As the pioneers of the paddock to plate and agri-dining concept in the Hunter Valley, a visit to Margan is a must for keen foodies when in the Hunter Valley. The beautifully designed cellar door and restaurant in the peaceful Broke Fordwich district has a relaxed vibe, where you can either sample Margan wine (and vermouth) at the bar or by the fireplace. You can enjoy a more immersive experience by booking one of the Margan tour options. Guests can take a guided vineyard and winery tour, followed by a wine tasting and tour of the one-acre kitchen garden before sitting down at the hatted Margan restaurant overlooking the vines to indulge in either a five- or three-course degustation meal made from estate-sourced produce.
Talented Hunter Valley winemaker Usher Tinkler and his wife Ebony have created an inviting and social cellar door vibe in an old converted church built around 1905. Overlooking the Brokeback Mountains, you can recline on either rustic mismatched chairs, an old church pew, Chesterfield couches or at the bar while a staff member takes you through your wine tasting, one glass at a time. Ebony has sourced all her food for the salumi bar from local suppliers. Sample mouth-watering cheeses, salami, honey and other gourmet foods while being poured Usher’s fresh, funky and uncomplicated wines. Tastings cost $5 per person, redeemable on any wine purchase. The Tinklers don’t accept groups of 10 or more, keeping the atmosphere low-key and chilled.
At certified biodynamic and organic winery Krinklewood, in the lower Hunter Valley sub region of Broke Fordwich, you can enjoy your wine tasting in the pretty Provencal style gardens. Hear pebbles crunch beneath your feet as you nibble on cheese platters featuring three organic cheeses, local olives, chutney, almonds, cornichons, apricots and crackers. Abundant birdlife roams throughout the French-inspired grounds and around vintage urns — including a proud, strutting peacock.
On 7 December Brokenwood Wines will open its new and long-awaited cellar door facility which will include formal dining option, The Wood Restaurant; and casual offering Cru Bar + Pantry. The new cellar door will include circular tasting bars known as ‘pods’, as well as an outdoor terrace, private tasting rooms, private dining rooms and a wine museum. The dining venues will be overseen by Andrew and Janet Wright, who have been running The Cellar Restaurant in the Hunter for 18 years. At The Wood Restaurant, guests will be able to view an eye catching display of fresh seafood delivered from The Sydney Fish Market. Naturally, diners will be able to select from an extensive range of Brokenwood wines on the wine list, as well as other wines from around the world. Casual diners can snack on shared plates, cheese, charcuterie, wood-fired pizza, homemade pies and toasties in the Cru Bar + Pantry, where an Enomatic self-serve wine dispenser will feature a selection of premium and rare wines not ordinarily available for tasting. Brokenwood will also be making picnic packs available for those who want to relax on the front lawn.
In the Mount View district of the Hunter Valley, here you can sip on Briar Ridge wines from either the tasting bar or their popular tasting deck that overlooks the ranges. Cheese and antipasto platters are available to order and include cheeses from gourmet local producer Binnorie Dairy Cheeses. To go behind the scenes, book a tour where you can taste wine straight from the barrel, and you can pre-order a cheese platter to enjoy on the deck after you emerge from the winery.
On picturesque grounds with quaint buildings, the Pepper Tree Wines cellar door is one of the most-visited in the region — which can also mean it gets crowded. Thankfully in September, the winery launched a new space called The Vault, redesigning a former café space on site. Tailored and relaxed tasting experiences are now available within The Vault which is open to both the public and wine club members. You can enjoy a tasting of up to six wines in a bracket or choose your own bespoke tasting to include rarer museum wines in the line-up —paired with cheese and olives. The winery is also using a Coravin pouring system that gives them the ability to look at three vintages of the same wine so that visitors can see how the wines change with age.
Chef Frank Fawkner is the man behind one of the region’s best fine dining restaurants, EXP. In July, he and his Fawk Foods team made the popular decision to open a casual eatery option at the centrally located Pokolbin Village. Open daily from 7am, menu items are made from local ingredients and produce. Sit in and try local bacon and eggs with Fawk Foods’ signature black garlic; or from the bakery menu, try brioche rolls, sourdough, quiche, focaccia, scones, muffins, friands or doughnuts. Best of all, you can order a pre-packaged lunch or cheese hamper to take with you as you jaunt from winery to winery.