Within easy reach from Sydney, the Hunter Valley has long been a popular destination for those seeking historic estates, ageworthy wines and top dining, all in bucolic surrounds. The region is diversifying too, with fresh talent and new styles of wine cropping up all the time.
If your timeframe is tight, however, there are a few must-visit spots to pop on your itinerary. The heritage of this 180-year-old wine region is a big part of its identity, and the wineries ahead get to the heart of what that’s all about.
James Halliday helped to found this Hunter Valley winery in 1970. Since then, Brokenwood has consistently been recognised for its exceptional wines, with notable labels including the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz and the ILR Reserve Semillon. Now, you can be among the first to experience those icons in Brokenwood’s highly anticipated new tasting space, which has just swung open its doors. The spacious, multi-part building features several circular ‘tasting pods’, a lookout and education space, and a wine museum with floor-to-ceiling glass walls allowing you to take in the action of the barrel hall below. There are two dining venues to accompany the wine offering – the casual Cru Bar + Pantry, and the seafood-focused Wood Restaurant, where you can also take jumping-fresh produce from the Sydney Fish Market away (perhaps to enjoy with a bottle of Brokenwood Semillon back at your stay). There’s also the option to enjoy a picnic pack on the lawn – great for parents who want to relax while kids play.
Perfect for: an up-to-the-minute experience of one of the Hunter’s most celebrated labels. Open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm, and Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 5pm.
On pour: semillon, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, rosato nebbiolo, pinot noir, sangiovese and shiraz.
brokenwood.com.au | 401 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin | 02 4998 7559
Winemaker Andrew Thomas of the eponymous label has been instrumental in elevating the quality of wine in the Hunter Valley, and he’s hugely respected among the community here. Andrew is also the brain behind the iconic Braemore Vineyard Semillon, which is regularly the subject of superlative reviews and high ratings, and which has excellent cellaring potential. For a serious education in Hunter semillon and shiraz, the in-depth tasting at Thomas Wines is not to be missed. Another reason to come is for the cellar door’s offering of large formats and rare back vintages, which will make an enviable addition to your Hunter haul. Due to the intimate nature of the setting, groups of six or more people should call ahead, and the environment is friendly to families and pets.
Perfect for: wine geeks wanting a first-hand understanding of the region’s hero varieties. Open daily from 10am to 5pm.
On pour: semillon and shiraz.
thomaswines.com.au | Hermitage Rd x Mistletoe Lane (in Estate Tuscany), Pokolbin | 02 4998 7134
Audrey Wilkinson is a 150-year-old estate set in the foothills of the Brokenback Range, featuring a winery museum, a cellar door serviced by friendly, knowledgeable staff, and two cosy cottages. As one of the region’s oldest and best-rated wineries, with the added appeal of unbroken views of the mountainous surrounds, this is a must-visit on the Hunter Valley wine trail. It’s also the only winery in the region to be listed in the Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia. Tailor your stop here to suit your timeframe, choosing a snappy half-hour tasting, or a two-hour winery tour showing the grape’s journey from vine to bottle, with the option to try juice straight out of the barrel. If you have a weekend, stay at the onsite accommodation to wake up to the serenity of this stunning countryside.
Perfect for: taking in some of the Valley’s best views, with a glass of wine in hand. Open daily from 10am to 5pm.
On pour: chardonnay, shiraz, semillon, tempranillo, verdelho, pinot noir, rosé and moscato.
audreywilkinson.com.au | De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin | 02 4998 1866
Find everything you need to know about the Hunter Valley in our essential guide.