Elevate your wine critique with these Hunter Valley wine tours.
When you are mapping your journey to Australia’s oldest growing wine region, you know your senses are destined to go into overdrive. A place of epicurean eats and wonderful wines, New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region is naturally gorgeous with its rolling green hills, mountainous landscapes and sea of vineyards. It’s simply a delight to explore and even more delightful to savour on the palate – as expected.
With over 150 wineries to choose from, it may be a tough call to decide on what cellar door to visit or decadent drops to have. To help shape your decision-making process, we reveal Hunter Valley’s golden triangle of vineyards – Brokenwood Wines, Tyrrell’s and Audrey Wilkinson – each with their own distinct flair with the grape and unique tasting experiences. Better yet, all within a short drive from one another.
Brokenwood Wines may appear ultra-modern on the outside, with its new cellar door the largest in the region; however, its perfected drops have been reputable since 1970. It’s a must-visit when in the area, and its wine tasting experience is no exception.
The private tasting room experience pairs the vineyard’s famous fruit-focused drops with heavenly culinary morsels freshly prepared by the estate’s chef. Not your average canapes with chicken terrine, salmon ceviche, oysters, freshly cut prosciutto palate cleansers.
More of a conversation than a lecture, the host helps guide your nose and mouth through six wines (three white, three red), articulating the aroma and challenging you to realise the secondary flavours of each, focusing on the tang and structure. It is recommended to take notes of the wines’ notes to learn how to curate the flavours hitting your tongue and hone your wine critique skillset. An absolute standout is the 2019 Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay, with its fabulous golden tinge and buttery smoothness. In particular, the estate’s Rome-style reds, the 2018 Tallawanta Vineyard Shiraz, is a must sip.
The wine journey continues with a behind the scenes tour of the winery, putting practice into play, learning about winemaking and trying a pre-release wine straight out of the barrel itself, old school style. Now that’s an authentic drop!
Book: The Brokenwood Journey
Along the foothills of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges is Audrey Wilkinson, one of the oldest wineries in the region, offering a scenic wine masterclass followed by an indulgent picnic. Just BYO partner in crime for this very indulgent afternoon.
A nitty-gritty history lesson in winemaking kicks off with your classroom ‘blackboard’, a picturesque patchwork of vineyards, ponds, and high treetops with the mountain’s silhouettes on the far horizon. This is all the while you sip on some bubbles and feel the sense of place. Class continues with a premium wine tasting session with a wine expert inside, curating the tangs behind each drop.
Once you have selected your favourite wine, you will continue the next part of the experience by consuming your choice at two beautifully pre-arranged secluded picnic settings overlooking the verdant valley to match your mood.
Choose to wine and dine under a leafy canopy surrounded by throw pillows or, if the sun is out, kick back on its wooden lounge all the while you tucker into a generous antipasto spread. We won’t blame you for lingering longer (it’s a popular experience for proposals). However, you will be gifted with a wine signed by the winemaker to saviour the drop for another memorable moment.
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Vertical Experience
This one is for the ultimate wine connoisseurs. The estate may seem humble; a small iron bark hut perched on an apple-green hill catches your eye at first; however, don’t let that tiny landmark fool you: Tyrell’s is a Hunter Valley institution. The multi-generational family estate is the second oldest vineyard in New South Wales, with its first vine planted in the mid-19th century. (The historical hut was founder Edward Tyrell’s place of residence.) From modest beginnings, the 160-year old plus estate now sprawls itself over eight vineyards and is one of Australia’s most renowned producers of Semillon.
Its Vat 1 Vertical Experience focuses on that sheer drop that has made the Hunter Valley world-famous and is Australia’s most distinguished white wine. And if you aren’t a white wine drinker, you may find yourself soon converted!
The experience starts with a tour around the estate, a time-travelling passage through rooms full of wine oak barrels and new age stainless steel vats. What makes the exclusive circuit so unique is the ground that you stand on, the storeroom’s earth flooring, and just admiring how far wine production has come in the region.
The journey continues with six vintage and museum tastings of Tyrrell’s flagship Winemaker’s Selection Vat 1 Semillon, carefully selected from the family’s private cellar. The tastings are hosted in the heritage building, previously the Tyrrell family residence many generations ago, with a private room full of antique furnishings.
The elite wines are paired with a selection of gourmet cheeses to make it more of a traditional tasting, fittingly with its old-fashioned surroundings.
After a day of treating yourself to the finer wines in life, it’s understandable you would want to have a retreat that is just as pleasurable and not so far away from the vineyards.
Set across 25 acres, Leisure Inn Pokolbin Hill is a charming place to call home, set along gentle rolling green slopes with picturesque ponds, gentle mountain slopes and tall woodlands in view. The setting is simply magical come sunset hour and is better enjoyed with a sundowner bevy. Make sure to say hello to the horses too.
The property is comprised of individual self-contained country comfort style villas, each with a kitchenette and outdoor patio to really take stock of the stunning scenery of the Hunter Valley. If you are more into unwind time than wine, there is also a tennis court, swimming pool and BBQ facilities available on-premise.
Leisure Inn Pokolbin Hill is two hours’ drive from Sydney and less than a 10-minute drive to the above wineries, making it an excellent base to explore Hunter Valley’s golden triangle of wineries.
Leisure Inn Pokolbin Hill – 485 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Julia travelled as a guest of Ultimate Wine Experiences Australia and Leisure Inn Pokolbin Hill, and all thoughts and opinions are of her own.
Feature image: Julia D’Orazio
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