Recently some of the Pink Cow Promotions team went on a trip to the Hunter Valley. I'm not a Hunter Valley virgin but I'm also not experienced at what the Hunter Valley has to offer so I thought why not document some amazing places to visit to save you the stress of reading through the thoroughly detailed Hunter Valley Magazine. Here are some of my tips.
This time around we stayed at the Crowne Plaza. I had stayed there a few times before, and can hand on heart say their breakfast will blow you away. Lots of foodgasms and food comas to have there. However, this time around our accommodation was disappointing. It's not on the cheap side, so you expect a certain level of service but unfortunately we weren't so lucky this time. After sharing our thoughts with the manager, he dealt with it extremely well, so we will return, but am very cautious about our forthcoming experience.
In the past, I'd stayed at Cypress Lakes, Hermitage Lodge, The Vintage and Chateau Elan. They were all lovely. Hermitage Lodge was very sweet, and basic when I visited but for the purpose of the getaway it was all that we needed. Chateau Elan was a go to for my anniversary and whilst lovely, I felt it was a little overpriced. The thing that I feel hotel companies or even accommodation places need to be mindful of is that the Hunter Valley is an extremely saturated market in that there are so many places to stay. The accommodation providers need to find that little special touch, or the right price to entice you in, and maintain a positive relationship with you in order to have that unique selling point from other providers. I'm yet to find that place, so the search is still on for me.
Forget the three necessities of life being food, water and shelter. I believe that bubbles should definitely be considered the fourth necessity of life. Now, I'm not much of a wine drinker but believe that a good sparkling goes a long way. On our recent trip we visited our fair share of wineries, and my thoughts and ratings are below for your convenience.
Blueberry Hill - This was a beautiful vineyard. The staff were knowledgeable, and their hospitality was great. It did help that their gorgeous cats had just had kittens so I was slightly distracted, but their sparkling was amazing. They have this trick where they serve blueberry gelato with the sparkling and OMG drinkgasm right there! The vineyard was picturesque, and they have share platters and small cheese options to accompany the wine tasting. Definitely a must see.
Pokolbin - Pokolbin was a very modern vineyard. The gentleman was very offended when I asked if he had any sparkling, so he got me offside pretty early but my husband loved the fortified wine. They have a cute little olive business on the vineyard which was very sweet and was attracting quite a few tour companies. The story the gentleman told us about the history of the vineyard was very interesting. They have won quite a few awards so if you're a wine drinker, I'd put it on the list.
Audrey Wilkinson - Whatever you do.. don't forget your camera. The views were absolutely amazing! The staff were so knowledgeable and the bubbles were so delish. We left this till last, and it was definitely one that should have been first so put it on the top of the list as it should be. Their is a lot of history here, and there was even a museum that you could go and explore! A truly magnificent place.
Emma's Cottage - This was such a gorgeous little vineyard. The staff were lovely and the bubbles and fortified wines were delightful. This was our first stop, and we weren't disappointed. It's a definite must see.
The Hunter Valley Distillery - I had absolutely no idea that this place existed, but it has to be my definite highlight. Who knew you could combine Vodka and Chocolate and make it bloody amazing! Well the team at Hunter Valley Distillery did just that.. Butterscotch, Chocolate, Caramel and an amazing assortment of flavours made into a liqueur or vodka. This needs to go on your bucket list. Let's just say the credit card was well used here.
Luckily for you, there are more wineries than there are restaurants but it can still be an overwhelming process. Here are some of our favourite places to either grab some carbs, or a cheeky snack before the next activity.
Il Cacciatore is definitely one of our favourites.. Their foccacia accompanied with the olive oil and balsamic is absolutely breathtaking. The olive oil and balsamic is courtesy of Pukara Estate and it's just delicious. On our travels we have often just ducked in there for the bread and we have not been disappointed. Their menu is great offering variety, and we haven't ever had a bad dish. Don't even get me started on the dessert menu. (Jump onto our Instagram and have a look - I took a sneaky pic). The wait staff are quick in taking orders, and in the years we've been going there they seem to have the same staff which is testament I believe to the way they treat their staff.
Hunter Valley Chocolate Company- Forget counting the Weight Watchers points and throw the calorie counting out the window. This place has the most AMAZING chocolate dipped strawberries ever. I've tried so hard to replicate them at home and apart from it being messy, I just cant do it. This place is amazing.. They have an amazing selection of chocolate peanuts, over-sized freckles, chocolate sauce and heaps more. It's a must visit. The chocolate company has a variety of locations across the hunter, but the one we frequent is the one attached to Petersons Champagne House.
The Lovedale Bar and Restaurant - This restaurant is located underneath the Crowne Plaza and for a bar/restaurant has a surprisingly great menu. On the night we were there they had great cocktails and entertainment too which topped off an amazing night. The staff were kind and helpful, and it had a great vibe. The meals were affordable, and for the beer lovers being able to see the brewery is kinda cool. It's a must visit.