World-class wine country at our doorstep
Pokolbin and its surrounds are part of one of Australia's oldest regions, and home to more than 120 wineries. Some date back to the early 1800s. In more recent years, the region has become renowned for its award-winning restaurants.
Less than an hour from Lake Macquarie, Hunter Valley Wine Country is the perfect day trip for lovers of food and wine (that’s all of us, right?).
Take the Hunter Expressway for the quickest trip, but the slightly longer scenic route passes through Freemans Waterhole, past the venerable Oak Dairy Bar and its classic milkshakes. A wise place to stop for a snack/line the stomach before all the wine-tasting to come.
Pokolbin is home to many classic wine producers – Tyrrell's and Drayton's among them – but there's also a new generation of young winemakers rising through the ranks. Among those is Usher Tinkler Wines. –Its HQ on McDonalds Road isn’t your typical cellar door experience. Located in a renovated 1905 church, the mood is contemporary, cool and laidback, with chesterfield lounges to kick back on and a retro turntable spinning tunes.
The $30 salumi and cheese plate comes with a generous serve of pickles, condiments and house-baked bread to pair withwine tastings. Our tip: don’t shy away from the chardonnay - this one is not stuck in the 80s! It’s a popular spot, especially on weekends, so bookings are recommended.
More tastings… and lunch
From there, head along Hermitage Road toward Piggs Peake Winery. The wines are excellent – rose fans need to get on board with their cheekily named Rosed Pork – and last year, the winery unveiled a new addition to the region's dining scene with the launch of Yellow Billy Restaurant. Most of the menu is cooked on an open fire in a custom-built pit, with international flavours and added smokiness.
Nearby Broke is home to Margan Wines and Restaurant. This family-owned winery has an emphasis on using estate-grown produce – an approach that carries through to their restaurant. It bases its menu around food harvested from the property’s one-acre kitchen garden (fruit, vegetables, olives, honey - you name it). Led by Hunter-born chef Thomas Boyd, the one-hatted restaurant's beautifully prepared menu is foodie heaven. Try the Margan Suffolk lamb main.
A sweet end
It’s difficult to resist dessert at Margan, but if you have room, stop-over on the way back through Pokolbin at Sabor Dessert Bar. The cafe at Lambloch Estate boasts more than 50 desserts, all Insta-worthy and each paired with a matching wine recommendation. Rather than settle on one, order a few to share. The clear winner is the silky, rich Portuguese chocolate mousse paired with a glass of Savannah Botrytis Semillon. If you're done with wine for the day, the good news is there's coffee too.