Sydney Times

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Top 10 Hunter Valley Wineries

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Top 10 Hunter Valley Wineries

Introduction-Hunter Valley

”The Hunter Valley,is a popular wine tourist destination,. just north of Sydney, and is one of Australia’s major wine-growing regions, with a viticultural history dating back to the early 1800s. Known for varietals such as Semillon and Shiraz, it’s home to well over 150 vineyards. Most are located south of the Hunter River and operate Cellar doors where the wines are showcased and there is also a  well developed tourist infrastructure with Restaurants and Hotels, and even Helicopter rides  and Aero Flying tours, not to mention Hot Ballooning. There are also Golf Courses,Parks and Gardens to visit so diversity is the key and there are a lot of leisure activities and events in this region. 

 With over 150 different wineries to choose from in the Hunter Valley, self-guided wine tours are the easiest way for most visitors to sample the finest wines this region has to offer.  Overseas visitors are guaranteed to see kangaroos alongside outstanding small boutique wineries. Overseas visitors who prefer Sydney’s Luxury  hotels can take advantage of the Day trips and tours from Sydney.

The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest and one of the best known wine regions along with the Barossa Valley and , and McLaren Vale in South Australia ,.. the Yarra Valley in Victoria and the Margaret River in WA,..with over 150 wineries.

The Hunter Valley wine region is recognized around the world for several distinctive wines produced here since the 1800s.

Whilst Hunter Valley Semillon is widely considered the iconic wine of the region,.. the Hunter produces wine from a variety of grapes including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho.

Wine author and Publisher Axel Ritenis on the job

Under Australia’s wine appellation system, the Hunter Region is one Geographic Indication (GI) that is sub-divided into the Upper and Lower Hunter Valley.The traditional “hunter proper”is the Lower Hunter Valley. (Much of the history of Hunter was played out in this area and it is generally what is referred as the Hunter Valley wine country.)

The majority of the Hunter Valley’s most prestigious vineyards are located on the southern valley and foothills of the Brokenback range with Tyrells having the prime spot within the shadow of the Brokenback Mountain.

The topography of the Hunter includes mostly gently sloping hills with modest gradients. The one notable exception are the vineyards of Mount View just west of the town of Cessnock. Despite being the area’s namesake, the Hunter River itself is not the dominant feature of the region—falling behind the Brokenback Range for that distinction.

The success of the Hunter Valley wine industry has been dominated by its proximity to Sydney with its settlement and plantings in the 19th century fuelled by the commercial network that linked the valley to the Sydney and regional pride requires that Sydneysiders partake of their own wine in preference to wine from SA or Victoria or NZ for that matter.


The steady demand of consumers from Sydney continues to drive much of the Hunter Valley wine industry, and the tourism industryis a major factor in the economy.The Hunter Valley is located to the north of Sydney, stretching inland from the coastal town of Newcastle.Known locally as the ‘Hunter’, the region is split into two parts; Lower Hunter, where the majority of wineries are based, and Upper Hunter, which also has vineyards and other industries. 

The Hunter Valley township of Cessnock is about 160kms from Sydney. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive to The Hunter Valley from Sydney.

The regions Wollombi Valley, Cessnock, Pokolbin, Rothbury, and Lovedale in the Lower Hunter are the busiest and most visited areas.

Apart from grapes, the Hunter Valley region also produces cheeses, olive oil, and olives. At many of the cellar doors, you can sample a broad selection of wines or Dine in quality Restaurants featuring some of the world’s finest wines.

Or even enjoy jazz, opera, and blues concerts throughout the year.

You can experience the colorful blooms at the Festival of the Flowers in September.


“The Hunter Valley vines are very old and planted in 1867 and the vines were untouched by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s which wiped out practically all of Frances vineyards.

Of the two most important Red varieties today, Hunter Valley Cabernet exhibits more the regional traits of a Hunter Shiraz than it does with the varietal expression of Cabernet exhibited in Bordeaux and California. It tends to be very earthy and is often cross blended with wine from regions outside the Hunter to give complexity.

 Maurice O’Shea of McWilliams Mountain View pioneered the planting of Pinot noir which he used to blend with Shiraz and was more famous for developing excellent Semillon wines. While an obscure grape mostly associated with the fortified wines of Madeira, Verdelho has developed a niche in the Hunter Valley where its thick skin and high acids tolerate the humidity and heat.

Hunter Valley Semillon was first planted in the region in 1830, the grape has been produced and variously labeled as Hunter Valley Riesling, Hock, Rhine Gold, White Burgundy, and Chablis.

In its youth, it exhibits austere lemon, grassy notes but with 10 plus years in the bottle, it develops into it matures over decades into a honeyed wine with toasty biscuit notes and a mineral backbone.

Described by Oz Clarke as one of the “wine world’s enigmas”, the grapes unique profile is attributed to the harsh climate and humidity of the Hunter which coax this low acid grape to *higher acid levels than it achieves in the cooler climate of Bordeaux.

*Typical harvest figures for Hunter Valley Semillon are between 6.8–7.4 g/l acidity and 2.8-3 pH while in Bordeaux the grape is usually harvested at around 4.8–5.5 g/l and 3.1–3.3 pH

James Busby’s collection is the likely origin of Hunter Valley Shiraz and today the Hunter Valley is home to some of the oldest own-rooted Shiraz vine in the world with some vineyards boasting vines that are in excess of 120 years of age.

