Ever since I first lost my wine tourism virginity back in 2014, I’ve had a growing love affair with all things grape.
I’ve gone on wine tours in San Luis Obispo and in San Diego wine country, started buying wine, and even sipping a good glass of red while binging Outlander with Adventures Around Asia.
So, when Suzanne from Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours got in touch about working together, I jumped at the opportunity.
Eager to show off Australia’s world-class wine scene to Richelle, we plotted a whirlwind trip to Newcastle so that we could join the fun.
A Social Hunter Valley Wine Tour
The idea of wine tasting used to seem a bit ‘snooty’ to me. Swirling glasses while commenting on the nose and the colour always seemed pretentious.
My visit to Broke Fordwich in 2014 dispelled the notion that wine needed to be dry and dull, and Tastes of the Hunter definitely reinforced the idea that wine tourism is all about having a good time.
From the moment the bus doors opened, we were chatting away with Suzanne while the big screen played music videos from the likes of Katy Perry, Pink, and Adele. Right off the bat, it felt like a party.
This was only heightened when Richelle and I were joined by a quintet of birthday girls and a huge bachelorette party leaving me as the proverbial thorn amongst roses.
As the bus made its way from Newcastle out into the rolling hills and whispering groves of gum trees that typify the Hunter Valley, we were definitely feeling a day of fun in the sun.
Obviously, the biggest draw for a Hunter Valley wine tour is the wine, and there was plenty of that in evidence.
Whether you were a seasoned wine connoisseur like Richelle, a novice like myself, or even a wine hater like some of the girls in our group, you were in for a treat.
With visits to Ernest Hill Winery, Capercaillie, and Briar Ridge, we were able to sample a wide variety of whites and reds, sweets and dries, and everything in between.
Suzanne’s connections at each place also netted us discounts when buying wine, so we weren’t able to resist grabbing a couple of bottles at Capercaillie to share with Richelle’s folks.
Each winery also offered a different experience. Where Ernest Hill saw us perched by giant oak barrels to sip our 10 am glasses of wine, Capercaillie had us being serenaded by a country musician. Each cellar door told a different story united under a singular theme: a love of good wine.
Of course, you can’t spend a day drinking wine in the sun and not line your stomach. It’s a recipe for a killer evening hangover.
The lunch stop is at the fantastic Matilda Bay Brewhouse, where we had an hour to sample a few ice cold beers and sink our teeth into a couple of delicious burgers.
This falls outside of your ticket price, meaning you’ll be digging into your own wallet, but with the variety of dishes available, you’ll want to do your own choosing.
Other food stops along the way include a stop at a local cheesemaker and chocolaterie, giving plenty of opportunities for impulse buys.
Richelle and I may have left with a sizeable bag of gourmet fudge to eat on the train ride back to Sydney…
While the Hunter Valley is best known for its wine, there’s more than just grape to be had on your Hunter Valley wine tour.
The lunch stop at Matilda Bay Brewhouse gives you an opportunity to indulge your inner beer snob with a couple of pints, and the generous sample platters make it easy to try all twelve of their draft beers.
The last stop of the day completes the alcohol trifecta, as you swing by Hunter Distillery to try their selection of flavoured vodkas and Schnapps. This was one of our favourite stops, as the test tubes of liquor further reinforced the ‘fun first’ feel of the whole day.
One of the enduring lessons I learned from my first foray into wine tasting was that there is no right or wrong way to do it.
While some might find the idea of dwelling on the intricacies of the winemaking process and only taking the smallest of tastes appealing, I prefer enjoying good alcohol, good banter, and good weather with good people.
Tastes of the Hunter Valley Wine Tours embraces that fun style of wine tourism. Mixing things up with beer, spirits, and food means it’s a fun day out for everyone – not just the wine experts.
Why Take a Hunter Valley Wine Tour?
I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but there are many obvious perks to taking a guided wine tour instead of trying to do it yourself.
1. Expert Advice
Unless you’re a local with an intimate knowledge of the Hunter Valley wine scene, you’re not going to know the ins and outs as well as an expert. Suzanne’s love of wine and the Hunter Valley is evident from the moment you meet her.
She’s been out to these vineyards and cellar doors to select the best examples of Hunter Valley wine, so you know you’re going to get the best experience possible.
The cellar doors we visited boasted great wine and service without getting swept up in the infamous Pokolbin crowds, so we got a Hunter Valley wine experience without dealing with Hunter Valley crowds.
2. A Designated Driver
The best part about a visit to wine country? The wine!
If you’re worried about staying under the limit, you’re not going to be enjoying the experience to the fullest.
Tastes of the Hunter’s big, comfy bus ferried us quickly and safely from cellar door to cellar door to distillery and all the way home, meaning we didn’t have to worry about how much we were drinking.
Tastes of the Hunter has worked hard to build up a rapport with the cellar doors it visits, and this translates into discounted wine for you!
While the incentive is still there to join the vineyard’s wine club, we were still able to grab discounts at Capercaillie and Briar Ridge by virtue of being a part of the tour.
Try getting that on your lonesome!
4. It’s Social!
Perhaps my favourite part of taking a group wine tour is that it comes with a built-in set of friends for the day.
Even if you’re traveling with your better half or a couple of mates, more people always spices things up a little.
We loved having the opportunity to talk travel with our fellow wine lovers and have somebody handy to snap cutesy couple photos of us.
Hell, by the time the day was done, we were singing along to Shaggy’s Greatest Hits together and on a first name basis.
But I Want to Plan My Own Hunter Valley Wine Tour!
If I haven’t managed to convince you why a wine tour is the best way to go, never fear!
Suzanne’s second site, Hunter Valley Insider, has all of the information you need to design your own Hunter Valley escape.
Whether it’s a day trip to drink with your friends or a romantic getaway, Hunter Valley Insider has plenty of information on accommodation, cellar doors, and activities in the region.
Have you ever taken a wine tour? What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks of a guided tour? Leave a comment below!
If you have any questions about Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours or the Hunter Valley as a whole, don’t hesitate to ask below. I’m always checking for new comments, so I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!
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