There are more than 150 wineries in Hunter, so where do you start? Right here, that's where.
But you’re here for the wine, right? One of the best deals you’ll find in the area comes courtesy Hungerford Hill, which hosts an ‘Epic Tasting Experience’ for curious oenophiles – we say go the Ultimate level, which costs $60 per person and gets you eight wines (including the limited-edition 2013 Barossa Valley shiraz, sold only at the cellar door) paired with six tasting dishes prepared at the award-winning Muse Restaurant on site.
Nick and Rebecca Diamond are your gracious hosts at the Carriages Boutique Hotel, which boasts two buildings – a gorgeous eight-unit country house and a two-unit cottage boasting spacious, well-appointed rooms. They'll pour you a complimentary glass of their award-winning wine at check-in, where you'll likely receive an excited greeting from their friendly border collie Wellington. Many of the rooms boast open fireplaces; order a takeaway pizza from Il Cacciatore (609 Mcdonalds Rd, Pokolbin 2320; 02 4998 7639) down the road – we recommend the pumpkin, zucchini, caramelised onion, gorgonzola and parsley pie – and uncork a bottle from the mini bar for a warm night in. And if you want a lie-in, you're in luck: you don't have to bother with breakfast plans because by 8am the following morning, they'll deliver a basket of freshly baked goodies, yoghurts, muesli and juice to your door. Start your day right by enjoying the spread (and some killer views of the morning mist) on the verandah out the front of your room.
Before heading to the cellar doors, do yourself a favour and book in for a local vineyard tour – on a Segway! Adam Wiseman runs them from the Hunter Valley Resort, and they're a good way to get some local history, as well as a lesson on how to navigate the historical Great North Road convict bush trail on a Segway. The 90-minute trek covers 5.2 kilometres and takes you over gently undulating slopes and to the back of the McGuigan vineyards, where Wiseman will talk you through the tricks of harvesting and you'll get ace views of the nearby Brokenback range.
And don't forget...
Take the scenic route back to Sydney so you can drop by Wollombi Tavern, home to an infamous little concoction known as Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice. But be careful: this potent potable – a tasty port wine mash-up you can drink straight or with a variety of mixers – can knock you to the floor, so be sure you have a designated driver (or don’t order more than one). Grab a burger and some wedges from the kitchen and sit out front to enjoy the passing parade of tourists, locals and the odd country dog on a leash.
Time Out visited the Hunter Valley as a guest of the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association (HVWTA).