The Hunter Valley vines are very old and planted in 1867 the vines were untouched by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s which wiped out practically all of Frances vineyards”

Hunter Valley Shiraz is characterized but its astringent, gamy noted but has a tendency to develop in the bottle over 20 to 30 years into a silky, texture earthy wine with notes reminiscent of a RhoneValley wine. Traditionally Hunter Shiraz has carried the descriptor of “sweaty saddle”.

Of the two most important red varieties today, Hunter Valley Cabernet exhibits more the regional traits of a Hunter Shiraz than it does with the varietal expression of Cabernet grown in Bordeaux or California, in the sense that it lacks the Cassis and Fine structure. It tends to be very earthy and perhaps more plummy or Blreminiscent of Black fruits,…is often cross blended with wine from regions outside the Hunter to give complexity.

 While there were likely some plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in the 19th century, Hunter Valley Cabernet seemed to vanish at the turn of the 20th century and didn’t regain a footing in the Hunter until Max Lake reintroduced the variety along with the other Bordeaux varietals of Petite Verdot and Malbec in 1963.

 Hunter Valley-Main Grape Varieties


The Hunter Valley is recognized both nationally and internationally for its Semillon,..and it is the most highly awarded variety produced in the region. In its youth, it is zesty bright with lemon or lime aromas and flavors and has a delicate acidity to finish –perfect for fresh seafood. Those that are prepared to wait are rewarded with complexity –biscuit, malt, honey, and toasty richness.


Typically medium to full-bodied in style, Hunter Valley Chardonnay is characterized by peach, fig, and tropical fruit like flavors with crisp and fresh unwooded styles, and full-bodied rich and fulfilling wooded styles.


A style unique to the Hunter Valley, Verdelho, customarily made without oak, is a fruit-driven medium-bodied wine.



Shiraz is undoubtedly the most important red variety in the Hunter Valley Regional definition is good and wines tend to be medium to full-bodied, characterized when young by blackberry, mulberry, and plum characters, as well as spice, chocolate, and licorice with the characteristic regional earthy and often leathery tones (which gives rise to the term sweaty saddle)and complexity developing with age.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Hunter Valley Cabernet is somewhat of an enigma, producing wines with firm tannins, a fragrant bouquet, and smoky aromas developing into cigar-box complexity with age.


 Merlot from the Hunter Valley shows suppleness, a plummy bouquet, and fine tannins, and leafy complexity.

Pinot Noir 

Pinot, though lesser-known in the region, has a rich history with the first clone (MV6) having originated here. Pinot has been grown with varying levels of success, an adverse and probably unsuitable terroir,…but nevertheless remains an important part of the Hunter story, illustrated by Scarborough.


Hunter Valley Varieties -Modern Day Developments

More recently we have seen a diversification of Grape varieties with the introduction of other Mediterranean varieties by the likes of local winemaker and Hunter spokesman Andrew Margan, who have pioneered the growth of the Piedemonte Italian variety Barbera and also the Spanish white variety Albarino which is generally associated with the Rias Baixas region on the Atlantic coast of Spain.

Also, because of the chronic shortage and limitation of fruit in the region due to climatic conditions and bushfires,..there has been a significant move by Hunter winemakers to extend their range by vinifying and selling wine from other regions of Australia such as Hilltops NSW, McLaren Vale in SA and even Beechworth in Victoria. This probably creates some confusion amongst consumers, to why Hunter wine producers, whilst extolling the virtues of local Hunter wine are in fact producing and selling wine that has effectively been imported from other regions,..even if it is technically vinified in the Hunter.

The reason as previously mentioned is that in some years,..if there is low yield due to drought or grapes are damaged at harvest by excessive tropical rain and mold, would be difficult to remain economically viable and generate sufficient income from Hunter fruit alone. There is a lot of misunderstanding and criticism of these practices,..and certainly a Barossa or Margaret River producer “would not be seen dead” offering wine made from other regions!….…Unfortunately,.. this is a kind of tacit admission that in fact, the Hunter is quite a marginal grape growing area, terms of harvest yields and climatic condition,..but at the same time there are numerous producers that still survive from Hunter wine alone.

Of course, the old days when many notable Hunter producers ..were mixing/adding  S-E Australian wines into their blends without acknowledging the provenance of these wines in the mix, …are over,.. thanks to a tightening of appellation laws and administrative oversights and regulation. 


TOP 10 Wineries -Information

Here is a range of recommended wineries which is by no means exhaustive,. but merely serves as a short guide to quality establishments,..A number of specialty wines are also produced.No matter what Your preference, you’ll always find a style to share and enjoy in the Hunter Valley and you can find wines of exceptional quality that are world-class!

 Brokenwood Wines


Newly renovated over the last 12 months, this new Brokenwood cellar door appears to be more commercial and less homely previously but now feels pretty class and well designed,.. and the offerings of its flagship wines and friendly staff remain the same.

