Visiting Hunter Valley in 2020
I don’t care what anyone says — cabin fever is real ya’ll. After months of isolation and social distancing in varying degrees, you can’t blame anyone for going a little insane (myself included). After almost 5 months of working from home, I’ve hit lockdown fatigue.
Luckily for me, Andrew and I were celebrating our fourth anniversary, which gave me a good excuse to buy him (and also me) a present — a quick mid-week getaway!
With travel restrictions still in place, there’s only so many places you can visit. Since we live in New South Wales, we considered traveling to the Central Coast, Kangaroo Valley or Wollongong before finally settling on Hunter Valley.
Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s best wine regions, is roughly 2 to 3 hours away from Sydney depending where you’re coming from. As a big fan of day drinking, I don’t know why we didn’t go sooner! (I blame Andrew)
Where to Stay
Most visitors prefer to stay at Cessnock, Pokolbin or Lovedale, which is where most wineries and cellar doors are located. However, Andrew and I decided to stay at Mystwood, which is located at Wollombi, a good half an hour away from the main Hunter area.
Mystwood has 5 lovely cabins, each equiped with a fireplace, full-size kitchen and hot tub. (I’m not gonna lie, I was sold on the hot tub. Since we were going in winter, it was the only thing on our non-negotiable list.) While it’s a bit further away, it was absolutely stunning and worth every penny.
We almost forgot to book a wine tour so I was scrambling to find a tour company the week before we left. I was recommended two places by our lovely host, Lieneka: Two Fat Blokes and Grape Experience Tours. I went with the latter and was so glad that we did! Melissa was such a gem. She not only arranged the wineries, but accommodated our request to do a chocolate pairing as well!
Iron Gate Estates
The first winery we visited was Iron Gate Estates, which had a Spanish villa theme. The venue was beautiful and they had a few lovely wines as well. Andrew and I walked away with two bottles, a sparkling rose and a sweet semillon verdelho.
The second winery we visited had a fun theme, as their name suggests, pigs! Piggs Peake had wines named Prosciutto, Rosed Pork, Guinea Pig, House of Bricks and Piggio amongst others. We LOVED their semi-sweet red wine, Pigbrusco.
IronBark Hill Brewhouse
We were pleasantly surprised to visit a brewery for our third location. Anyone that knows me know that I love my beers and it was nice to have a break from all the wine. While we didn’t walk away with any cases, I personally liked their IPA, Summer Ale and American Pale Ale.
The last (but not least!) cellar door we visited was Moorebank. This wasn’t initially on the list of wineries we were supposed to visit, but Mel was kind enough to include it at our request. Since we were a small group (just two couples), they were able to accommodate us at such short notice. The chocolates were to die for and Andrew and I ended up purchasing 2 bottles of Merlot.
Stonehurst Cedar Creek
The next day, we decided to visit Stonehurst Cedar Creek on our own before heading into town for lunch. Fortunately, since they were a bit further off the main Hunter area, we were the only ones there and they allowed us in without a booking. This ended up being one of our favourite wineries. We left with six bottles — a few semillons and chambourcins, and a chardonnay.
Where to Eat
Mel, our tour guide, recommended a few places to eat around the area. We tried two well-rated restaurants during our stay — Baumé and Cafe Enzo. I, unfortunately, don’t have any photos from Baumé because Andrew and I practically devoured our mushroom flatbread, slow braised lamb shoulder and baked potatoes with olives the moment they arrived at our table. Just trust me when I say it was AMAZING.
Don’t get me wrong, Cafe Enzo was really good, too! Andrew had the beef cheeks and I had the linguini with tiger prawns. We just had a little more patience before digging in!
Overall, Andrew and I spent probably not more than $1,500, which included a car rental, our 3D/2N mid-week stay at Mystwood, our wine tour with Grape Experience Tours, meals at Baumé and Cafe Enzo, a quick game of Aqua Golf and 12 bottles of wine.
If you’re thinking about heading to Hunter Valley during this time, I’d highly recommend going on a weekday to avoid larger crowds. Given Covid-19 restrictions, some restaurants, cafes, wineries and cellar doors require a reservation. To avoid being turned away, make sure you book ahead!