On Tour in the Hunter Valley

By Sarah Gamboni

The Hunter Valley is in hot demand. Follow the itinerary ahead for a top taste of the region, including a handy map to help you on your way.

To explore the Hunter’s 150-odd wineries, base yourself in the central hub of Pokolbin. Start with a visit to James Halliday’s 2017 Winery of the Year, McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant, where winemaker Jim Chatto pays homage to the history of this vineyard and Hunter legend Maurice O’Shea with outstanding single-block shiraz and semillon.

Just up the road, Usher Tinkler’s cellar door (97 McDonald’s Rd, is housed in a restored chapel, offering relaxed tastings of the easy-drinking Nose to Tail range and Reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz, plus bountiful cheese and salumi platters.

Next door at GunDog Estate, try Matt Burton’s rich and complex Rare Game Hunter Valley Shiraz and refined The Chase Semillon.

Take a left at De Beyers Road for Tulloch, where a host of tasting experiences await, including a mystery wine tour, wine and chocolate indulgence, and museum-release wine flights.

At Audrey Wilkinson, discover one of the best views in the region and two chic cottages for accommodation in the heart of the Valley. The Wilkinson family first settled here in 1866, but winemaker Jeff Byrne brings things bang up to date with his cellar-worthy shiraz and textural chardonnay.

Or turn right for McLeish Estate, where Andrew Thomas has been making the estate-grown wines for the past 17 years, including their gold-medal-emblazoned semillon.

Further along, Harkham Wine produces natural, minimal-intervention semillon, chardonnay and shiraz that are the darlings of the Sydney restaurant scene.

Loop back to Lake’s Folly for Rodney Kempe’s distinctive cabernet and chardonnay. With a loyal following and only 4500 dozen made, the wines tend to sell out each vintage. Check the chalkboard out front to see if it’s open.

Visit the Small Winemakers Centre (426 McDonald’s Rd, for tastings of Silkman Wines, Hart & Hunter and The Little Wine Company. Then pop across the road to Brokenwood Wines or around the corner to Meerea Park for elegant shiraz, fine-boned semillon and full-flavoured chardonnay.

At David Hook Wines seek out the Old Vines Pothana Semillon or savoury De Novo Rosso blend of barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese.

Hunter icon Tyrrell’s Wines is next, pouring an extensive array of wines from the Hunter and beyond, including the revered Vat 1 Semillon off 94-year-old vines.

Fine examples of Hunter semillon, chardonnay and shiraz are on show at Leogate Estate’s opulent cellar door, and De Iuliis’s modern, minimalist abode. Enhance your tasting with a matched charcuterie or cheese platter.

Take a seat on the expansive balcony at Keith Tulloch for a tutored tasting overlooking grapevines and the Brokenback Mountain Range, followed by lunch at neighbouring Muse Kitchen.

Nearby, Thomas Wines promises a sleek setting for Andrew Thomas’ exceptional semillon and shiraz.

Beyond Pokolbin, head to Broke for one of the Valley’s best food and wine experiences at Margan Family Wines, serving farm-to-table fare alongside Andrew Margan’s stellar wines.

Other Hunter restaurants of note include Troy Rhoades-Brown’s two-hatted Muse, the memorable degustations at EXP, laid-back Italian at Lillino’s at St Clements Estate, and refined French dining at Bistro Molines.