Whilst many really liked the old building, this new one augurs well for a modern dynamic future! The variety of flexible spaces allows them to offer visitors unique and premium wine experiences and event spaces with two amazing dining venues on-site.- including the restaurant Cru.

Established in 1970, and founded by a trio of Sydney-based solicitors: Tony Albert, John Beeston, and James Halliday. Brokenwood Wines has evolved from a weekend venture for self-professed hobby winemakers into a highly reputable wine label. From the flagship wine – the famed Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz to the commercial, Cricket Pitch Range, Brokenwood’s commitment to producing wine of the highest quality is always evident.



The first vintage was picked in 1973. While none of the original partners claimed to know anything about viticulture, the wine received praise and attracted a loyal following from its first vintage.

In 1975, a new winery was built to accommodate the growing production. Growth was steady until the boom of 1978, when six new partners joined, allowing the purchase of the next door “Graveyard Vineyard”. Designated as a cemetery by the local town planners, but never used as such, the block had been planted with Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Graveyard Vineyard created Brokenwood’s flagship wine, the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, which is still sourced exclusively from this one vineyard.

In the same year, Brokenwood sourced fruit from outside the Hunter Valley for the first time which was blended with Hunter fruit to make a premium red, creating the style that has been synonymous with Brokenwood for the last 20 years.

Typically when visiting guests are organized to be a part of the Brokenwood Experience which allows for seating of wine tasting matched with delicious corresponding canapes. Brokenwood wine tastings are very personal and informative experiences. The Somelliers (also know as wine consultants) on hand,are very knowledgeable and accommodating. 





Address: 401-427 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Hours: Opens 11 AM Mon 

Phone: (02) 4998 7559


Fax: (02) 4998 7893




Lakes Folly

 Lake’s Folly was the first boutique winery in the Hunter and their focus and excellence are reflected in their flagship Cabernet blend and Chardonnay.  They don’t have a massive selection or range but the wines they do have are superb and amounts the most sough-after by Fine Wine Collectors. They have been featured in many guides as being amongst the best Australian investment wines. The staff at the winery lead by Rodney Kemp,..are very knowledgeable about the wine.


The Lake’s Folly 12 hectare vineyard is planted on volcanic and alluvial soils mainly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (some Petit Verdot, Shiraz, and Merlot) and is regarded as one of the best plots of land in the Lower Hunter Valley. At over 40 years old, the fully mature, vertically positioned vines are pruned heavily for low yielding high-quality vines producing sensational fruit.

Lakes Folly was amongst the first of the weekend wineries to produce wines for commercial sale and was long revered for its Cabernet Sauvignon and nowadays its Chardonnay,.. in a region better known for Shiraz and Semillon. The terroir and climate produce a distinct regional influence and thereby a distinctive wine style.

The winery continues to have a loyal clientele, with most of the wine selling out quickly by “mail order”, although there is long-standing arrangement in place to supply Vintage Cellars in Sydney.  Lakes Folly no longer has any connection with the family of Dr. Max Lake the founder or his family, having been acquired some years ago by Perth businessman Peter Fogarty. Peters family company previously established the Millbrook Winery in the Perth Hills,  

Rodney Kempe, previously a winemaker at McGuigans, is now completely in charge of winemaking. “There is no question that his clear-headed, calm approach to winemaking  has brought success.” 

Lakes Folly adheres to traditional methods,..and the  Cabernet grapes are crushed and kept in an open fermenter tank and then matured for approximately 12 months in a combination of new and used French oak barriques, the proportion of new oak ranging from 1/3 to a 1/2 depending on the vintage.

The Cabernet is an elegant, perfumed style with violet, blackcurrant, earthy characters, fine-grained tannins and underlying savory oak.

Lake’s Folly has always pursued a philosophy of single estate wine. As the market becomes saturated with brand-focused ultra-fine wines the idea of a truly limited production delineated wine has plenty of appeal to investors in the same way that Henschke Hill of Grace now has a cult following,…which has increasingly detracted from the credibility of the Penfolds Grange “multi-regional unlimited production ethos”.Today’s Fine wine aficionados are increasingly obsessed with Provenance and terroir!

 During the mid-1980s, at the height of its success, Lake’s Folly was found in almost every serious wine collector’s cellar and enjoyed fame almost akin to the cult wine scene of the late 1990s.




Lakes Folly

Address: 2416 Broke Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 10 AM Mon-Sunday

Phone: (02) 4998 7507


 Hungerford Hill

Hungerford Hill is a boutique estate in the heart of the Hunter Valley making distinguished wines that are regional and authentic. Offering a variety of wines made on-site to taste and offering the renowned “Epic wine and food tasting”. During pre-covid times,..they presented a regular calendar of live music and cultural events.

Established in 1967, Hungerford Hill has a proud reputation for producing distinguished wines and providing a memorable cellar door experience. Guided by accomplished Winemaker Bryan Currie, Hungerford Hill’s team produce authentic wines, packed with character and interest, with a focus on Hunter Valley fruit as well as cool-climate grapes from Southern NSW which Fruit sourced from some of the finest vineyards in NSW

Sam and Christie Arnaout purchased Hungerford Hill from the Kirby Family in December 2016, planning to refocus the 50-year-old label on its Hunter Valley origin, also adding significant new Lower Hunter vineyards at Sweetwater and “Dalwood “- which is the oldest continuously operating vineyard in Australia!


