Hunters Valley recs
Heading to Hunters Valley in the beginning of April. Any reccomendations on local great restaurants, anything from hole in the walls to fine dining would be appreciated. Also any recs on the local wineries(I am from San Diego), would be great. Cheers
I have just come back from a weekend in the hunter so this is fresh off the press. It is quite a big area with 140 odd cellar doors to choose from; lots of providores, and many, many restaurants. Wine tourism has really taken off and the restaurants and wineries range from simple "boutique" cellar doors to the big international wine companies with architectural masterpieces and fine dining restaurants. I don't think you will find "holes in the wall" in the valley though as it is a country location 3 hours out of Sydney (Note it is the Hunter Valley no "s").
The wineries we enjoyed were all the small independents: David Hook (who is the winemaker for many places); Emma's Cottage; Piggs Peake; Tintilla; Gartelman; Monahan; Majors Lane; and Peterson Wines (not the champagne house it is a different company). We also visited Tempus Two; Pooles Rock; and Lindemans to contrast some of the big international producers with the boutique ones - it is interesting to compare the mass market export varieties with the small local producers.
For food we BBQ'd one night and bought some excellent cheese from the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, we had first sampled cheese from the "Smelly Cheese Company" but found HVCF better. We ate at dinner at "Majors Lane Winery" which was fine, although it suffered from having a large table of 20+for dinner so timings were a bit off.
Next time I intend to try "Bistro Molines" and "Rock Restaurant" at Poole's Rock Winery, both these have strong reputations, but they are fine diners, and thus expensive. Restaurant prices in the Hunter are quite high, I assume it is because most of their trade is limited to Friday/Saturday evening with far fewer visitors during the week.
The best strategy is to try and book restaurants close to your accommodation rather than driving long distances. There is a vineyard shuttle that can help transport you from cellar door to cellar door and also does restaurant transfers. Be cautious about drinking and driving, the limit is 0.05, and the police often use random breath tests (RBT's) where they stop every car going down a road for a test.
Off the top of my head...
Winemaking Tour: McWIlliam's Mount Pleasant. Their semillon is also a good introduction to the Hunter style.
Restaurants: Bistro Molines, Esca Bimbadgen. I hear Margan's good too.
Wineries: Lake's Folly is the best. Australia's first boutique winery; the best restaurants in Sydney are always trying to get bottles. They're not always open: they do a small run every year and are often sold out.
Also: Keith Tulloch, Audrey Wilkinson, Brokenwood, Poole's Rock, Tower.
If you feel like sparkling, Peterson's. If you want to taste a lot at one winery, Tyrrell's.
piggs peake and lake's folly
don't miss either
and see if piggs peake will let you taste the vintage pork and the little pig verdelho - i used to live in sydney and, when i did, i was a member of their lucky swines club just so i could get those two wines delivered on a regular basis!
p.s. you're going near easter - the barossa vintage festival is on this easter - that's my favorite event on the australian calendar, and i don't think you can top the experience - i'm scheming to see how i might be able to go over for it myself!