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Self drive Hunter winery tour?

Massachusetts
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64 posts
16 reviews
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Self drive Hunter winery tour?

My husband and I are considering renting a car and doing our own Hunter Valley winery tour, as we've been unable to find a tour company that is running a tour from Newcastle on the midweek mid-May dates we'll be there. We have no problem with the fact that this means one of us cannot drink to ensure a safe and legal trip. However, will a self-drive arrangement mean that we do not have access to the smaller boutique wineries? I seem to recall from taking an organized tour of Hunter several years ago that the smaller wineries only opened their doors to pre-arranged tour groups... Thanks for any insight!

Sydney, Australia
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for Sydney, Family Travel
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1. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

A lot of the smaller wineries acually do not allow tours to come through. Most would prefer those who have chosen their wines to specifically to taste. Do some research on the wineries/varieties you are interested in.

Mid week IMO is the best time to go as it is much quieter & you will get more individualised attention.

There is no reason why you both cannot "taste". Spitoons are provided. As the non driver, I mostly taste rather than drink anyway, as once your blood alcohol reaches a certain level, your taste ability declines-everything tastes great!

Even with maintaining a low blood alcohol level, 3-4 wineries is the maximum I enjoy tasting at in one day.

South Pole
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2. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

self drive is the best way to enjoy the hunter.

and as the last poster stated, the smaller boutique wineries usually welcome the couples rather than the bigger groups.

as u probably are aware the hunter is famous for its shiraz and semillon, particularly the aged version of the latter. verdelho seems to be a newer variety that is showing some promise in that difficult maritime climate.

all the other suspects are also available.

working in the wine industry i agree it's easy to taste around 100 wines a day (wine judges can do a lot more than that) and still register zero on the breathalyser. just swirl and spit.

this web site is a good one to help plan your route

www.winecountry.com.au/wineries.aspx

Brisbane, Australia
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3. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

We drove ourselves around the Hunter just 2 weekends ago and had a lovely time. We wouldnt like the rigid timetables etc... involved with tours. Often we would just stop at something that caught our eye, or get sidetracked by a smelly cheese shop or Brewery ( or Irish Pub !)

The main thing to be mindful of is that the Wineries are quite spread out. We sat down with the map on our first night and circled all the ones we wanted to visit and formulated a couple of days - one mainly focused on the Pokolbin areas and one on Lovedale. Out of 122 wineries we still only managed to visist 11 - and that took 2 days !

For us Tyrells and Brokenwood were a must. Several of the winemakers told us their favourite is Capercaillie, which was sensational ( albiet very expensive wine) with a lovely Gallery attached.

Rock Restaurant ( also known as Firesticks by day) is stunning - attached to Pooles Rock winery.

have fun !

Massachusetts
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64 posts
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4. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

That's very reassuring info, thanks everyone! Can anyone comment on the utility of the Visitor Information Centre? I can't seem to find a printer-friendly map of the Hunter Valley wineries - will the Info Centre distribute copies of maps similar to that found on the Wine Country site (www.winecountry.com.au/viewmap.aspx?mapid=4)?

Our plan is to drive up from Sydney and then stop at whatever catches our attention in Hunter (aside from the fact that I absolutely MUST make a return visit to Sandalyn in Lovedale to pick up some late harvest semillon). At the end of the day, we'll be driving out to Newcastle to see some friends. So having a good map would be very useful! (If the Info Centre isn't likely to have anything, then we'll plan to seek out a bookshop to pick something up before we drive up.)

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

The Information Centre is jam packed full of maps and every other conceivable thing you may need. You cant miss it either - it is very prominent on the main road ( WineCountry Rd? )and has a nice cafe out front.

We found the main map was available everywhere - even at the B&B we stayed at, as well as most wineries and shops.

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

Our favourite winery in that region is Peterson's (they also have a separate Champagne House which is also worth a visit)

Gosford, Australia
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7. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

If you contact the tourist information centre i am sure that they will send you one direct, I am a local and regular visitor to the vineyards and have taken many friends and overseas visitors to the area.

I usually book in at my favourites as i find that they are a little more accomodating than when you just show up, and some smaller wineres do close mid week.

I only take my visitors to the smaller boutique wineries as i just find the bigger ones too commercial and not as friendly.

A few of my favourites are Iron Gate estate - Make sure you try the sweet Shiraz, Audrey Wilkinson which is just worth a trip to see the most amazing view, Cockfighters ghost, there are so many smaller wineries that you can choose from,

As far as driving yourself i am sure that if you searched a little more on the web you could find a tour that would just accomodate the 2 of you, its definatly worth an over night stay to enjoy the food and the wine.

I hope you enjoy it !

Canberra, Australia
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8. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

Information Centre is excellent for info, but prices at the cafe are steep (although food is fine). We now go back into Cessnock & eat lunch there - only about 10-15 minutes each way from the info centre.

Question for the locals/more recent visitors... - Is Draytons open again after the accident? Their old winery tour was really interesting.

Hunter Valley, NSW
3 posts
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9. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

There is a really good publication called The Hunter Blackboard which lists all of the wineries (mostly boutique wineries) that are running special offers, exclusive tastings and winery tours etc. It also has restaurants, gourmet foods and golf specials - so covers the whole Hunter Valley experience. You can pick it up anywhere in teh Hunter or you can go to their website and download it before you leave - it's a great tool for a self-guided wine tour.

Hunter Valley, NSW
3 posts
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10. Re: Self drive Hunter winery tour?

An answer to the question about Draytons - yes - they are open again. They have a temporary cellar door and are building a new facility. Well worth a visit!