Established on the beautiful Hunter River in 1828, Dalwood Estate is regarded as the birthplace of Hunter Valley wine.

Today Dalwood Estate continues to raise the benchmark in Australian winemaking, placing passion, expertise, and technique at the heart of the business. Not surprisingly,.. Hungerford is proud to have an outstanding selection of Hunter Valley wines born from a legacy close to two centuries in the making.

Pictured: Hungerford Hill wine consultants Ethan Burke(R)and Andre (L)ready to “wow you” with their wine knowledge and charm

As the longest-running commercial vineyard in Australia Dalwood Estate purchased cuttings from the first Australian vine collections of Macarthur, Busby, Shepherd, and Blaxland. Early colonial Dalwood wines from those vines won prizes at international exhibitions. 

Hungerford Hill uses these vineyards to bolster its Hunter Valley wines while continuing its 20 plus year association with the cool-climate Tumbarumba and Hilltops regions.

Hungerford Hill exports to all major markets in Asia and Europe.

The Hungerford Hill building designed by Sydney architect Walter Barda is a landmark of the Hunter Valley region, with its unique barrel-shaped tasting room and underground working cellar.

The much-acclaimed Muse Restaurant offers some of the finest food in the Valley amidst spectacular views across the vineyards to the Brokenback Ranges.

Visitors are seeing some exciting developments in the Hungerford Hill winemaking portfolio, with the replanting of 2 hectares of home block Cabernet Sauvignon to Vermentino and Gewurtstraminer in 2014. These wines are now “coming on stream” and I was recently impressed with the current vintage of Vermentino on my visit in  September 2020.
Gewürztraminer has also proven itself in the Hunter Valley and is a valuable addition to the members selection range whilst the Italian variety Vermentino is perfectly suited to this climate and complements the distinctive house style of Hungerford Hill.

Tasting Room Experience

When you enter the unique barrel-shaped cellar door, known as the “Tasting Room”, you are now required to be seated for all wine tastings (requirement for Covid social distancing protocol)and you are guided by one of the knowledgeable team members. I was recently guided by Ethan,..who was very knowledgeable and a good host. I was introduced to a selection of their award-winning wines, but you can elect to indulge in a delicious cheese platter to enhance your experience.

Generally, the Cost is $10 per person to taste 8 wines. (Maximum 6 people)

The $10 is redeemable on the purchase of wine.

During Covid restrictions bookings online are essential.

Epic Tasting Experience

The award-winning Epic Tasting Experience at Hungerford Hill is designed for the discerning palate. It brings together the best of wine and food in perfect harmony…It costs $60.00 and is reputed to be well worthwhile. (It is advisable to book ahead)

Featuring a mini-degustation of Hungerford Hill wines matched to bite-sized dished created by award-winning two-hatted, Muse Restaurant.

The expert Wine Consultants will guide you through each tasting course with in-depth knowledge of food and wine pairings.

With Hungerford Hill being awarded Best Cellar Door with Food in the 2019 Gourmet Traveller WINE Awards this is an experience for all travelers, foodies, and wine lovers alike.



Hungerford Hill

2450 Broke Rd
Pokolbin, NSW 2320Hours: 10am – 5pm Sunday to Thursday, 10am – 6pm Friday & Saturday
Phone: 0249987666

Muse Restaurant
2450 Broke Road,
Pokolbin, NSW 2320Hours: Lunch: 6 pm – 10 pm Wednesday to Saturday
Phone: 0352811799
Send us an email
View the website


Petersons Wines

Petersons is a family-owned and operated winery, which has been growing wine for 37 years and making wines for 27 years. Nestled in the hills of Mount View in the Hunter Valley, their picturesque backdrop is stunning – and only a quick drive from the main areas of the Hunter. They have traditionally been renowned for making small parcels of exceptional quality wines, earning us the prestige of being 2001’s Champion Small Winery of Australia.

Chardonnay may have put them on the map, but they have also become renowned for their superb sticky style desserts and our luscious full-bodied reds.


They have also been able to expand into the beautiful Mudgee region in order to produce full-bodied reds from its milder climate, and also pioneered the cool climate New England region in Armidale. Despite their growing success, Petersons prides itself on tradition, family, and friendly service.

This is one of the most popular winery experiences according to social media reports.. and certainly, they do have a beautiful garden with magnificent Valley views and a charming Tasting room. If you are lucky enough to be looked after by “John the Pom” who is very knowledgeable and has many anecdotes to regale you with,.. about the history and characters of the Hunter,..including one of the pioneers of the Australian wine industry,.. founder of  Rothbury Estate,…Len Evans,..and Murray Tyrrell from the famous winery of the same name. As to the wines,.. the Semillon is good as is the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured) is also worth trying.

