This was the first winery we visited, and it wasn't on Our List. But as we drove up along Wine Country Drive, around mid-day and say a big bold sign "Champagne and Oysters" how could we drive past? Before we move on, their Cellar Door doesn't actually sell Champagne (they do sell some champagne in their restaurant), but their premium selection of bubbles hit the spot quite nicely. We were greeted by the lovely Stuart, who certainly knew a thing or two about the bubbling variety.
We started with the tasting, and I was suitably impressed from the get go. Their non vintage Sparkling Cuvèe is a great starting point, at only $23 each (members receive 10% less). They had sparkling of all sorts including Blanc de Blanc (another favourite), sparkling Rose, sparkling chardonnay and my all time favourite: An aged Semillon Museum Release. They also sold red and white wine - but this is entry level - with their top shelf drops for the vinyard up the hill. Which is on our list for next time.
I must start out my saying, Lake's Folly is one of my husband's favourite wine, and as Australia's first boutique winery, it was a must-see on our list.
Established in 1963 by Doctor Max Foley, this small family-owned vineyard is quaint and quintessentially Hunter Valley.
This is one of those places where the focus is on quality not quantity. They have two flagship wines, produced in limited numbers. A stunning Cabernet blend and a Chardonnay - both grown, vintaged and bottled on the sprawling Estate.
They sell the vast majority of their wine by mail order (so get onto their email list), with purchases through their Cellar Door when available. We managed to get a 2010 Magnum which we carried home with us. They are not cheap, but this wine, is a must-try experience.
Verdict: Terrific family-run business, Great customer service, Delightful wine.
For the reds: Vat 8 and Vat 9, Old Patch Shiraz
And the whites: Vat 1 (naturally!), Vat 47 (chardonnay), Aged Semillon and the HVD Chardonnay
The grounds are beautiful, the view spectacular and the experience lots of fun. And as a member you are invited to many events throughout the year, along with the opportunity to buy their limited release premium wines. Bonus!
Verdict: Great value wines, fab staff, extensive variety.
Having just taken out the coveted Cellar Door of the Year for the second time, as you roll up the drive, and step inside you understand why. A beautifully appointed building, the staff greet you with that famous Hunter combo of super-friendly who are extremely knowledgable, and unpretentious.
This family-owned and operated estate, well into it's fourth generation. OK: favourite wines
They are famous for their Verdelho (which are lovely) and have some terrific limited release numbers you must try if you can.
White: I really liked the Limited Release Chardonnay (24.00 for members)
Red: the JYT (a combo of the Hunter and McLaren Vale)
And, the NV Tulloch Creme de Vin is a particularly beautiful and smooth fortified wine.
Their full range of wines can be found on their website, and, again, they are all very nice.
We got the grand tour of the family photographs at Tulloch, and I am always a sucker for a bit of history.
Verdict: Excellent value, beautiful cellar door, lovely premium wines, best fortified I tasted.
We visited Margan last of all on our winery adventures. And this place did not disappoint. Their tasting room located in Broke was welcoming with Cellar Door staff that were impressively knowledgable. Young Gabrielle looked after us and showed us some amazing Hunter Valley Wine. This first generation estate does encompasse wines, a cellar door and a restaurant (where we had dinner). Again, the value of these wines was tremendous and the quality superb.
When you arrive you can't help but notice the chooks and fresh produce grown on-site, along with the mandatory vineyard.
They stock a standard range - their Margan range, and a more premium 'White Label'. While the Margan range was excellent value, I preferred the White Label - which still provided great value for money. I particularly liked the white label Semillon and Chardonnay (give me a back vintage any day), while the White label Shiraz and Barbera were favourite reds.
Their restaurant was a terrific night out. We opted for the 5 Course Degustation Menu. : with the stand out course being the Wagyu. They pride themselves on their Garden to Kitchen policy, and it was here I tasted, possibly the best, baby radishes ever. Now, we had already tried their wines, so decided to peruse their extensive wine list - and settled on some amazing (but not local) wines (which were amazingly well priced). And as a member (yes there is a theme here) you get two complimentary glasses of Margan bubbles (yummy) on arrival. Staff, again, were terrific and nothing was too much trouble.