The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s premium wine regions with some superb wineries to visit. But finding the ones that the locals really love takes a bit more than just getting off that beaten track.
You need to know someone who lives there.
So thanks to our friends in the Hunter wine industry, here are the Hunter Valley wineries to visit that locals love.
In the past, we’ve arrived in the Hunter Valley and just guessed which wineries to visit. Or taken tips from friends here in Sydney.
It’s been a bit hit and miss.
But since making friends with not only locals of the Hunter Valley but actual winemakers here, we’ve got a completely different view of this amazing wine region.
The Scarborough family, who’ve been making amazing Hunter wine for two generations, have shared their favourite wineries to visit with us. You can’t get more local or knowledgeable in the Hunter Valley than that.
So here’s the insider’s scoop on where to go in the Hunter Valley if you want to really experience the region through its wine:
15 Hunter Valley wineries only locals know about
1. Silkman Wines
In spite of its newness (1st vintage released in 2013), Silkman is creating some instantly lovable wines. Owned by husband-and-wife team Shaun and Liz Silkman, this small-batch winery is already taking home awards.
Good for: Semillon, Chardonnay and their Shiraz Pinot Noir blend.
2. Lakes Folly
Started by Dr Max Lake in 1963 and since bought by the Fogarty family. A welcoming little cellar door with wine made from grapes only grown on the estate.
Good for: Chardonnay and Cabernet blend
3. Scarborough Wines
Started by Ian Scarborough and his family in the ‘80s the 2 cellar doors they have are homely and welcoming, and unlike most cellar door experiences, you’re served complimentary cheese and antipasto board with your sit-down tasting. Very civilised.
The Hermitage cellar door also has the most amazing views out over the Brokenback mountain range – a spur of the Great Dividing Range.
Good for: the view but also Chardonnay (the range here is amazing), a beautiful light Pinot Noir and new to the line, a very drinkable Vermentino.
I should mention Scarbie and the family didn’t include themselves in this list. That was our idea!
4. Audrey Wilkinson
Planted in 1866 this is one of the oldest vineyards in Australia and named after the man (yes, it confused me too) that started it all.
Good for: award winning Hunter Semillions.
Book your romantic picnic and tasting master class at Audrey Wilkinson here.
5. First Creek Wines
First Creek have been making wine here for over 20 years and have established a solid reputation for quality wine. The cellar door might not be the most interesting but the wine you get to taste here is well worth it.
Good for: the range. They source the best fruit to make everything from Merlot and Shiraz to sparkling Moscato and Botrytus.
6. Bimbadgen Estate
Set on a hill overlooking the Valley, this striking estate produces some excellent wine with fruit from its own vines and selected contract vineyards. But it also has an award-winning restaurant Ian vouches for too.
Good for: its superb array of whites and reds but also its restaurant Esca.
Why not book a picnic amongst the Bimbadgen vines?
7. Peterson House
A beautiful cellar door overlooking the winery’s lake, Peterson’s is always a popular spot. The sparkling wine selection here is amazing and we always finish off a visit to the Hunter with a quick tasting and a box of six.
Good for: bubbles. Their sparkling rosé and sparkling Shiraz are a lot of fun.
Book a helicopter flight around the Hunter and a stop at Peterson’s House for some breakfast bubbles here.
8. Thomas Wines
Owned by Andrew Thomas, who was named Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year twice so far, this quirky little winery produces some benchmark wines.
Good for: small but cult-forming range of Semillons and the DJV Shiraz.
9. Littles Winery
Formed by 2 families – the Kindreds and the Littles – in 1997, the estate is now solely owned and run by the Kindred family. Open Friday to Sunday their cellar door is very homely and welcoming.
Good for: aged Semillon, Chardonnay and Daisy Hill range.
10. De Iuliis Wines
Pronounced “de oo-lee-iss” the De Iuliis family work on bringing a fresh, small-batch approach to creating their Hunter wines. The cellar door is a large, modern building but the welcome and the service you receive reflects the family’s Italian heritage.
Good for: the view, the Two Fat Blokes cheese & wine experience. For wine, go for Semillon and Hunter style Shiraz.
11. Oakvale Wines
One of the oldest working wineries in the Hunter (since 1893), Oakvale only sells their wines through their cellar door, which is a beautiful country estate style wood build. Interestingly the $5pp tasting fee goes towards the winery’s work with Meals on Wheels.