Petersons Wines 

Address: 552 Mount View Rd, Mount View NSW 2325

Hours: Closed ⋅ Open 10 AM Monday-Sunday

Phone: (02) 4990 1704

Phone: (02) 4990 1704



McGuigan Wines 

A warm welcome awaits you at the McGuigan Cellar Door, located in the heart of the Hunter Valley on the corner of Broke and McDonalds Roads. The knowledgeable and friendly cellar door staff will guide you through a tasting of McGuigan wines from the always popular Black Label to exclusive labels such as Vineyard Select and the Personal Reserve. Visitors are welcome at the McGuigan Cellar Door with the relaxed main hall, specially designed wine-tasting area for up to 100 people, and private tasting room for Club 2000 members and invited guests. Brian McGuigan is one of the legends of the Hunter Valley,..was the founder of Wyndham estate and has considerable success in the overseas export markets and regularly wins Awards and Medals in recognized International  Wine competitions.

There is also a small cheese shop next to it and the owner makes his own cheese. If you come during the week they usually have some samples available. 

Whether you are new to wine tasting or a seasoned professional, their friendly and knowledgeable team will guide you through a tasting of a quality range of wines.

McGuigan open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday thru to Sunday for wine tastings and wine purchases.

They encourage you you book ahead for any tastings, as these will all be seated tastings, with a maximum group booking of 10 people.

To make a booking please click here or call 02 4998 4111.


Address: 447 McDonalds Road Corner of, Broke Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Opening hours: Open 7 days

Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 10 AM Monday-Sunday

Phone: (02) 4998 4111





*Hunter Valley Cheese Company

See it, Smell it, Taste it, Luv it. Try their huge array of Fromage! own products, local and imported cheese, and Gourmet goods. A gourmands treasure trove.”

While at McGuigan Hunter Valley you can also experience the delights of the Hunter Valley Cheese Company.  Here you will be able to enjoy the full cheese experience from sampling the great range to seeing how each cheese is handcrafted in the Make and Maturation rooms. There is a daily instructional cheese talk at 11.00 am.


 Location: Tempus Two Complex, 2144 Broke Road, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Phone: 02 4998 6713

Fax: 02 4998 7650



Opening hours: Mon to Thurs 10 am – 5.30 pm, 




Bimbadgen Estate

Located high on a hill in the heart of Hunter Valley Wine Country, Bimbadgen is a striking winery and vineyard encompassing an expansive Cellar Door and award-winning Esca Bimbadgen Restaurant, Cafe, outdoor amphitheater, modern tasting rooms & accommodation all in the one stunning location.

Situated in a  commanding position on a hilltop with magnificent views of the Brokenback and Barrington Ranges, the Bimbadgen Cellar Door allows visitors to overlook the vines that made the wine at your table, and observe production facilities the tanks, and crushing pits upon entry. This experience offers the chance to be completely engulfed in the entire process behind the finished product.

The Cellar Door is a large contemporary facility, with large glass sliding doors opening up to the outdoor amphitheater, grape receiving area and crushing area, and surrounding vines. The fit-out features polished concrete floors, timber, and stainless steel.

Bimbadgen estate has an extensive range of wines including the classic Hunter varieties of Semillon, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Shiraz but in recent years they have also introduced the Mediterranean varieties of Vermentino (associated with Sardinia) and Fiano. In addition, they also add Viognier to their Shiraz in the Rhone valley style. In the red wine department, they now offer the Spanish variety Tempranillo and a Rose made from the same grape variety. In addition, they have a good range of sparkling Methode Champenoise wines. Many of their wines in the range have a certain fitness about them,..and they are generally made in a lighter more elegant style without excessive extraction. or overuse of oak. The single-vineyard wines show a great deal of typicality and reflect the terroir of the region.



The Cellar Door tasting experiences start from $8 per person and bookings are required for all groups to ensure availability.


Bimbadgen Winery

Location: 790 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Phone: 02 4998 4600



Opening hours: Bimbadgen Cellar Door is open Sun – Thurs 10am – 5pm 


Scarborough Wine Co.

*”There are those who probably think we are mad. Making wine in a fairly inhospitable region. Sometimes plagued by rain else extreme heat. It’s fair to say the Hunter Valley throws up its challenges. But we’d have it no other way. The Hunter is where the Scarborough story began. It’s an embodiment of family in more ways than one.”

*Quote from the Scarborough Publicity

The Hunter Valley has historically positioned itself as Australia’s first wine region with James Busby having delivered the first cuttings. Today there are vineyards that are over a century old and represent some of the world’s oldest vines. The region falls under a warm to hot and virtually subtropical climate and traditionally vignerons need to battle adverse conditions such as tropical rain during harvest,…or very dry summers and more recently bush fire generated smoke taint to produce the wines that are full of character and express a sense of place.

The most popular white grape in the Hunter would have to be Semillon – the jewel in the Hunter’s crown,… making a unique style that is revered the world over and perhaps the only variety that develops well with age. Chardonnay comes next and it’s the grape variety that Scarborough have hung their reputation on, with unwavering conviction.The results and the accolades from wine judges and critics such as James Halliday confirm this.

Their  decision to specialize in Chardonnay has been vindicated and Ian Scarborough has “lead  from the front and shown what’s possible in the region.”

In the reds, it’s Pinot Noir and Shiraz that are the stalwart varieties offering up a savory suggestion of Hunter Valley terroir at Scarborough. Hunter Shiraz is another case of a “unique thumbprint graph that exhibits the DNA of the region”. Pinot, though lesser-known in the region, has a rich history with the first clone (MV6) having originated in the Hunter… Pinot remains an important part of the Scarborough story.

