15 Hunter Valley wineries only locals know about

The Hunter Valley – only a couple of hours from Sydney – is one of Australia’s premium wine regions. But the challenge we tend to face when we explore wine country is choosing which cellar door to visit. Thanks to our new friends in the Hunter, we’ve got the insider’s tips on where to go.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

In the past, we’ve arrived in the Hunter Valley then sort of looked at each other, shrugged and then just driven up the first driveway that offers a cellar door.

It’s been a bit hit and miss.

What would’ve been better would be to have researched our trip more… a bit like what you’re doing now. Well done! But that’s still easier said than done.

Not only is wine a very subjective area, what one person experiences at a cellar door can be completely different to how the next person feels. Researching something so subjective can be “like fitting wheels to a tomato: time-consuming and utterly pointless.” (Thank you, Black Adder!)

Instead, we prefer to rely on local knowledge. And you can’t get more local or knowledgeable in the Hunter Valley than the Scarborough family, who’ve been making amazing Hunter wine for 2 generations.

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:

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

5. First Creek Wines

First Creek have been making wine here for almost 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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

7. Botanica Winery

Part of the beautiful Botanica restaurant at the Hunter’s Spicers Vineyard Retreat, Botanica’s wine is something quite special. The grapes are all laboriously handpicked by Executive Chef Mark Stapleton and whoever he can convince to help him.

He tried to talk us into it for next harvest but I think we’ve got something on! There’s no cellar door to Botanica, so the best way to taste their wine is over a good meal served in the restaurant!
Good for: excellent Chenin Blanc.

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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

9. Littles Wines

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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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. – reviewed here by SoniaStyling.com 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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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.

14. Brokenwood

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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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: Small Winemakers Centre

Just opposite Brokenwood in the heart of the Hunter, the Small Winemakers Centre 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.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 15 best Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors the locals love

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!

Images by Mrs Romance using an OM-D E-M10 Olympus camera.

11 Comments

  • Reply September 22, 2015

    Christine Eccles

    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

    • Reply September 24, 2015

      Mr Romance

      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!
      Jxx

  • Reply September 24, 2015

    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!

  • Reply August 1, 2016

    Berny

    Travertine wines are amazing!! My favourite in the Hunter Valley 🙂

    • Reply August 2, 2016

      Mr Romance

      Ooh! Travertine! Thanks for the tip, Berny. Will have to check it out next time we’re up.
      Cheers – Jim

  • Reply August 17, 2016

    Naomi Cranfield

    Mistletoe wines are gorgeous especially the Hunter Rose

    • Reply August 17, 2016

      Mr Romance

      Mistletoe. Thanks for that, Naomi. Will check it out – we love a good rosé!
      Jxx

  • Reply September 26, 2016

    Vanessa

    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.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply September 26, 2016

      Mr Romance

      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.
      Jim x

  • Reply November 23, 2017

    Sue

    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.

    • Reply November 23, 2017

      Mr Romance

      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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