Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Hunter Valley Summer '14

A couple of weeks ago, I and a bunch of high school buddies drove up to the Hunter for a couple of nights. Having heard that dinner is particularly expensive there, we decided to make use of the produce in the area and to assemble meat and cheese platters in the evenings.

Day 1

Lunch: We drove up on a Friday and arrived in the early afternoon, dropped our stuff off at the villa we rented, then headed out for a late lunch at Bluetongue Brewery Cafe (Cnr Hermitage Road & Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin NSW 2320).

One of my companions ordered a beer paddle that showcases 6 of the Bluetongue beers, complete with an A4 sheet sharing tasting notes. Not a big fan of beer, so the only thing I tried was the alcoholic ginger ale. Very light, great if you're trying to get into beer. If you take the paddle back up to the bar, they give you a standard glass of beer.

I had the lamb gnocchi because I was starving. It was alright - heavily tomato based, and the gnocchi seemed a little mushy - it disintegrated into the sauce. Meat was tender.

Beer tasting paddle

Lamb and gnocchi ($28.00)

Pear, prosciutto and Gorgonzola cheese ($18.00)

Chilli salt squid ($16)

Post-lunch: A cheese shop, our first taste of wine in Pokolbin, hitting up the general store, and frolicking around the villa

Binnorie Dairy (Cnr Hermitage Road & Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin NSW 2320) is just across the road from Bluetongue Brewery. They let you sample a bit of cheese and sell goats' cheese, cows' cheese, jams, olive oils, vinegars and bread.

Oakvale winery - one of the oldest in the Hunter

Pokolbin Village has your basics - a general store, one of the Smelly Cheese Shops, a chocolate shop, a couple of cafes and a couple of retail stores. Smelly's was great for gathering ingredients for our platter, and that Morpeth bread is so soft and dense. For those in a huge rush, they even have ready assembled platters.

Smelly's - cured meat

Morpeth sourdough - REALLY GOOD BREAD


Our pond with heaps of duck poo

Early part of sunset

Sunset - horse in paddock

And so ends Day 1

Day 2: Olive oil/ wine tasting, liqueur tasting, lunch, wine tasting, gelato, wine tasting, food buying, Christmas lights

Tintilla Estate: Olive/ olive oil/ wine tasting (725 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320)

Family-run estate founded by Sydney University's Professor Robert Lusby. Beautiful property. Lovely olives. Olive oil and vinegars from Pukara Estate. Bought a fortified wine that was likened to a white port.

Tintilla Estate

Inside Tintilla
Hunter Distillery: (1686 Broke Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320)
Unlike its competitors, Hunter Distillery focuses on spirits. They have gin that they liken to Hendrick's and Tanqueray No 10, a number of liqueurs, and a formidable range of flavoured vodka. Had a lot of fun with the test tube shots! CC our resident alcoholic had 6 (the max being 8), while the rest of us had 3 - 4.

I bought 250mL of ginger liqueur, which tastes like flat ginger ale (the non-alcoholic kind, not that weird alcoholic ginger beer stuff). Which I suppose makes it alcoholic, flat, non-alcoholic ginger ale :S

Hunter Distillery

Vodka Galore
Vodka test-tube shots
Shopping Village @ Hunter Valley Gardens: (Hunter Valley Gardens, Broke Rd, Pokolbin 2320)

Picked up a couple of jams from the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, popped into the British Lolly Shop, stopped off for a quick bite. We were looking for Bliss Coffee, but they've closed down and have since been replaced by a random cafe.

As you can see, they didn't have good coffee - very watery and milky. Their pies were pretty good for the price. It didn't taste plastic, and was a decent portion.

Beef and mushroom pie (~$4.20)

Flat white

Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village

Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village

Tempus Two for gelato and more wine tasting: (Corner of Broke & McDonalds Roads, Pokolbin 2320)

Went to two wine rooms. The people at the first were really friendly. Served by a pretentious and somewhat cantankerous old man at the second.

Good gelato in Smelly Cheese Shop. Have been told that the Thai at Oishii is good, but didn't get to try. Returned later in the evening to pick up bread, cheese and cured meat for dinner.

Vinden Estate for a wine tour/ tasting: (17 Gillards Rd, Pokolbin 2320)
Wine tours twice a day - one at 11am, and one at 3.30pm. $10 for just the tour, $15 for both tour and wine tasting of 11 types of wine afterwards (fee waived when a bottle is purchased for every two people). Phone 02 4998 7410 to make a booking.

We spent about an hour here altogether. There were no other visitors so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! The staff member who showed us around was friendly. We were told that they're one of the few wineries in the Hunter that grow Alicante Bouschet grapes.

I discovered I much prefer sit-down tastings rather than standing at the counter feeling pressured to hurry up and buy something. Our group bought a dozen bottles and received a further two on the house. Loved the Verdelho and dessert wines.
Outside, where the tastings are held

The vegetable patch for Bistro Vinden

Wine tasting :)

Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights:
Bought night only tickets ($22.50). Went up the Ferris Wheel ($6.00pp, $20 for groups of 4)

Rose gardens

The Ferris Wheel

Gingerbread house competition by the schools

The lake

Day 3: Margan, Pepper Tree and the drive home

Vineyard with a restaurant. Picked it out from the 2011 edition of Gourmet Traveller. Good (and very filling) breakfast, bought a dessert wine afterwards. Shall return for dinner one day.


Fresh tropical juice ($6.00)

CC's first 'real' cappuccino (or coffee, for that matter) since we left Sydney ($6.00)

Really cute green tea ($6.00)

CC's second 'real' cappuccino ($6.00)

Chorizo, potato and spinach omelette ($18.00) + tomato side ($4.00)

Went to Pepper Tree before we set off for home. Good dessert wines.

Pepper Tree Wines

The haul


  1. Love visiting Binnorie Dairy. Their duetto is so darn tasty!

  2. Great writeup! Good pics too. My fave is the ferris wheel!