Expert’s Guide to the Hunter Valley – Chris Tyrrell
A fifth-generation winemaker takes a deep dive into the Hunter Valley
Who better to ask about what to do and see in the Hunter Valley than one of the region’s most famed winemakers? Chris Tyrrell’s family has been making wine at Tyrrell’s in Pokolbin for more than 160 years.
Chris talks about why he loves the Hunter Valley, and recommends where to find the best views, where to wander in nature, where to shop, which towns and villages to visit, and his favourite places for a little special-occasion dining.
Where are some of the most scenic Hunter Valley spots?
The view from my own cellar door at Tyrrell’s is great! Meanwhile the cellar door at Audrey Wilkinson in Pokolbin sits on a hill backed by the Brokenback Mountains, with a 360-degree view over the valley. You can get another terrific outlook from the terrace of Esca Bimbadgen restaurant – views from the interior aren’t bad either. And you’ll be rewarded with a great panorama from Bimbadeen Lookout, which is at Mount View west of Cessnock. It’s on the Great North Walk and, if you’re feeling active, you can walk a section that takes in Pokolbin cellar doors and more views at Mount Bright Lookout.
What are some of your favourite hidden gems?
There’s a lot to love about Lovedale, located next to Pokolbin and boasting cellar doors aplenty. Many of them are family-owned and managed, meaning they offer a bespoke and intimate experience. There’s a wide range of restaurants and cafes to indulge in and enjoy the local produce and taste of the Hunter Valley – don’t miss The Deck Cafe at Gartelmann Wines or Wandin Kitchen at Wandin Estate. There’s also a great range of places to stay from self-contained to luxury cottages, B&Bs to resorts and hotels. It certainly is home to the same warm welcome, beautiful scenery and winding country roads as its namesake, the Yorkshire Dales. In fact, the name Lovedale is believed to be a combination of the origin of the early European families, the Loves, with their memories of the dales in Yorkshire.
The village of Kitchener, just south of Cessnock, sits next to Werakata National Park, which is home to squirrel gliders, wallabies and endangered birds, and is especially popular with locals in springtime for its amazing wildflowers. Poppethead Reserve occupies the site of a former mine whose dammed lake is now home to black swans and ducks – a nice spot for its boardwalk and picnic areas.
What are my shopping opportunities?
I’d suggest visiting the villages of Wollombi, Branxton, Greta and Morpeth for homewares, art, antiques, farm-door produce and the like. You’ll enjoy the colonial-era ambience too. Morpeth has about 40 speciality shops in and around its main street. The 1835 Campbell’s Store features the work of hundreds of craftspeople all in the one place – everything from novelty teapots to teddy bears and ginger beer. Historic Arnott Bakehouse is where the Arnott’s biscuit business got its start. In Pokolbin, you can buy alpaca-wool products, gifts, homewares and handmade furniture at Peppers Creek Village and plenty more at the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village.
I want to do something active too. What do you suggest?
Can you recommend a couple of great restaurants for a really special night out?
The modern Italian restaurant éRemo at Spicers Guesthouse uses a lot of local produce, matched with Hunter Valley wines, as well as wines from elsewhere in Australia and Europe. The entrees, such as crispy squid or wagyu with balsamic-pickled cherries, are simple but delicious; so too are the pastas and mains from the grill. Another top spot is Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill, where the contemporary, seasonal Australian cuisine is beautifully presented.
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