Exploring New South Wales – Hunter Valley

In the vineyard with Semillon and Oysters

The Hunter Valley is a large region and holds the lions share of wineries when you look at New South Wales. In this region which covers more than 30,000 square kilometres (that’s over 18,000 square miles) you will find more than 150 wineries and cellar doors.

This is the oldest wine growing region in Australia. James Busby, the father of Australian wine, brought cuttings to the region in the 1820’s. Originally known for Riesling and Semillon, the region now produces a wide range of varieties. Semillon, is it’s signature wine. The grapes expression here is like no other region in the world.

When we visited in October of 2019 for the Wine Media Conference, we took a bit of time to explore the region, before, during and after the conference. Here is a bit on the few of the places we had time to visit. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more that we did not have time to get to, but we will drop a link at the bottom to help you find all the other amazing wineries and more in the region.

Muse at Hungerford Winery

We start out with a restaurant. Not just any restaurant, Muse is a dining experience. With a seasonal menu that makes your mouth water just to read and dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat, this is an experience not to miss when you are in the region.

What you find on every beautiful plate is sourced sustainably and locally, with some of the vegetables coming out of the garden on site that they maintain.

The wine list is filled with local wines and it is well worth tasting some of the aged Hungerford Semillons on the list. Did I mention the food is beautiful? I dare you to get through the slide show of our dinner without drooling.

  • Dinner at Muse in Hunter Valley NSW Australia Amuse bouche
  • 1st course at Muse restaurant in the Hunter Valley Australia NSW
  • Dinner at Muse Cured and charred kangaroo, wattleseed yoghurt, mulberry, purple daikon, native pepper berry salad  Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • 2nd course Muse Petuna ocean trout served raw, smoked bonito mousse, Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse entre Slow cooked lamb breast, black garlic glaze, fresh and salt baked beetroot, garlic shoots Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse 3rd Course Barbequed Murray Gold cod, kohlrabi, XO butter, nasturtium seeds, leaves and flowers Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Palate cleanser between courses at Muse in the Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse dessert Red gala apple, miso custard, verjuice caramel, brioche, macadamia, wattleseed Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dessert at Muse Raspberry, white chocolate, rhubarb, wild fennel, liquorice Hunter Valley NSW Australia

Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine is organic. They had been on my radar, and then I met winemaker Aaron Mercer at the opening gathering for the Wine Media Conference. I had an opportunity to taste his wines, while he told me about the winery and their organic vineyards. They work hard to limit their impact on the environment and are one of Australia’s largest organic producers. They do also have some Vegan Friendly wines!

Photos of Tambulaine Cellar door and Winemaker Aaron Mercer

Scarborough

We spent our first afternoon in the Hunter with Jerome (Jer-Oh-Me) Scarborough of Scarborough Wine Co. They are known here for Chardonnay, which is a little atypical for the region. We tasted in their beautiful tasting room on Gillards Road, which was originally the family home. His father Ian, known by most as “Scarbie” is one of the Hunter Valley “Legends”. Scarbie replanted the Gillards Road Vineyard when they took it over, pulling up the Cab and Shiraz and planting Chardonnay on the red clay soils.

Jerome took time with us for a wonderful interview and we look forward to sharing that with you in the future.

The beautiful Scarborough Gillards Rd Vineyard and Jerome Scarborough

Tyrrell’s

Tyrrell’s is one of the oldest wineries in the region. They have been family owned since 1858. Known for their Semillon & Shiraz, the Vat 1 Semillon is one of Australia’s most awarded white wines.

In 1858 Edward Tyrell took up 320 acres of land in the Hunter that he named “Ashmans” which is the name of his maternal grandmothers ancestral home in Suffolk. They built an iron bark slab hut as a residence. The historic building stands today.

If you are looking for history in the Hunter…this is the place.

Tyrrell’s brings the history of Hunter Valley to life in the bottle.

Keith Tulloch

Keith and his wife Amanda got into the wine business back in 1997. They grew the business purchasing the “Field of Mars” vineyard in 2008 and opening their state of the art winery in 2011. Keith Tulloch is a carbon neutral winery. I had messaged with Keith, but he was out of the country during our visit. Brendan their Winemaker took us out into the vineyard to show and tell us about the varieties they are growing, their sustainable methods, show us their insectary garden and then the winery.

We finished with a tasting upstairs at their beautiful cellar door. Cameron their Cellar Door Manager walked us through a tasting, answering all of our in depth questions.

They also have another of the Muse restaurants onsite. This is the Muse Kitchen. They serve lunch most days, and dinner a few days of the week so check ahead of time.

Krinklewood

If you know me you know that I will search out bio dynamic wineries. They are my people. Krinklewood was no exception. We headed out to Broke/Fordwich to meet Rod Windrim, the Vigneron (and owner). We were greeted by the sparkle of mirror balls lining the driveway at the end of each vineyard row. This keeps the birds away and it looks spectacular!

Rod met us and walked us around the property. He is passionate about bio dynamics and sustainability and was happy to talk with me about his views and practices. He took us past the solar panels into the winery, which itself is a pretty spectacular building and we were treated to some barrel tasting before we headed back to the cellar door and the gardens.

There are formal gardens here as well as some stellar organic produce gardens and a peacock or two that wander the property. We finished with a tasting with Rod before he had to jet off to Sydney for a meeting.

Biodynamics and a bit of disco bling at Rod Windrim’s Krinklewood Vineyard.

Brokenwood

We were lucky enough to make a couple of trips to Brokenwood. It’s centrally located and pretty easy to get to.

We did a morning meeting for an interview with Senior Winemaker Stuart Hordern, who is also a Director on the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Board. He came in from the vineyard to tell us about the region and then a bit more about Brokenwood itself.

We visited again for the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event and…once more for dinner on the winery crush pad with a group of wine writers.

This winery was established in 1970 by 3 businessmen from Sydney, one of which was James Halliday, the noted Australian wine writer and critic who is known for Wine Companion, his annual overview on Australian Wine.

Audrey Wilkinson

While at the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event, I met Daniel Byrom. We had a great conversation while he poured me the Audrey Wilkinson wines. He did tell me also that they have a stunning vineyard with the best sunrise shots in the Hunter Valley.

So we got up early and headed out to see the sunrise their ourselves. He was right, it was stunning, as were their wines.

The stunning Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

So much more…

There are so many more wineries in this region. Many we caught up with at the conference like First Creek, de iuliis, Briar Ridge, 1813, Wombat Creek, Whispering Brook, Tulloch, Tintilla, Mount Pleasant, Margan, Thomas, Peter Drayton, Oakvale and so many more. (You can look forward to more on these wineries coming up)

It’s a beautiful region, with lots to do, that sits just 2 hours from Sydney. They have a big concert series in addition to fantastic restaurants, festivals, hot air balloon rides, nature retreats, golfing, spas…there is really something for everyone. For more information visit Hunter Valley Wine Country

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