According to James Halliday,..”Ian Scarborough honed his winemaking skills for many years as a consultant and has brought all those skills to his own label. He makes three different styles of Chardonnay: the Blue Label is a light, elegant, Chablis style for the export market; a richer barrel-fermented wine (Yellow Label) is primarily directed to the Australian market; the third is the White Label, a cellar door-only wine made in the best vintages.”
The Scarborough family also acquired a portion of the old Lindemans Sunshine Vineyard,..and planted it with Semillon and pinot noir.
On my last visit about a year ago,. I had the impression that this winery is “a bit of standout in terms of the tasting experience”,..”n addition to which the staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.
The Tasting Flight experience was much appreciated,.. and the variety of wines with the paired cheeses was well presented and left me with a  good impression, and the recommendations I received proved warranted! One should note that there are a  variety of Tasting options available, as there are the apparent differences between all the vintages on offer,..for the different varieties and wines but you will be guided by the winery consultants.


Wine Flight at Scarborough 

Scarborough Wine Co.


179 Gillards Rd, Pokolbin, Cessnock, New South Wales 2320 Australia

Toll-free:  1300 888 545

Fax:         (02) 4998 7786


Open Friday to Monday 10am – 5pm

Tyrrells Wines

English immigrant Edward Tyrell established Tyrrell’s Wines in 1858 after receiving a land grant in the lee of the Hunter Valley’s Brokenback Range, New South Wales. This land has become recognized as home to some of the Hunter Valley region’s finest vineyards, and the basis for the development of one of Australia’s most successful privately-owned wine companies.

 Today, Tyrrell’s are a truly national wine company, premium vineyards extend from their legendary home in the Hunter Valley to other distinguished grape growing regions of Australia including McLaren Vale in South Australia, and Heathcote in Victoria.


Fourth-generation family member and Managing Director, Bruce Tyrrell heads this winemaking company that boasts well established, popular and highly recognizable wine brands that are exported to over 30 countries worldwide.

The majority of the Hunter Valley’s most prestigious vineyards are located on the southern valley and foothills of the Brokenback range with Tyrells having the prime spot witin the shadow of the Brokenback Mountain.

Tyrells offers one of the best winery experiences. This winery has been around for so long. The Cellar door is both historic and legendary and is well worth a visit. The higher-end more exclusive wines are superb,..and a Guided Tour of the winery is afforded, serious visitors. Even with COVID measures in place, this venue does not disappoint. The Tasting Room staff are immensely knowledgeable and friendly. In addition  it is not unusual for Bruce Tyrell or a family member to make an appearance. I first came to Tyrrells many years ago in the late ’70s and have also received a guided Tour of the Winerymet the various winemakers,.. and even been treated to a private lunch with the Export Manager in the old cottage,..and the Tyrrells hospitality in the industry has always been legendary. Tyrells is also a founding member of the prestigious First Family of Wine group that comprises some of the most prestigious wine producers from around the world!

Make sure you try some aged Semillon if you haven’t before. The Vat 1 Semillon is perhaps the best in the world,.. and can be aged for up to 20 years when it develops all the secondary flavors. Tyrrells, which still uses traditional open-top Concrete Tank Fermenters,… also produces some of the best Shiraz in the Hunter.

Surprisingly the Tour costs only $10 which includes a full wine tasting.

The tour is daily at 10.30 am. The guide/consultant host explains the history of the family vineyard and also explains the vinification process and how to match the wine.It’s probably a good time to visit as the winery as pre-Covod it used to be full of throngs International Tourists clamoring all over the place. You can tell that staff are passionate about their wines and enjoy working with each other. and the public irrespective of the level of their wine knowledge.


Bookings are essential and are by appointment only. You can now book online under their experiences tab. If you are a Private Bin or Founder’s Club member please contact the winery direct via phone or email at the Cellar Door.


Tyrrell’s have introduced a set tasting fee of $10 for the experience which is not redeemable or refundable. Tastings are limited to a 45-minute window with a set tasting list. The usual set tasting list offers a variety of selected wines across their range including their Winemakers Selection and Single Vineyard Wines.


Groups are limited to 6 people or less. Upon booking, you are required to provide all contact information for all guests attending. This is crucial information required for the traceability of all visitors.

Tyrrells Wines 

Address: 1838 Broke Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320

Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 10 AM Mon-Sunday

Phone: (02) 4993 7000

Get Directions



Audrey Wilkinson

What were his parents thinking?

Yet aged only 15 years, with his father having died, Audrey assumed the daunting role of running the family’s vineyard.

Audrey was blessed with a wonderful sense of taste, and produced some of the finest wines in Australia.

He left this lasting legacy:

“It’s all about the wine!.”

The Hunter Valley has lots of cellar doors but one of the great experiences is the  Audrey Wilkinson Premium Wine Tasting!  On my last visit the wine man was Brian who was not only a pleasant and entertaining host,.. but also very knowledgeable. After tasting a sparkling, three whites and three reds plus a sticky even I,.. was tempted to join the Wine Club,..but as a Wine Journalist and having been in the trade for over 30 years,…I can hardly keep up the pace of tasting and writing up samples as it is.


