A toast to regional NSW, which not only nurtures some of Australia’s most exciting wineries, but also breweries, cideries and distilleries that offer a true taste of place. And many offer unique ways to discover their wares, from helicopter rides to vineyard picnics, behind-the-scenes brewing masterclasses to opportunities to make your own gin. Cheers to that!
While a wine flight in a cellar door has its appeal, why not take your winery visit to the next level with a posh picnic amid the vines, a food pairing masterclass, backstage tour or blending session?
Or something offering even more perspective, like a scenic helicopter over Orange, 250-kilometres northwest of Sydney, where neat rows of vines decorate the countryside. Land at Swinging Bridge Wines (or any number of other estates), where you can sip cool-climate chardonnay and cab franc during a tutored tasting. Learn about the journey from grape to glass at Rowlee Wines during a ‘Varietal Wine Experience’, or pick up a picnic hamper to go. At nearby Printhie Wines, the vineyard picnic gets a luxe twist with Bateman’s Bay oysters and bubbles.
Join Richard and Amanda de Beaurepaire for the ‘Voyage du Vin’ at De Beaurepaire Wines in Rylstone, which includes a private masterclass focusing on their French-style wines, including rare reserve blends. The single-estate vineyard is known for its méthode traditionnelle sparkling, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and botrytis semillon.
Enjoy a one-on-one experience with a winemaker as part of Briar Ridge’s ‘Mystery Vineyard Tour’. The estate in Mount View in the Hunter Valley is postcard-worthy, and your outing here takes you on a wander through the vines with a wine tasting amid nature, plus a generous charcuterie platter. You can also enjoy a tasting experience on the terrace or in the pet-friendly courtyard.
Learn how to make wines in the French traditional method at Pokolbin’s Calais Estate Wines under the expert tutelage of one of the estate’s winemakers. After deciding how sweet or dry you would like your bubbles, you can complete the experience by enjoying a relaxing Hunter Valley picnic accompanied by your very own hand-crafted bottle of sparkling wine.
Budding vintners looking to bolster their wine knowledge while in the Hunter can also join the ‘Journey Wine Tasting Experience’ with Brokenwood Wines. The behind-the-scenes tour includes a guided food and wine flight in a private tasting room, and ends with a pre-release wine tasting straight from the barrel in the beautiful Barrel Hall.
If the hilltop setting of the Hunter’s historic Audrey Wilkinson doesn’t blow you away, then the VIP tasting experience surely will. Meet the makers, and discover the techniques that go into creating a blend, while enjoying a tasty cheese platter. If there’s a better culinary combo than chocolate and cheese, we’re yet to find it. The Tulloch family – part of the Hunter Valley winemaking fabric – unite the two at their Tulloch Wines estate, allowing you to sample artisan chocolate expertly paired with Tulloch wines.
Brewery & distillery experiences
While the Hunter Valley is synonymous with wine, its talented makers also know how to brew a delicious beer or two. Park the car and join Dave’s Brewery Tours to sample some of the bold brews made in the region or take the Newcastle tour for three hours of craft beer discovery – lunch included. The tours offer insights into each region, where you can go from a classic pilsener to an IPA in one sitting. Dave’s also offers wine, gin, cheese and chocolate tours. Basically if there’s a delicious maker in the region, they’re on the tour radar.
The Distiller Tasting Plate Tours detour to both the Tweed and Byron Bay regions to uncork the best distilleries and breweries dotted around the Northern Rivers. You’ll have the chance to sample purple-hued Ink Gin and Husk Rum at Husk Distillery, Brookies Gin at Cape Byron Distillery and craft beer at Stone and Wood in the hipster heartland of Byron Bay.
If you want to learn how to do it like the pros, join the head distiller at Corowa Whisky and Chocolate in the south of the state, where your visit includes a behind-the-scenes tour and an exclusive tasting to discover all the distinctive notes of the spirits made here. If you fancy yourself as a distiller-in-the-making, a number of establishments, including Lord Byron Distillery, will have you blending botanicals to make your own gin in no time.