With more wineries and cellar doors than you can shake the proverbial at, the Hunter Valley can be bewildering when it comes to choosing a wine-tasting experience. Here are 12 of our favourites.
Broad sweeping vistas, craggy mountain peaks and braided rows of vines striating the land, the Hunter Valley is a wine-lover’s dream.
But when we first visited the Hunter Valley, we didn’t really know much about vineyards, cellar doors or—to be honest—wine in general. Jim had been to a couple of wineries in WA years before and I’d visited some with my parents before I was old enough to enjoy their main purpose.
We also didn’t know a lot about the Hunter Valley and found it quite confusing.
Thanks to the patience of a few winemakers and their families like the Scarboroughs, Whispering Brook and the good people at Bimbadgen, we have a much better understanding of the region and even have some of their favourite wineries to share with you.
Here’s a quick video of what it’s like to explore some of the Hunter Valley’s finest cellar doors.
12 Hunter Valley cellar doors you can’t miss
1. Bimbadgen Estate, Pokolbin
With its iconic spire, entrance looking down on the winery floor and award-winning restaurant Esca, Bimbadgen is a real landmark of the Hunter Valley.
Find a seat at Bimbadgen’s tasting room or in the garden and enjoy their excellent sparkling, Semillon and Shiraz, and wood-fired pizzas.
2. Comyns & Co Wines, Pokolbin
Just next door to our favourite cafe Enzo in Peppers Creek Village, owner-winemakers Scott and Missy Comyns have created a cool yet comfortable vibe in their new cellar door.
Their wines represent the small-batch parcels of premium Hunter fruit best shown in their Shiraz and Semillon wines.
3. Gartelmann, Lovedale
This pretty cellar door and its veranda overlook a small lake and its busy eatery—The Deck Cafe. The wines are beautifully made; bright, lively reds, well-structured whites and some very moreish stickies. Pro tip: for an elevated experience, ask for Luke to conduct your tasting.
There’s also a smallholding with pigs, tiny horses and fluffy chooks.
4. Glandore Estate, Pokolbin
Although the cellar door is beautiful, with its exposed beams and sweeping deck overlooking the garden and vines, and the wines—particularly the Chardonnay and Shiraz—are truly delicious, it’s Picking Day that really sets this winery apart.
Get amongst the vines to harvest the vintage, stomp grapes, play games of bocce and feast on a lunch banquet. You can find out more here.
5. Margan Wines & Restaurant, Broke
Its stunning cellar door and private tasting room amongst the wine barrels sets Margan apart, as does its excellent wine selection. Semillon, Albarino and aromatic vermouth are delicious here.
Margan’s restaurant is one of the best in the Hunter. Its aim for lowest possible food miles puts the micro-farm on the property into good use and adds another dimension to this winery.
6. Oakvale Wines, Pokolbin
Across the road from Glandore Estate, Oakvale is one of the oldest, most highly-regarded wineries in the region. Its Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Shiraz are stand-outs, and the Sparkling Bellini is a cheeky fun number.
7. Scarborough Wine Co, Pokolbin
The preeminent Hunter Valley winery and our personal favourite, this is the winery to whom we owe our love of the Hunter.
The cellar door is the Scarborough family’s old family home, renovated to bring you views over the Broken Back Mountain Range while you taste the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir you’ll find in the region.
8. Tintilla Estate, Pokolbin
Maxing out the rustic vibe, this cellar door set on a deck overlooking the vines, always has one of the Lusby family on hand to talk you through the wines. Their range of fortified wines is well worth visiting.
9. Petersons Wines Broke Road, Pokolbin
Often when you think of Petersons, it’s fun bubbles and hens parties—which is great because that’s who they’re aiming at.
But rather than going to the bigger cellar door—Petersons House—on the corner of Broke Road and Wine Country Drive, carry on about a kilometre down Broke Road. Their smaller cellar door is cosy and quiet, and has some absolutely astonishing aged sparkling Semillon (and aged reds too actually) that will confound you.
10. Vamp by Lisa McGuigan Wines, Pokolbin
If you’re looking for a cellar door that’s completely different to any other you’ve ever visited, Vamp is for you. Far from the bright, light timber and vista-driven cellar doors you usually find, Vamp is a luxe trip to antiquity.
Created by visionary and fourth-generation wine-maker Lisa McGuigan, black walls are decked with Medieval hardware and chainmail, a circular tasting bar of polished steel and bottles are labelled with silver embossed emblems, this is a cellar door like no other.
11. Whispering Brook, Broke
From the long driveway through the vines to the cosy rural cellar door to the rows of olive trees out the back, this is a winery straight from the hills of Tuscany or Provence.
And specialising in Portuguese varietals, Whispering Brook doubles down on its European vibe with its annual Olive Long Table Lunch—a beautiful banquet set between the boughs of the vineyard’s olive groves.
12. Wild Wren Wines, Pokolbin
Light and airy, this happy little cellar door in the midst of the Peppers Creek Village is a fair representation of the wines that they pour: approachable, bright and beautifully made.
It’s also worth tasting their gin as well, which is served in a jigger for you to pour as you wish, to sample with and without tonic.
Bonus: The Wine House, Pokolbin
If you’re short of time, want to find rare or limited edition wines, or would like to explore the Hunter wineries that are too small to have their own cellar door, the Wine House is your place.
We visited the Wine House during the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival in June for their Grange vs the Hunter experience, where you have a ‘taste-off’ with Grange up against four of the best Shiraz the Hunter Valley has to offer. Really good fun.
Over the years, we’ve had so many readers write in with their recommendations for which Hunter Valley cellar doors to visit. Here are a few of them:
Christine Eccles: “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 Krinklewood Biodynamic: great French setting and great wine.”
Sonia: “First Creek Wines—brilliant wines at a very understated cellar door.”
Naomi Cranfield: “Mistletoe wines are gorgeous especially the Hunter Rose.”
Sue: “My new favourite is 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.”
Do you have any favourite Hunter Valley cellar doors you want to tell us about? Leave your reco in the comments below.