 Audrey Wilkinson is one of the Hunter’s oldest vineyards. Their $15 Premium Wine Tasting menu is very well ordered, and it takes you on an exceptional journey. The beautiful scenery and landscape outside the Cellar Door are impressive and the winery is situated in one of the best spots in the Hunter Valley.  if you are a serious wine aficionado it’s useful to know that many of our readers have actually recommended the  Heritage Cellar Experience. This gives you the opportunity to Ages Wines from the Museum,..and any Tasting fees you pay,..will be reimbursed or deducted from the price of a decent purchase.

Some of the Audrey Wilkinson range of wines are available in Sydney retail shops including the very good Hunter Valley Semillon and the Hunter Shiraz. Retail Stockists include Dan Murphy and Liquorland.


Audrey Wilkinson

Address: 750 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320

You visited 3 years ago

Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 10 AM Mon-Sunday

Phone: (02) 4998 1866


Usher Tinkler

They bought and renovated the original Pokolbin Church, which was built in 1905, to create a place to showcase their new brand.

Operating as a Cellar Door Usher Tinkler has created an energetic and sociable environment to enjoy their wines.

Whilst many consider the wines a little “funky and avant-garde” they still use only fruit/grapes from their own family estate in Pokolbin and believe in a 100% Hunter Valley production.

They do not offer wines made from other regions as a matter of principle!

Their approach to wine tasting incorporates a well-developed “food and wine lifestyle concept”, and whilst tasting you can choose from their salumi and cheese list to make a plate to accompany your tasting. On my recent visit, I found all the wines to be quite unique and exceptional,.. and way different from the “run of the mill” stereotypical wine styles generally available.

Whilst I am a bit of a stickler for tradition and have even been called a “stamp collector” by restaurateur John Fink of QUAY fame, I generally enjoyed the funky and innovative style that Usher and his Team offer and was pleased to make this discovery albeit rather late in the peace!

At Tinkler’s they are very hospitable,.. and very accommodating with groups and children,.. and at $10 per person for wine Tasting, it seems very reasonable. (The ten dollars$10 is redeemable if you purchase a bottle) Some servers such as Tristan,,..the young man I had are definitely more knowledgeable than others,.. but you can’t really go wrong at this funky and cool establishment!

The wine tasting experience has a designated time of 1.5,…Just book ahead and enjoy the wine and food!

“The interior of the converted historic church has polished floorboards at the original end and then polished concrete in the more modern extension at the back.  There is a real hipster feel to this cellar door with leather couches, the old retro turntable, and the eclectic mix of chairs and tables around the room”

With Usher Tinkler billing himself as a purveyor of wine and salumi, it is just as well He has a bench-mounted Berkel prosciutto slicer, to dispense about a dozen kinds of cured meats and salumi.

There’s also a diverse mainly imported cheese list.

Visitors can sit at the bar or a stool or even luxuriate in one of the big leather sofas at the end of a hard day of Tasting.

This is quite a different experience to that offered elsewhere,.as  the mission here is to provide sociability and a modern approach.. ‘Usher Tinkler Wines – Born for Sociability’ is the motto and they live up to this pretty well,..that’s the focus for a new style of wine experience via the Hunter Valley. The labeling, wine packaging, and cellar door settings are unconventional and the antithesis of the modern industrial commercial tendency normally encountered in most large Australian wineries,.. so this is quite a refreshing and funky approach!

Also, there is no question that  Usher and his community are innovators, and perhaps a bit more Artisanal in their style and they highlight the provenance of their unique Hunter wines very well,…and this raises interesting questions about the  “modus operandi ” of the other wineries…and perhaps even the use of wine from other regions.

According to his publicity,..Usher Tinkler is regarded as one of Australia’s most dynamic young winemakers. Along with his grandfather and father, he is apart of three generations of farming expertise; the dairyman, the cattleman, and the winemaker. They all share the same name and united passion for the land and it was in recognition of this that  Usher Tinkler Wines was born,..and you know what after being exposed to all manner of Wine Spin from the elite Bordelaise to the Burgundians promoting exorbitantly expensive wines,..

I found my visit and experience quite inspirational and convincing because “they are bloody well genuine, unique and original!”


Excellent Beef wagyu Breaola Salumi andFrench soft cheeses on offer are top quality

Whilst Usher’s wines are avant-garde he still only uses grapes from his own family estate in Pokolbin and believes in a 100% Hunter Valley production, paying homage to his rich heritage.

Usher Tinkler Wines purchases 25 hectares of original Lindemans Ben Ean land in December 2018 and The purchase includes 5.5 hectares of old Shiraz Vines, planted pre-1968.

“The purchase of the property was  perfect for the growth of their  business and future development of the  brand”, as they have always striven   to maintain 100% Hunter Valley production so this was a  strategic step to support increased sales and business sustainability.”

The property itself connects the Usher Tinkler Wines Cellar Door (the original Pokolbin Church built 1905) to their already owned and run vineyards, creating a stand-alone estate of 55 hectares.




“Shifting gear in the Hunter Valley from the conventional,.. these wines are authentic yet adventurous. Blurring the lines between traditional and contemporary winemaking. Wines that create discussion – born for sociability”.




