Hunter Valley wine tasting tour with Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours
Tantalise your taste buds on this Hunter Valley wine tasting tour, which offers pick-up at various points in and around the Hunter Valley. Taste a wide variety of wines, gourmet cheeses and chocolate during this fabulous full day out — with guided commentary. Duration: 8 hours (approx.)
Postcard-pretty vistas of rolling green fields, charming farmhouses and row after row of grape vines laden with plump fruit one season; gnarly bare beautiful the next — that’s what you can expect on a visit to the gorgeous Hunter Valley.
Australia’s oldest wine region is located two hour’s drive north of Sydney, and is popular as a weekend escape from the big smoke. Deciding which of the region’s 150+ wineries to visit can be a daunting task, but Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours takes care of that. This boutique tour operator specialises in deluxe small-group Hunter Valley wine tasting tours, with convenient pickup points in and around the Hunter Valley region.
The day begins in style as we board our luxury mini-bus fitted with leather seats. An on-board TV playing 80s and 90s music videos sets a fun tone. Owner-operator Suzanne Sheldon is bubbly and professional. She quickly runs us through the day’s itinerary, hands out complimentary bottled water, and ensures all of our group — a mixed bunch of different ages — are comfortable and looking forward to what lies ahead.
Our first stop is Kevin Sobels Wines — housed in a distinctively shaped building of mahogany logs and plate-glass, with an entrance path fringed by rose bushes. Our visit coincides with the Handmade in the Hunter Markets (held here on scheduled Saturdays), where local growers, artists and craftsmen hawk their original wares.
Kevin Sobels Wines is the present-day incarnation of a long line of winemakers, who began growing grapes in the Barossa Valley in the 1800s. Today Kevin Sobels Wines is one of only a few wineries that actually source all of their fruit from the Hunter region itself. The winery grows its own Chardonnay, Semillon and Gewürztraminer grapes.
Our group is ushered into the back bar for a private tasting. We’re greeted by Archie — the loveable resident Saint Bernard, and Jason — a sixth generation Sobel who expertly guides us through the range of sparklings, whites, reds and dessert wines. Favourites include a beautifully balanced petit Verdot, a ‘quartet’ — the winery’s own creation of a fruity yet dry blend of Sauvignon, Chenin blanc, Verdelho and Traminer, and an oak-aged fortified red wine akin to a rich liquid fruit cake.
Next stop on these Hunter Valley wine tasting tours is Ernest Hill Wines — another family run boutique winery, set in buildings splashed in shades of buttercup and vanilla. Our private tasting takes place in a cosy, light-filled room. The walls are adorned with wine awards.
The first wine up is a crisp and refreshing Semillon from a 2016 vintage. Our host Ross explains that vintage doesn’t necessarily mean old; it simply refers to grapes that have been picked (but not necessarily bottled) in a particular season. This range is named after Ross’ father ‘Cyril’. ‘To get your name on a bottle, you have to be deceased and a member of the family’, Ross reveals with a wry smile. His sense of humour carries through to the instructions for us to pour out any leftovers after each tasting. ‘They go to staff drinks later this arvo’, he jokes.
The tastings have whetted our appetites, and Suzanne steers us to Matilda Bay Brewhouse — the region’s first boutique brewhouse, which offers hearty pub fare and an extensive craft beer menu. It’s a relaxing pit-stop to refuel tummies and refresh palates before the second half of our adventure.
Our third and final winery stop is Capercaillie — named after a ground-dwelling Scottish bird in honour of the owners’ Scottish heritage. A long table set with glass goblets awaits us alfresco-style on the verandah, where our host — the effervescent Tina — keep us enthralled with evocative descriptions of each wine’s aroma and potential food matches. The rosé is likened to ‘strawberry wine’ that goes well with Mediterranean grazing platters (perhaps prosciutto, Kalamata olives and creamy feta); while the merlot has sweet plum flavours and a floral aroma — ‘almost like violets on the nose’.
Tina explains that all Capercaillie’s estate-grown fruit is handpicked. Producing around 60,000 bottles a year (small by large winery standards), Capercaillie only sells their range through their cellar door and wine club.
An unexpected highlight of our visit is the food truck parked on site. The bite-sized morsels of crispy, deep-fried pumpkin served with truffled mayo are sensational!
Our winery visits are done, but no tour of the Hunter would be complete without checking out two other well-known foodie destinations — the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop and the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. The former — located in the slick Roche Estate complex of wineries, bars and restaurants — is bustling with tourists queueing for local olive and cheese tastings.
The latter offers all things chocolate — including the company’s own range, which is made on the premises. We try mini patty pans of white, milk and dark treats, and there’s the chance to watch fudge being made by hand.
It’s a fitting finish to what has been a sweet day out.
Cindy travelled as a guest of Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Cindy Bingley-Pullin considers herself a writer, wanderluster, corporate bee and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office and washing cot sheets at home, she pursues her combined passions of travel and freelance writing. Her work appears in publications such as Virgin Australia’s Voyeur, International Traveller and Fitness First magazines, and the Sydney Morning Herald. To date, her travels have taken her everywhere from the ancient Angkor Wat temples at dawn to the soaring skyscrapers of NYC at dusk, and from sleeping under the stars in central-west NSW to dining at Michelin-starred restaurants in the south of France.