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Hunter Valley highlights

Boutique wineries are the Hunter Valley's specialty, but tastings are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Take a look at six boutique Hunter Valley wineries in and around the town of Pokolbin, a two-hour drive north of Sydney, and a homage to the power of thinking small.

Some of these boutique wineries boast spectacular settings, while others offer blending classes or opportunities to meet the makers. What they have in common is a dedication to creating memorable wines.

Meet the family at Scarborough Wine Co. Run by two generations of the Scarborough family, this rustic Pokolbin winery is known for its rich and structured Chardonnay and award-winning hospitality.

The Scarborough Wine Co. cellar door is located next to the family home on the original Gillards Road vineyard (chosen specifically by founder Ian Scarborough for its free draining red clay over limestone soil – imparting the bold characters of their Chardonnay). It offers 360-degree views of the surrounding Hunter countryside. Tastings come with a cheese platter and showcase contemporary varieties and styles of the region.

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Gundog Estate, housed in an old schoolhouse in Pokolbin, specialises in Hunter Valley classics Semillon and Shiraz, the grape varieties that thrive in this warm climate. That doesn’t mean the wines are predictable, however.

Winemaker Matt Burton enjoys finding new ways to treat these old favourites. His range of Semillons includes not just the classic, bone dry, citric Semillon, for example, but also ‘wild’ Semillon – a portion of which is fermented on skins, like a red wine, to give it extra body and texture. Keen to try some more adventurous drops? Gundog’s Indomitus label features more experimental, minimal-intervention wines.

Briar Ridge, a 10-minute drive south of Pokolbin at Mount View, has expansive grounds with plenty of scenic spots — including a deck, terrace and courtyard — where you can enjoy a glass of wine, perhaps accompanied by a cheese or antipasto platter (there is even a pooch platter of doggie snacks for visitors who have brought their four-legged friend along). Don’t just play it safe with the Semillon and shiraz — the crisp, summery, Spanish-style Albarino and Fiano wines are also well worth trying.

At the Gartelmann Wines cellar door in Lovedale, a 15-minute drive northeast of Pokolbin, there is more to do than just taste wines. Enjoy a bite at the Deck Café or sign up for one of the classes; in the Blending Masterclass, you’ll not only learn about how blends work but also create your own blend of Bordeaux-inspired red. Sourcing grapes not just from the Hunter Valley but also the NSW wine-growing areas of MudgeeRylstone and Orange, Gartelmann Wines offers everything from sparkling wines and Pinot Gris to Merlot, and even a bright muscat with toffee and honey flavours.

Drop into the stylish Comyns & Co cellar door on Broke Road, Pokolbin, and chances are you will find either winemaker Scott Comyns or his wife, Missy, at the counter. This is very much a family affair: Scott’s brother Angus designed the distinctive artwork that features on the walls and the wine labels, including the portrait of a Ford Escort on the front of the tempranillo bottle. Even the name of Comyns & Co’s sparkling wine, Popsy — made with Grüner Veltliner grapes instead of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir — is a mash-up of the names of Scott and Missy’s daughters, Polly and Topsy. Scott uses only Hunter Valley grapes in his wines, which include not just Semillon and Shiraz but also Riesling and Tempranillo.

Finally, you can’t miss the Meerea Park Wines cellar door in Pokolbin — it’s housed in one of the most striking buildings in the Hunter Valley, the architect-designed Roche Estate. The contemporary design provides a contrast to Meerea’s rich heritage, with winemaker Rhys Eather’s family, having farmed in the Hunter Valley since 1826. Meerea Park Wines is best known for its award-winning Semillon and shiraz, but it’s also getting good results with unusual varietals such as Roussane and Marsanne. With two acclaimed restaurants on the estate, it’s smart to time your visit for lunch.

 

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