Hunter Valley 2015: Places to Go

h2>Storm damage repaired

In late April, the Hunter Valley was hit by some of the worst storms in the region’s history – but all tourism businesses are back in operation and ready to welcome visitors.

Phil Hele, general manager of Hunter Valley Resort, described it as, “the worst storm we have ever experienced.”

Hele added: “Thank you to everyone who sent our region positive energy. So many beautiful trees lost – one even fell in the pool, but everything is now back to normal.”

Hunter Valley Resorts is home to the new Matilda Bay Brewhouse Hunter Valley, where the thirsty can sample up to 12 craft brews, as well as the venue for one of the valley’s latest attractions, Segway tours through the vineyards.

Hunter Valley Resort, Hermitage Road, Pokolbin. (02) 4998 7777.

Hidden Gems

Tucked away in the backblocks of the Hunter, RidgeView is a delightful cellar door with a restaurant serving Cypriot-style tapas and Middle Eastern influenced dishes, along with a handful of comfortable cabins for those who enjoy a rural ambiance.

Don’t miss out on the rustic and relaxed Briar Ridge cellar door at Mount View to sample the wines of rising star winemaker Gwyn Olsen. Try a Gourmet Cheese Platter, or the Vignerons Platter. And there is also good coffee on offer.

Casa La Vina is a little slice of Tuscany in the Hunter, with three new, spacious and luxurious villas ideal for a romantic couples escape in the heart of the Hunter Valley vineyards, just minutes from concerts, wineries, restaurants and major attractions.

Eagles Rest is a new cellar door offering great views and wines made by PJ Charteris, ex Brokenwood, from some of the best small vineyards in the region. Highly recommended.

Hermitage Lodge and Il Cacciatore offer comfortable and affordable accommodation with friendly service – along with top-notch Italian food that pulls in the crowds every weekend.



Somewhere special to stay

Twenty-five years on and Peppers Convent remains the most gracious address in the Hunter Valley; a perfect splurge destination for wine lovers, food lovers or, simply, lovers.

Set among beautiful gardens and vineyards, The Convent was built in 1909 and transported to Pokolbin in 1990. It was once home to the Brigidine Order of nuns in Coonamble in country New South Wales.

The Convent is currently being lovingly upgraded by owners Matt and Karlie Cowley and has the unique ambiance of an indulgent French hotel combined with the character of an Australian country guesthouse.

It is luxurious but not stuffy and just far enough away from the main road to be an oasis of calm, even on busy weekends in the Hunter.

The Convent has 17 delightfully idiosyncratic bedrooms; with public areas being made over by interior design expert Karlie and her team.

On-site facilities include a swimming pool, heated spa pavilion, tennis court, boules and a front desk that is manned 24 hours a day.

The Convent also recently opened the second restaurant on its estate, Eighty Eight. Together with its sister restaurant Circa 1876, Eighty Eight is headed up by executive chef George Francisco, who says the eatery’s focus is on sustainable, ethically sourced and grown produce.

Peppers Convent, 88 Halls Road, Pokolbin. (02) 4998 4999.


First Creek Wines

First Creek was established by Greg Silkman, current managing director and winemaker, and has nearly two decades experience creating exceptional wines, as well as providing premium winemaking and bottling services for other producers.

What are some of the biggest changes to the winery since opening and what hasn’t changed?
We are proud of the fact we haven’t changed; we are still a small family owned and operated business. A big milestone for us was Liz Jackson joining the team and she has helped us win an incommensurate amount of awards for such a small winery, earning us the Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year in 2011.

Pairing wine with food is practically an art. Can you give us a few basic tips for this?
A common tip is pairing white wines with white meats and reds with red meats, but we always encourage people to follow their personal tastes. For instance, there are lighter red wines, such as pinot noir, that can easily be drunk with white meats or seafood. Similarly, the Hunter Valley shirazes are lighter in alcohol, a little more savoury and medium bodied, making them more adaptable across a wide range of foods. Our favourite match, which we will start with at our event Eat Drink Run, is the classic pairing of Semillon and oysters.

Will First Creek be running any special events for Food and Wine Month?
We are really excited for our Eat Drink Run event, which will be running all through the month. Eat Drink Run is a day full of what the Hunter Valley is best at – food and wine! Over the course of the day, nine individual courses are matched with nine Hunter Valley wines that highlight just how important and versatile the marriage of food and wine can be. Commencing at the First Creek winery with a trio of oysters and a selection of wines to accompany, we then move on by mini bus to The Deck restaurant, followed by The Verandah and Twine Restaurants – all of which are Hunter Valley favourites. This entire package is available at $110 per person.

Eat Drink Run operates every Saturday during June or by special appointment for groups of 12 or more. Bookings can be made by calling First Creek Wines on 4998 2992.