There’s everything you could wish for on a Hunter Valley Wine and Food Indulgence weekend or short break, from cellar door tastings to long lunches and delicious dinners. Wednesday to Sunday are main opening days for many restaurants and bookings are recommended/essential for signature dining experiences.
Arriving in the afternoon/early evening, plan to eat where you are staying or close by – it’s worth knowing that Redsalt Restaurant at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is open for dinner 7 days. Goldfish Bar & Kitchen at Tempus Two is a retro bar/meeting place with an extensive cocktail menu and food designed to share, while Oishii next door is a Japanese/Thai restaurant –dine in or order takeaway.
Breakfast at your accommodation or head out to Fawk Foods Kitchen & Bakery or Café Enzo at Peppers Creek Village on Broke Road. Big on breakfast, Enzo offers delicious housemade labna with sourdough and orange marmalade, vego or ham breakfast boards, truffled green peas with poached eggs and smoked salmon, great coffee. Next door, taste olive oils, tapenades, pesto at Pukara Estate from the Upper Hunter and, ready for wine tasting, visit David Hook Wines specializing in single vineyard wines.
Head out, turning left along Broke Road to De Iuliis Wines for fresh takes on Hunter classic wines. Turn left again then right onto Hermitage Road where Scarborough Wine has one of its two cellar doors with wine including a flagship Chardonnay. Opposite Scarborough, drop into the Keith Tulloch sublime cellar door and upstairs tasting room (charges for tastings apply – conditionally refundable with purchases). Muse Kitchen here is open for lunch Wed -Sun and dinner Friday and Saturday, but you should book. (Saturday night is a six-course tasting menu only.) Drop into Cocoa Nib at the Keith Tulloch Cellar Door for artisan chocolates made with French chocolate in bars, blocks and other yummy things including packs of Caramelised Popcorn and Pecan.
Also on the tasting trail in this area find Thomas Wines where Andrew Thomas, arguably one of the Hunter’s most passionate wine makers, produces 100% Hunter Shiraz and Semillon. The Thomas cellar door is at Estate Tuscany on the corner of Hermitage Road and Mistletoe Lane, home of the Brokenback Bar serving wine, beer and spirits and with a cafe/tapas menu with nourish bowls, ribs, burgers, grazing plates.
For your big night out, hot names include Muse or Muse Kitchen, The Cellar at Hunter Valley Gardens, Restaurant Botanica at Spicer’s Retreat, Esca Bimbadgen (dinner Friday and Saturday, lunch seven days), Circa 1876, Lillino’s Bar and Trattoria, Margan Restaurant at Broke.
Newly refurbished, Panino Caffe Restaurant at Wollombi also hits the spot for dinner at weekends with Sardinian-inspired dishes, specials and faves including Clarence River chilli prawns, 120 days Angus beef fillet with porcini jus and delicious duck pappardelle with mushrooms, black truffle and mascarpone. Open for breakfast and lunch (think yummy pizzas!) Thursday-Monday and a la carte dinner Friday-Sunday.
More Hunter Valley Itineraries
Planning your time around a long lunch? Try Baume at the Ben Ean Complex, McDonald’s Road or Bistro Molines (booking well ahead essential!) on Mount View Road for delightful French food in a wonderful setting on a hillside with views across the vineyards. Locals love to celebrate significant anniversaries and birthdays here.
This road is worth travelling just for the views – from Pokolbin follow McDonalds Road, stopping at the Small Winemakers Centre, then turn right following de Beyers Road to the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, a super-historic brand and one of the Hunter’s best vantage points. Back on McDonalds Road, Brokenwood make some of the best Hunter wines.
Follow Broke Road west to the Broke-Fordwich designated wine area where Margan is in superb setting – perfect for a long lunch. Margan is an award-winning winery and restaurant with menus themed around the kitchen garden concept. Top wines (love their Chardonnay!) and doing really great things for the Hunter.
Broke-Fordwich has many cellar doors to discover such as Whispering Creek. In the mood for a meandering drive, loop back through Wollombi, visiting the biodynamic Krinklewood vineyard on the way.
Wollombi has its own vineyard trail including pretty Undercliff (wonderful birdlife wine labels by super-talented Janet Luxton). Noyce Brothers cellar door (run by the family of film director Phillip Noyce) at Grays Inn between Panino Caffe Restaurant and the photogenic Wollombi General Store.
Returning to Cessnock via Tourist Drive 33, find Wollombi Wines then the inviting Stonehurst Cedar Creek with superb local wines. Return via Mount View Road OR via Cessnock with an historic streetscape on Vincent Street (Polina’s Cafe here is great for breakfast and lunch), the Cessnock Gallery, supermarkets and pubs.
Note: Of course you mustn’t drink and drive so working out who tastes and who drives is essential to the plan or join a wine tour by limo, horse and carriage, vintage cars and by bike.