After good views, the feeling of wanderlust and a touch of wine? Then you need a weekend escape to the famous wineries of the The Hunter Valley. The New South Wales wine region is a two-hour drive north of Sydney and is home to more than 150 wineries, it’s incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike which makes it a must-do if you’re Sydney based or travelling through. Naturally we had to go!
Now, if you’re planning to visit the The Hunter then Crowne Plaza is the hotel for you. We stayed for one night at this perfectly located hotel and can honestly say, it was a top resort to enjoy a HOC city escape. We checked in on a Friday afternoon and excitedly headed to our suite, which was equipped with everything we needed… a fridge for our wine, 2 TVS for the ultimate chill out, a HUGE bed for maximum comfort and a knockout bathroom with shower and a bath, big enough for two – it was a heavenly base for our wine tasting adventure.
Another great thing about Crowne Plaza is the services they offer, you can arrange everything through them which is super helpful if you’re not really sure what to do or which wineries to see. There are a myriad of wine tasting tours online (you can get a little lost!) so the ease of booking everything in one place takes the stress out of it all. Exactly what a weekend break should be – stress-free! There’s actually a lot more on offer than we realised as you can add brewery tours to your list as well as chocolate factories and cheese shops – it’s literally food and drink heaven. We were only visiting for the wine (don’t judge us!) but if you plan on staying a little longer you can include spa treatments and golf activities to your itinerary, and guess what, Crowne Plaza cover all of that too!
The Wine Tour
Once we had dropped our bags and freshened up, we headed straight back down to the lobby to meet our tour guide, his name was Bill and oh my, what a gem he was. Bill worked for Two Fat Blokes, a unique wine tasting tour company which is one of Tripadvisors highest ranking tour operators in NSW – what an accolade, eh! Bill collected us from outside the hotel and immediately made us feel welcome with his warm ways, so on we hopped and off we went, admiring the beautiful rolling hills covered with succulent green vines as we drove further into the valley. Our first winery was the McLeish Estate, this is one of Hunter’s most awarded vineyards so we knew we were in good company. It is located in Pokolbin and is famous for its Semillon, a crisp white wine which has won many awards including ‘World’s Best Semillon’ – so a pretty big deal. We can confirm it was delicious and captured the elegance and freshness of The Hunter Valley. We enjoyed a few of their famous wines whilst being inundated with knowledge, needless to say we boarded the mini-bus that little bit merrier.
Next up was Gundog Estate, a different experience from the last which was great for variety, we were welcomed by a joyful host who dived straight into the tasting (yay). Another award winning cellar door (Two Fat Blokes really do take you to the best of the best!) who are a boutique producer of premium Semillon and Shiraz, in fact, Matt Burton who manages Gundog Estate, was recognised as ‘Hunter Valley’s Rising Star’ in 2010 before going on to be a finalist for Winemaker of the year in 2015. We ended up buying a few bottles here as it really was SO divine. Our palettes had been teased and we wanted more.
Our last stop on this 3 hour tour was at the home of Two Fat Blokes, their gourmet kitchen and winery was on a beautiful site and made for a lovely final stop off. This time we were treated to some cheese tasting too – they really did leave the best until last! Our tasting experience consisted of 9 delicious cheeses accompanied with wines that complimented them impeccably. Bill was our host for this bit and guided us through this dreamy cheesy experience with a wealth of knowledge. Each of the cheeses we sampled had been allowed to reach room temp which is actually the best way to eat them, not straight out of the fridge. Who knew! Our tastebuds were alight with flavour so once the tasting had finished off we went to their jam-packed deli to purchase some of our favourites, this included a Maffra Red Wax Cheddar from Victoria and a Labna made in The Hunter Valley.
The Dinner – Redsalt Restaurant
Our delectable afternoon had really got us in the mood for even more delicious food, so once we arrived back to the Crowne Plaza we scrubbed up and got ready for dinner in the hotel’s onsite restaurant, Redsalt. An easy yet innovative menu bursting with the regions finest produce, Redsalt restaurant was a great way to round off the day. We started with espresso martinis as need a little livener before embarking on the three great tasting courses; we shared yummy oysters and enjoyed main dishes of Salmon and tender beef, rounding off the meal with chocolate tart and fruit sponge. It’s safe to say we really pushed our bellies to the limit but it was so worth it!
Ahh the bliss of staying in a hotel is a lazy morning. After enjoying a ridiculously comfortable night’s sleep we lazily got ready and ventured down to breakfast and oh wow, what a treat that was. As you know, we love travel and feelings of wanderlust here at HOC, but another thing we’re absolutely obsessed with is FOOD. So how lucky were we to not only enjoy a fabulous dinner in the Crowne Plaza’s restaurant, but to also load up on what has to be one of the best breakfast offerings we’ve seen. It was super busy (we know why!) so didn’t get enough good photos to really do it justice but picture this: freshly squeezed fruit juices, warm pastries, eggs any way you want, a full English breakfast, a coffee bar and a cereal & toast station. There was food everywhere and we were in our element. Once we filled up on grub we said goodbye to the amazing Crowne Plaza and made our way back into the valleys to explore some more.
It was such an enjoyable stay, enhanced by the beautiful scenery and entertaining wine tour, makes it the perfect weekend away especially if you’re looking to escape the city with your partner or embark on a wine-filled weekend with the girls. Live in Sydney, or heading through New South Wales on a big backpacking trip? Then make sure you plot The Hunter Valley on your map.