Wine lovers keep reading!
The Hunter Valley is less than a 2 hour drive out of Sydney and is home to about 150 cellar doors. You would be pretty hard pressed to visit all of them in one holiday but I’d be happy to take up the challenge.
If you don’t have a designated driver, the best way to explore the area (by area I really mean cellar doors) is on an organised tour. Whilst some people may like a tour with a set timetable and schedule, I prefer the hop on hop off type where you can choose which places to visit along the route and decide how long you want to spend at each place.
We booked a tour with Hunter Hopper mainly because their price was unbeatable. We both purchased a ticket for the day, which was a Saturday, for A$45 each and were able to use the tickets again the next day, Sunday, for no additional cost. 2 for the price of 1. What a bargain! Hunter Hopper have two routes and the bus stops at each location each hour.
The bus collected us in the morning from our accommodation, the Wine Country Tourist Park. If you are not staying in or around Cessnock you will need to check with Hunter Hopper about pick ups. It was a really rainy day and there weren’t many people on the bus. The driver was super friendly and asked us what sort of wine we like and put together a suggested list of the cellar doors we may like to visit. He also checked if we wanted lunch, what sort of thing we would like to eat, and recommended a great place to grab a bite whilst tasting yet more wine.
We visited the following cellar doors on the Saturday:
- Petersons Wines on Broke Road
- Leogate Estate Wines – gorgeous building and some amazing wines
- Glandore Estates – stopped here for a wood fired pizza. So tasty!
- Scarborough Wine Co – massive flight of wines where we tasted over 13 in one sitting.
- Thomas Wines – produce wines using only Shiraz and Semillon grapes
- Lisa McGuigans Wines
What was great about the Hunter Hopper service was that it was really flexible. A few times the driver came to collect us but we hadn’t finished our tastings. No problem, he said, I’ll go collect some other people and be back in about 20 minutes. Superb!
We ventured home about 4pm feeling a bit squiffy (to be expected!) and had an early night ready for the next day of wine tasting.
On Sunday we were picked up from our campsite again but had a different driver. A friendly, chatty lady who provided another list of suggested cellar doors to visit based on the ones we had visited the day before. That day we visited the following:
- Tamburlaine Organic Wines – apparently organic means less of a hangover…
- Ivanhoe Wines – small producer with a great range of wines. I pretty much liked everything!
- Lindemans – we ate a pizza here. One was sufficient for two people. We even took some home.
- Tempus Two – a large, modern and very popular/busy cellar door
- Roche Estate
A wine producer not on the Hunter Hopper tour routes but definitely worth a visit, particularly if you are staying at the Wine Tourist Caravan Park, as it is only down the road, is Hanging Tree Wines. We walked there the afternoon we arrived in the Hunter Valley, spent several hours tasting wine and made our way back to the campsite with two bottles of wine and two new friends who were staying three pitches along from us!
After two days of wine tasting, we may have only visited 7% of the cellar doors in the area but we had some favourites that we would recommend visiting if you are in the area.
Ivanhoe Wines – a small family run wine producer. We came home with a bottle of the 2017 Chivalry and the 2015 Swordsman Shiraz. Lovely views from the verandah looking over the vines.
Leogate Estate Wines – beautiful tasting room, restaurant and even the bathroom was stylish! We had a tour around the premises and our tasting host was really personable and entertaining. We even got to try the 2014 “The Basin” Reserve Shiraz, which is also served in first class on Qantas, and the 2014 “Western Slopes” Reserve Shiraz which both retail at A$115 each.
Hanging Tree Wines – small boutique producer in a lovely setting. We tried all the wines they had available and the tasting was free. Our tasting host was really knowledgable and had a good bit of banter.
Happy wine tasting!