Hunter Valley Food & Wine Festival For Couples

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The Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival is back again in 2018, bigger and better than ever, and now spans a two month period. This important annual event showcases the region's diverse wine and food culture with a series of themed activities taking place in May and June, offering visitors the opportunity to wine and dine with leading local winemakers and chefs, take part in fun and interactive classes to fine tune your culinary skills, or simply curl up beside a romantic open fire somewhere special with a glass of premium Hunter Valley wine and a cheese plate in hand. If you’re heading to the Hunter for the festival, here’s our top pick of events plus where to stay, and some additional things to put on your to-do list to make it an ideal romantic getaway. 

The Festival

The lineup of events at this year’s Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival is impressive and there are full details listed from every thing from the events to accommodation offers on the official website ( However, one event you shouldn’t miss is in June is a tasting of the exclusive release of museum stock of one of Australia’s most collected wines, the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz ( Here you can explore four vintages served in premium Riedel glassware and enjoy a perfectly matched tasting plate crafted by The Red Apron. Another is Viva Verdelho.   Tulloch, a pioneering family of Verdelho in the Hunter Valley, produces five different styles of this popular variety, from the fun celebratory sparkling style of ‘Verscato’ to the luscious fortified Creme de Vin and various styles in between, and during he festival you can sample all five styles matched with five food accompaniments ( Heroes of the Hunter will be held at Redsalt Restaurant at Rydges Resort Hunter Valley, and is a five-course degustation dinner with matched wines offered every night in May and June. Meanwhile the Picnic in the Park is the place to chow down on the best regional produce direct from a variety of market stalls and food trucks, along with mulled wine, fire pits and picnic rugs, all on the lawns of Kirkton Park. And finally, for anyone who wishes to brush up on their pizza making skills, you can enjoy a beginners guide to making pizza and artisanal crackers at Red Apron.

Where To Stay

There are plenty of places to consider in the Hunter Valley for the festival but top of our list is Rydges Resort Hunter Valley which is conveniently located in Lovedale, in the heart of the Lower Hunter wine country, and a stone’s throw from some of the region’s top cellar doors. The accommodations are ideal for a romantic getaway for two, or shared with friends, with two and three-bedroom luxury villas equipped with all mod cons, fine dining at Redsalt (see above) and a large, full-service Ubika spa with features including a private retreat. Also worth considering is Château Élan at the Vintage, tucked away in Rothbury and boasting a championship golf course, an elegant restaurant, a luxurious day spa, and spacious accommodations, and the nearby Grand Mercure The Vintage, which is set amongst a magnificent golf course and teeming with wildlife, and no more than a five minute drive to cellar doors, antique stores and the local cheese factory (

Go Wine Tasting

For visitors to the Hunter Valley there is a quite mind-boggling number of wineries and vineyards to choose from when it comes to wine tasting, and most will have additional events supporting the festival. Around the Pokolbin and Rothbury area alone there are dozens of top quality cellar doors in the lineup, with some of our favourites including Audrey Wilkinson's, Piggs Peake, Carriages, and Scarborough. Audrey Wilkinson's is a top pick for its location, on top of a bluff with views, and for its excellent wine tasting setup with good wines, while Piggs Peake is more of a traditional winery and famous for hearty reds and Carriages is incredibly small. If you fancy dipping into sparking wine, head for Peterson House ( which features a cellar door and oyster bar, and specialties including traditional sparkling varieties including a Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier (PCM) and Chardonnay Pinot Noir. However, also on offer for the more adventurous are seasonal offerings of red varieties of sparkling Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and Chambourcin, and a small number of limited release sparkling whites.

Eat Out

Fine dining is an integral part of the wine experience in the Hunter Valley, and during the festival there will be specially hosted dining events at a number of restaurants allowing guest to immerse themselves into local produce. Besides those we’ve already mentioned, one to put on your list is Margan Restaurant Hunter Valley ( Located at Margan’s Broke Fordwich winery site, which treats guests to the tranquil, rural setting of Broke in the Hunter Valley and a food and wine experience by restaurateur and chef Lisa Margan featuring seasonally inspired food, sourced from local mostly organic producers as well as what is grown with love from the extensive one-acre Margan Kitchen Garden. Also worth considering is Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House, where you can enjoy a specialty Bubbly Breakfast, Tatler Tapas Cafe, Lovedale Smokehouse Gourmet Pantry and Cafe, Muse Restaurant in Pokolbin, and Cafe Enzo also in Pokolbin, which is set in a romantic, Tuscan village among sandstone buildings.

Stock Up On Artisan Foods

Food grown and produced locally in the Hunter Valley is some of the most prized in the country. The region is home to more than 150 olive groves alone, producing high quality oils that are characterised by their fresh and bold flavours. Enjoying some of these local treats is essential for budding gourmands, and you can kill two birds with the one stone if you visit the Australian Regional Food Store And Café just off McDonalds Road in Pokolbin ( Not only is this a great place to stock up on some delicious Australian produce, including chutneys, cheeses, sauces, spices, olives and more, but there’s also a lakeside restaurant which is part al fresco; on a good weather day you can sit out on the terrace, or venture into the natural gardens to enjoy a coffee by the lake while watching the antics of the resident ducks. If you want to go olive oil tasting, head for the tasting rooms at Pukara Estate ( to sample some of the region’s best oils and flavoured vinegars, and for exceptional dairy products, including hard-rind and soft cheeses, one to put on your list is the famous Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop ( Finally, at Lovedale Smokehouse Gourmet Pantry and Cafe ( you can savour some of the region’s finest charcuterie, pates and relishes, while the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company ( infuses Belgian couverture chocolate with dried local fruits, nuts and confectionary. 

Go On A Long Walk 

If you overdo the fine dining, or just fancy some exercise, nestled among the vineyards and wineries is the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens (, a tranquil spot to enjoy some fresh air and a leisurely stroll along its eight kilometres of walking paths and 24 hectares of beautifully manicured gardens. Highlights include 10 themed gardens, one of Australia’s finest rose gardens, an Italian grotto, and Indian mosaic and Oriental gardens, all set against the spectacular backdrop of the Brokenback Ranges. Hunter Valley Gardens is a popular destination for weddings for good reason; it’s also a place to take some time out and be enchanted by fragrances and colours.  Another popular walk without being too taxing is the one kilometre Historic Wollombi Village Walk, which meanders around the historic buildings and surrounds of Wollombi. A map is available at the Wollombi Museum. You can also enjoy a gentle walk that follows the Wollombi Brook, beginning at the Wollombi Road west of cemetery (sign posted). Some of the many features include St John's Anglican Church, the Wollombi Tavern which dates back to 1868, and the Wollombi Cemetery which was consecrated by Bishop Tyrrell in 1849. 


Joanna Hall