Hunter Valley has wonderful scenery and is home to a large wine and coaling industries. To the south it stretches from Goulburn River and Wollemi National Park and right up to Barrington Tops National Park to the North. Lower Hunter is where most of the vineyards can be found but Upper Hunter also has vineyards as well as horse breeding and racing. During the year there are festivals and it is a great place for music from folk, jazz and even opera. In the Hunter there are several galleries and museums to see.
You can get various tours to Hunter Valley from Sydney or you could hire a car and drive to it yourself. It might be hard to find places however if you drove I would imagine. We chose to take a guided tour, it cost us $95 and included a stop off at the Australian Reptile Park as well which I thought was great value for money. The tour was through Kangaroo Coach and we were met in Sydney at the YHA where we had booked our tour. It was an early start at 7.45am.
The tours have small personal friendly groups of a max of 19 people. On our tour there were 10 people so you could ask any questions you wanted to easily. On the journey on the bus you saw the vineyards scattered about the place. It takes 2 hours by car from Sydney to get to Hunter Valley.
First stop was the Australian Reptile Park were we got our picture taken with a koala and got to fed kangaroos I thought this was an added bonus to our tour and it broke up the long drive.
Next stop was Drayton’s Family wines which is 100% family owned for more than 140 years. We got a winery tour and learnt about the wine making process and seen how they do it. This was from the crushing of the grapes to the bottling of the wine. They showed us how they put the corks and screw tops onto the wines and explained that when the machinery was running someone had to be with it at all times as bottles can fall off the racks. Also because they need to be boxed. We were shown where the wine was stored and some old machinery they no longer use. It would have been interesting to someone who likes machinery and the process of making wine. It didn’t really interest me I was more interested in the small kitten running about the store lol but my boyfriend found the whole process fascinating! What I was more interested in was the wine tasting. We got to try different red, white and desert wines. Other drinks we got to taste was port and liqueurs. There was two jugs in the middle of the room were you could throw you wine out if you didn’t want or like it and bottles of water. Cheese and crackers was also available which I thought was a nice touch. Each wine was described how it tasted and what food it would be best with before we tasted it.
Next stop was Golden Grape Estate which has cellar door sales and tasting. This place seemed more upmarket to the last. They served food and we got our food here, which personally I didn’t like (I had an Angus burger) but then I’m a fussy eater. The herb bread was very delicious and would recommend you try it if you are here. Before lunch we tasted more wines, port and liquors here and had each explained to us again. They had a drink I had never seen before called Dragons Breath Chilli Schnapps which has butterscotch Schnapps, chillies & rosemary in it. It was the strangest drink I have ever drunk plus as you would imagine it is very hot! At this place there was an outdoor eating area and the views are amazing! You can see the vineyards stretched out into the distance. There is a playground for children and plenty of places you can have a picnic lunch at. There is a wine museum showing wine technology dating back to the last century and Australia’s oldest wine press. We did not see this museum so I’m not sure what it is like.
Last stop was Tulloch which has been producing wines in Hunter Valley for 111 years. They do functions, weddings, corporate and social events. This place seemed the most upmarket of them all. We were taken into what looked like a board room and tasted more wine, port and liquors. By this stage I had enough of tasting wine and was glad it was the last stop. Here we got a price list with all the wines available and it showed us on the list what food suited what wine. We also were shown a good aged wine (dark orange) and a bad aged wine (very dark orange). The area was lovely and there was an outdoor area which would be perfect for functions and events. It would be somewhere nice to have a wedding party I would think as its very quiet and has beautiful scenery.
On the way back we stopped at Lindemans for a photo stop. We also stopped for some cheese tasting at the Smelly Cheese shop in Hunter Valley Gardens Village. They had speciality shops here such as Antique shop, Ken Duncan Gallery, HV Chocolate Company, Bliss Cofee plus hunter Cellars, Brokenwood and McGuigans Wine. Then we returned back to Sydney crossing the Sydney Harbour bridge which was nice as we seen the Opera house from the bridge and the city all lit up.
Personally I enjoyed this tour as it was something I hadn’t done before, the Hunter Valley’s scenery was nice and I learnt new stuff about wine which was useful. Each winery I learnt something new which was nice however a lot of the things were repeated each place. I got to taste reds, whites, Golden Tango Cream, Butterscotch Schnapps, Dragons breath, dessert wines, Port and Chocolate Liquor. I don’t think I would have went to Hunter Valley unless I was doing some activity as the scenery is lovely but not worth while going to see by itself.