Good for: Their restaurant EXP. is well worth a look. Their wine range is enormous so there’s plenty to try.
12. Tyrrell’s Wines
The long family history (which you can read about on the website) brings us – among many other things – over 150 years of Hunter Valley winemaking. The Tyrells are very proud of their family history and the cellar door is steeped in the stuff.
Good for: private tasting room (between $5 and $25pp), some of the best-known Australian wine.
13. Tulloch Wines
Family-run since 1838, when James Tulloch – then owner of the local store – agreed to take a debt settlement of 43 acres. The modern-day cellar door offers tastings of the full range of Tulloch wines.
Good for: Verdelho – though the range exclusive to the cellar door looks very tempting.
Book your Wine-maker’s Table experience with Kieth Tulloch himself here.
We’ve been drinking their wines for years, and love their unoaked Chardonnay and Semillon. Started by John Beeston, the late Tony Albert and James Halliday himself in 1970, Brokenwood is now a household name.
Good for: Graveyard Block Shiraz, Semillon and Chardonnay.
Book this amazing behind-the-scenes wine tour with Brokenwood here.
15. McGuigan Wines
One of the Hunter Valley big hitters, McGuigan’s has actually been a family-run outfit since 1880. We find it one of the more approachable cellar doors, perhaps because it’s more like a supermarket inside. The staff are friendly and helpful though, and the wine is very well priced.
Good for: a starting point to cellar door experience, Semillon and reasonable range of reds.
Bonus: Wine House Hunter Valley small winemakers centre
Just opposite Brokenwood in the heart of the Hunter, the Wine House Hunter Valley is where a lot of the vineyards who are too small to have a cellar door go to have their wares marketed and showcased.
Good for: amazing customer service and a chance to try wine you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the Hunter Valley in the same way again after these amazing tips from the Scarboroughs.
It’s really opened my eyes to what’s available in this unique part of the Australian wine landscape.
What’s your favourite Hunter winery? Do you have a top tip for a winery we haven’t mentioned here? Tell us in the comments.
Great list and out of more than 150 wineries it would be hard to choose! Some others worthy of mention I feel would be Travertine Wines ( beautiful setting and fantastic Fiano and Chambourcin), Ivanhoe Wines for its reds and view , Moorebank Private Estate for its Sheila Shiraz, Muscat and homemade lemonade and last but not least Krinklewood Biodynamic , great French setting and great wine! I could go on lol
Hi Christine. Yes, you’re right! I’ve heard Travertine is a beautiful winery. Thank you for the addition. It’s certainly worthy by all accounts. I haven’t heard of the others, so thank you for those as well. Will have to explore further. Ivanhoe, Moorebank and Krinklewood. Excellent. You’re right, there are so many places to choose from in the Hunter Valley, aren’t there? Here’s cheers to another fine Hunter vintage!
Sonia from Sonia Styling
We spent the briefest of weekends in the Hunter a few months ago. We only got to experience First Creek Wines (average looking cellar door, brilliant wines) and Petersons (another average looking cellar door, brilliant wines experience). We must go back and do it properly – with you guys!
Travertine wines are amazing!! My favourite in the Hunter Valley 🙂
Ooh! Travertine! Thanks for the tip, Berny. Will have to check it out next time we’re up.
Cheers – Jim
Mistletoe wines are gorgeous especially the Hunter Rose
Mistletoe. Thanks for that, Naomi. Will check it out – we love a good rosé!
Hello and thank you for this very helpful page! Would you recommend any hotels in the area? Looking for something really nice and not big – like a boutique lodge or hotel.
Hi Vanessa. Thank you for your kind words! My recommendation for a beautiful boutique hotel in the Hunter is the Spicers Vineyards Estate in Pokolbin. The family who run this place – the Stapletons – are lovely and do an amazing job making this a great experience and the perfect place to stay to enjoy the Hunter. Here’s our review of the Spicers Vineyards Estate. Hope this helps.
My new favourite… Tamburlaine Wines … Organic and Preservative Free
Might sound a little cliche… but they actually taste better !
The staff at the cellar door were extremely helpful and knowledgeable and did not push to sell in any way.
The wines are extremely well priced.
Not a sit down and sip wine all afternoon experience – but I will never go to the vineyards again without calling into my favourite vineyard.
That’s awesome, Sue! Yes, they’re excellent, aren’t they? We really enjoyed their wines and their service too. Glad you’ve found a new favourite.
Cheers – Jim
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