A Hunter Valley wine tasting tour is an activity you can do in one day from Sydney, so it’s perfect for when you have little time in the area. I got invited on this wine tasting trip on my birthday… so let’s celebrate together!
First of all: I love wine.
No, this is not me confessing I’m an alcoholic, but I just really like wine. And having lived in Australia, I love it even more. So what better to do on my last birthday than to visit New South Wales’ most important wine region The Hunter Valley?
Usually, I celebrate getting older in the heart of summer. Not Down Under, where my party is in winter and it’s cold, rainy and windy. Luckily most of the wine tasting happens inside and we’re driven all the way up the coast by minivan. What more could I wish for?
This article has been updated February 2018
What we'll cover in this article
Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour Review
Colourful Trips was founded in 1998 and has one of the widest range of day tours from Sydney including The Blue Mountains, Port Stephens, Canberra, The South Coast, Jervis Bay, The Royal National Park, Jenolan Caves and more. They aim at students and travellers, but also business people and groups of friends.
The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine production region with more than 180 wineries covering this picturesque valley. Besides lots of wine tasting options, you can taste beer, cheese, chocolate and gourmet food.
The drive from Sydney takes about 3 hours, but there are some pit stops for food, drinks and toilets along the way. And don’t forget to listen to the driver, who will tell you all about the region, the wineries you’re visiting and the best ways to taste a wine.
We have a small group of people, which is great!
1. Drayton’s Family Wines
We’re starting our day at the “Drayton’s Family Wines”. It’s one of the Hunter Valley’s pioneering wine making families. It’s also one of the few local wineries that is still family owned and operated. You can feel that as soon as you walk in. There is a great atmosphere, the lady really takes her time explaining all about the differences between the red, white, sparkling and port wines and most of us leave with a few bottles in our bags.
Apart from their regular wines, I can really recommend the white port wine, as it is 1) cheap (only AUS$15 for 2 liters!) and 2) it tastes like Christmas.
My colleague Sam handing out the crackers and cheese
2. BBQ Lunch
While we were happily tasting away, our driver cooked up a simple, but tasty BBQ lunch. There were sausages, rolls, some salad and it was just what we needed after a long drive and an early wine tasting! Oh, and I almost forgot: we got to taste some kangaroo meat as well!
2018 Update: I’m not sure if this is still part of the tour, as on the website, it says you now get a lunch at the restaurant, but either way, you’ll be fed, so no worries!
3. McGuigan Wines
Our second winery is “McGuigans”, an award winning and family owned company. This winery is much bigger (and busier), but we gather in an area on the side and get a full explanation of the different wines. We even get a sheet of paper with all the wines on it, so we can order our favourites right away.
We go for the nice ‘Noon Harvest Vintage’ red wine from 2011. Yum!
4. Cheese Tasting
After the tasting, we drive to a look-out point on top of a hill to have a good view over the valley. The weather isn’t that great, so our little cheese-tasting picnic is quick. There is Fromage Blanc, Brie, Vintage Cheddar, Goats Cheese and Blue Vein. The apples are there to cleanse the pallet.
There is some warmth though, as out of nowhere the driver pulls out a chocolate cake and everyone wishes me a happy birthday. What a surprise!
Update 2018: Also don’t know if this is still part of the tour, because I imagine the restaurant lunch is a bit more expensive to cover for everyone. But in the whole of the Hunter Valley, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to taste and buy cheeses, so I’d definitely recommend trying some out!
5. Blue Tongue Brewery & Café
We don’t stay on the hill too long, as it is so windy. Instead, we drive to the Blue Tongue Brewery where we get some free time to either do another wine tasting, have a coffee or even do a little beer tasting. Some of us buy a paddle with 6 different beers to try. You can grab a sheet with explanations from the bar.
Update 2018: I just read on Wikipedia that the Bluetongue Brewery discontinued as a brand in 2014. Too bad! On the Colourful Trips website, I see that you now get to do a wine making tour in a working winery instead, so that sounds like great fun too.
6. Tempus Two Cellar Door
Normally on this tour, you get to wander around the Hunter Valley Village to explore the gardens or pick up some souvenirs. With the bad weather, our driver decides it will be more fun to make a few more stops at a smelly cheese and ice cream shop (it’s never too cold for ice cream, right?) and to have a few more tastings of wine and (pink) sparkling wine at Tempus Cellar Door.
It is a bit of a rush at the end, but I’m happy to have seen as much as we could on the trip!
Update 2018: It doesn’t seem from the website they do the village tour at all anymore. More time for wine tasting, it seems.
I had a great day with this Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour, run by Colourful Trips. We found their tour to be well organized and with an enthusiastic tour guide, who really bring something extra to our day out. There are so many wineries in the Hunter Valley, that on each tour you might visit slightly different wineries than mentioned in our review, but in general I can honestly say that no matter where you end up, the wines here are amazing! Make sure to pick up a bottle (or two), as at the wineries you get a nice discount as well!
Fun for: Anyone that loves wine and has little time, or no car to drive to the Hunter Valley themselves.
Less fun for: Not suitable for kids, really.
Think about: Wear closed shoes for the wine making tour (we didn’t do this, but it’s part of the tour now) and check the weather for appropriate clothing, because you also spend some time outside between the wineries.
Company: Colourful Trips (website)
Tour: Hunter Valley Wineries Day Trip (website)
Duration: full day
Start of Tour: Sydney
End of Tour: Sydney
Included: driver/tour guide, return transport by bus, private group wine tastings at several wineries, restaurant lunch, wine making tour.
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Disclaimer: This tour was generously offered to me by Colourful Trips as a famil trip for being a travel agent. All thoughts, opinions, photos and wine preferences are 100% my own.
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