Usher grew up in Pokolbin on the Tinkler Family Vineyard established in 1943 by his grandfather Usher Gordon Tinkler

In 1841, his great grandfather Usher Tinkler left Ireland for Australia and started growing vines. For generations, the family sold their grapes to top Hunter wineries like Tyrrells and Mt Pleasant before deciding to go at it alone in 2014. Today, the family owns 50 hectares of their own vineyards and uses the grapes to make their own wines..

“From a young age, I’ve been interested in the Hunter Valley,… I want to make sure that we can contribute back to this region by securing rare and old vines such as these, keep them in great condition, and crafting wines from them”

With the new Tinklers Winery upgrade, there is now the potential for the entire 400 tonnes of premium fruit grown on the Tinkler Family and Usher Tinkler Wines vineyards to be utilized on-site, for both brands. Already The wines can be spotted on Hunter region restaurants and shops and there is local pride in the brand.

Clearly, Usher has something of a local following with good reason. He was previously chief winemaker at Poole’s Rock and Cockfighter’s Ghost,.. so he has a lot of experience and creative energy to further develop Tinklers, and production has been increased to meet demand. Global interest has emerged,..with exports to Sweden, Singapore, and China.

The Wines 

“As far as the wines on show are concerned, this range of wines both celebrate the history of the Hunter Valley while embracing new ways. Tinkler created his own range of wines, which come with busy, colorful, eye-catching labels aptly described as hipsterish in style. They are sealed with corks dipped in wax ( which have been tested for TCA taint).”

Wines Tasted on our Visit

La Volpe 2020 Prosecco 

Very good fresh and peardrop Prosecco that measures up as an aperitif.

Nose-2-Tale White Semillon Chardonnay 

With zesty notes of lemon and lime, they have created a refreshing mineral white that is a lot more funky than the insipid commercial stuff available in the supermarket! Signs of artisanal grip and texture.

UTW Reserve 

2019Reserve Chardonnay

A single-vineyard wine that shows flinty funky mineral notes with white peach overtones

Nose -2 Tail/2019Rose Shiraz/Merlot 

Soft Strawberry lifted savory Rose. Amazing artwork on the label.

The Enneagram 2020 Mixed varietal 

I presumed this was kind of a takeoff of the famous French Chateauneuf du Pape wine of the Rhone valley which has  8 to 9 varieties (cepages) blended into the wine .., so this is the local Hunter version,..made of 9 Hunter valley varietals. The wine was light bodied with floral aromatics. I was expecting a herbal element,…but didn’t detect any.

Nose-2 Tail 2019 Shiraz /Pinot

It kind of seems a little strange to blend these two varieties to me instinctively,..but it been done before in the Hunter and it seems to work,.You can’t argue with history and experience! With dark fruits and spice,..the flavor is intensely juicy all-round- Now I understand why they use the term “juicy”, fits!

UTW 2018 Reserve Shiraz 

A Premium reserve, barrel selection crafted from aged vines. A full-bodied wine with lifted aromas of white pepper black mulberries and vanillin oak. The Shiraz grapes are hand-harvested for optimum flavor, resulting in a rich juicy palate full of ripe black mulberries!


Meeting with Usher,.I was reminded of the fact there’s a lot of talk about natural and organic wines at the moment, and I think that’s reflected in the contemporary style of winemaking that Usher is trying to adhere to.

“It’s all about going back to basics, and really letting the grape variety and terroir shine,” he says.

What the Punters are saying about the Experience:

 Platter with 1 cheese selection for $30 was one of the best platters we’ve ever enjoyed in 15 years. $60 for one cheese plus one salami was tempting but way too much for two. The French soft cheeses on offer are top quality. I only wish they offer a tasting platter with a variety of salamis and cheeses. The tastings are always really pleasant – nothing groundbreaking, but really nice, easy-drinking wines. It’s a lovely setting, being in a renovated church, and although they get very busy on the weekends


As regards my visit,..I tasted a some cured Wagyu Bresaola and it was delectable,..with La Tur White mould soft cheese which was very pungent,.. (and made me think I was in France),..incidentally one of the great legends of the Hunter Dr. Max Lake wrote numerous academic treatises basically about Pheromones,.contained in Wine and Foodstuffs such as Cheese and Truffles and he advanced some theories along the lines, that a mature and pungent French Cheese (which contained pheromones,.. when combined with wine could result in sexual arousal,..and that these scents/smells were similar to the physical scents or smells encountered during mating and the sex act!...

So please don’t be surprised if you discover that a mature Burgundy combined with pungent cheese or truffles, results in some amorous behavior or an inclination to find someone sexually attractive,..all of a sudden! Now whilst this was a little removed from Max’s theorems,.. I did find the pungent cheese served up quite intoxicating and divine!

Incidentally, this pungent  French soft cheese is made from Cows and Goats milk and the. quality has to be tasted to be believed and it is anything but sterile!

In conclusion,.. to summarize my own overall impressions with this Usher Tinkler Tasting Flight and Salumi,…I will use the words of Sharon Stone (which she used in reference to a Chocolate Brownie Cake she frequently ate on the Top Floor Terrace of Harvey Nichols in London),…

“This is better than Sex!”


Usher Tinkler


97 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320






About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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