 pm to 3 pm, and for breakfast and lunch on Sundays, 10 am to 3 pm), but boy does it impress when it is open.
Set into the scenic vineyards of Wyndham Estate Winery, The Olive Tree Restaurant has a rustic, Mediterranean menu with both breakfast and lunch options. All of the products used are fresh and many have been sourced locally, like the Hunter Valley olive oil, which you can also purchase in The Olive Tree Restaurant’s deli shop. For a deliciously hearty breakfast, choose the free-range eggs with Italian sausage, bacon, mushrooms, roast truss tomatoes and ciabatta. Or if you’re there for lunch, try the confit duck leg with cassoulet of chorizo, beans, pumpkin and shallots.
Wine Tasting: Scarborough on Hermitage
Wine tasting at Scarborough on Hermitage is a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon. Although particularly famous for Chardonnay and Shiraz, the Scarborough Wine Co. also make Semillon, Verdelho and Pinot Noir, all of which you’ll get to try when you pop down for a tasting in their homely but contemporary vineyard premises.
Although Scarborough on Hermitage is open 10 am to 5 pm (Thursday to Monday), it’s a nice idea is to head down at about 4 pm to enjoy a tasting just in time for sunset. After sampling a selection of their wines, choose your favourite and buy a bottle to enjoy on the grassy patch at the top of the hill. From here you can sip away at your new purchase while watching the sun go down – if you ask nicely, the staff at Scarborough on Hermitage might even put together a cheese board for you to take along.
Vineyard Tour: Vineyard Shuttle Service
What’s the only thing better than going to one winery? Going to a lot of wineries! And when it comes to choosing the best wineries to check out during your stay in Hunter Valley, you might want to go with an organised tour group to take the guesswork out of things. Vineyard Shuttle Service runs half and full-day tours where you’ll visit a number of renowned wineries, travelling between them on an air-conditioned bus. Do the half-day tour to see 3-4 wineries, or a full-day one to visit 5-6, both with options to try cheese and chocolates along the way.
Begin the day by hopping on the Vineyard Shuttle Service bus at Hermitage Lodge and from there on everything’s taken care of, and all travelers have to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the handpicked selection of the Hunter Valley’s finest vineyards.