There are more than 150 wineries in Hunter, so where do you start? Pack you bags and set your Google Maps for the Hunter Valley, a fertile wine region just north of Sydney, and follow our lead.
If there was an award for the most picturesque winery in the Hunter, Audrey Wilkinson would win it hands down. Best of all, the wines inside the country-house tasting room stand tall as well. Semillion, chardonnay and shiraz are all stand outs, while the winery also produces an interesting Gewurztraminer that’s worth a look.
The venue of many a great concert in the Hunter, Bimbadgen Estate is also a stop for tastings, eating and swirling. The tasting rooms are spacious, the estate wines hit the mark – try the semillon, chardonnay, verdelho, shiraz and shiraz viognier, with the latter being one of the best examples of that blend in the Valley – and Esca restaurant serves a great Mod-Oz lunch and dinner.
All hail chardonnay! Dating back to 1975, Brokenwood may be known for its Cricket Pitch red, but the real standouts are the chardonnays from Beechworth (Vic), Hunter Valley and Orange (NSW). Expect fruit-driven wines that have a good acidic balance. While the Hunter cellar door can get busy on weekends, the staff are friendly and find a way to offer a pleasant experience even when there’s hordes.
Look out for the magpie: that’s when you know you’ve found a gem of a boutique producer in Lovedale, known for its shiraz and semillon. The chardonnay is also a standout, as is the merlot. The small cellar door has the feeling of a country house and alongside serving samples of wine, gourmet products from across the Hunter are also on sale. There’s also a café that’s open for breakfast and lunch.
Natural wine is everywhere right now, and there’s a reason for that: it’s totally delicious. Harkham Wines in the Hunter Valley is one of our favourite producers, and it’s also one of the closest wineries to Sydney that produces natural drops. The best thing about Harkham? It has a restaurant and accommodation, so you can drink to your liver’s content, as there’s no need to drive anywhere afterwards.
Make your way through the picturesque gardens and into the cellar door where you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This family-owned, biodynamic winery makes as cracker of a rosé from 100 per cent estate-gown vines. The basket press shiraz, semillon and chardonnay also all stand-out at a winery where you could be mistaken for thinking you’ve journeyed to France.
The shiraz is the big star at Meerea Park, a winery known for its sandstone tasting cottage and its spicy reds. Don’t leave without having tasted the Alexander Munro Shiraz, named after the great grandfather of winemaker Rhys Eather. There’s a good range of single-vineyard wines alongside the Alexander Munro, and also try wines from the Aunts and Hell Hole vines.
The Tallawanta Grand Reserve Shiraz is the king at this winery: expect to be walking out the door with a bottle. After sampling the single vineyard Tallavera Shiraz, and stocking up on a top reserve Semillon, enjoy a top dinner at the excellent Circa 1876 restaurant, where you can dine while watching kangaroos frolic among the vines outside.
Up on the hill and overlooking the Valley, you could be forgiven for paying too much attention to the view at this top cellar door. But you better sit down and taste some wine (that’s how it’s done here) and get your beak into all three chardonnays Scarborough produces. Don’t skip past the shiraz, or the pinot noir rosé that’s a chilled red star in this Valley.
The brainchild of the McGuigan winemaking family, Tempus Two has a strikingly-designed cellar door, tree-lined driveway and top quality wines. Look for the copper series, complete with copper wine labels, led by the grenache shiraz mourvedre and Wilde Chardonnay. Next door, swing by Oishii Japanese restaurant.
Natural beauty is one of Sydney's best assets, so it makes sense you'd want to experience a night or two in the city's great outdoors. Fortunately, camping around Sydney is not only possible, it's often very affordable. Check out our edit of the city's best camping sites for the chance to wake up next to the Harbour, adjacent to crashing waves, or deep in a national park.