Nearly 150 wineries cluster around the Lower Hunter Valley and fewer than twenty in the Upper Hunter; almost all offer free wine tastings. Virtually all are open daily, at least between 10am and 4pm, and many offer guided tours. Try to tour the wineries during the week; at weekends, both the number of visitors and accommodation prices go up, and the area can get booked out completely when there’s a concert on in the valley. Listed here are a few more of our favourites, but you’ll inevitably discover your own gems.
A huge range of vineyard tours are on offer, and many of the wineries themselves offer guided tours.
Hunter Valley Day Tours The excellent, long-established Hunter Valley Day Tours (02 4951 4574, huntervalleydaytours.com.au) offers a wine-and-cheese tasting tour, with very informative commentary.
Hunter Valley Resort Runs a recommended wine course, including a tour followed by a tasting instruction tutorial (02 4998 7777, hunterresort.com.au).
Hunter Vineyard Tours The family-run Hunter Vineyard Tours (02 4991 1659, huntervineyardtours.com.au) visits five wineries.
McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate (mountpleasantwines.com.au).
Constable Estate Vineyards Established in 1981 by 2 best friends from England, this small establishment (constablevineyards.com.au) offers unhurried wine tastings. The 30-acre vineyard under the Brokenback Ranges has 5 formal gardens – Sculpture, Camellia, Rose, Herb and Secret; the gardener leads tours.
Drayton’s Family Wines Friendly, down-to-earth winery, established in 1853. All processes are still carried out on site and the excellent free tours guide you through (draytonswines.com.au). A pretty picnic area with wood-fired BBQ overlooks a small dam and vineyards.
Krinklewood Stunning cellar door with European-styled courtyard and gardens – the most beautiful winery in the region (krinklewood.com). Biodynamic Krinklewood does all the classic Hunter varieties of Sémillon, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Shiraz, with younger plantings including French varieties Viognier and Mourvèdre and the popular Spanish Tempranillo.
Mount Broke Wines This boutique winery has recently won awards for its stunning Chardonnay (buy a couple or even a case if you’re here in Dec/Jan when it’s bottled). The pretty courtyard makes a pleasant tasting spot, and lunch can be organized if you phone ahead (02 65791314, mtbrokewines.com.au).
Rosemount Estate Occupying a converted blue church built in 1909, next to a delightful café and art gallery, this intimate cellar-only location offers some of Australia’s best-known award-winning wines grown at its famous vineyards in the Upper Hunter (rosemountestate.com).
Scarborough Small, friendly winery with a reputation for outstanding wines; specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pleasantly relaxed sit-down tastings are held in a small cottage on Hungerford Hill with wonderful valley views (scarboroughwine.com.au).
Tamburlaine The jasmine-scented garden outside provides a hint of the flowery, elegant wines within (tamburlaine.com.au). Tastings are well orchestrated and delivered with a heap of experience.
Tempus Two This huge, contemporary winery – all steel, glass and stone – has a high-tech, urban-chic exterior (tamburlaine.com.au). Owned by Lisa McGuigan, of the well-known winemaking family, whose unique-tasting wines are the result of using lesser-known varieties such as Pinot Gris, Viognier and Marsanne.
Tyrrell’s The oldest independent family vineyards, producing consistently fine wines (tyrrells.com.au). The tiny ironbark slab hut, where Edward Tyrrell lived when he began the winery in 1858, is still in the grounds, and the old winery with its cool earth floor is much as it was. Beautiful setting against the Brokenback Range.
Wyndham Estate A scenic drive through the Dalwood Hills leads to the Lower Hunter’s northern extent, where Englishman George Wyndham first planted Shiraz in 1828. Now owned by multinational Pernod Ricard, there’s an excellent, free guided tour (wyndhamestate.com), which covers the vines and winemaking techniques and equipment, including the original basket press. The idyllic riverside setting – grassy lawns, free barbecues – makes a great spot for picnics and the annual opera concert.