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November 28, 2009

FOR A GRAPE ESCAPE, HOME IS THE HUNTER

Holman Estate house provides an escape from the Hunter’s touristy hustle and bustle.
TRANQUILITY: Holman Estate house provides an
escape from the Hunter's touristy hustle and bustle


David Ellis and John Rozentals

IF getting it right in real estate jargon means position, position, position, then it's a safe bet that the Hunter Valley's Holman Estate guest house is one place that's got it right.

Located right in the middle of the parish of Pokolbin, itself the very heart — geographically, historically and spiritually — of the valley's renowned wine country, Holman Estate has that position, position, position…

From it's broad verandah you can look across the estate's own vineyards to the corner of Broke Road and McDonalds Road, where Hunter Valley Gardens rubs shoulders with Brokenwood Wines and the futuristic Tempus Two. Or take-in the Valley's magnificent landmark, the oh-so-Australian, Brokenback Range.

A 10-to-15-minute drive will have you sipping reds, whites, sparklings or fortifieds at several dozen wineries, almost as many restaurants in which to dine, and a range of galleries, craft-shops and antique dealers to browse and buy. And if you don't want to drive, it's just a stroll across the driveway to Scarborough Wines, recently named as having the Valley's best cellar door,

Yet for its seemingly busy surroundings, there's a tranquillity that appears to remove Holman from the touristy hustle and bustle normally associated with the Hunter. It's silence is interrupted only by the few vehicles that make their way to the end of Gillards Road.

The house's boutique accommodation is of a quite grand scale for three couples in double bedrooms, with twin beds in another room and an option of two pull-out single beds in the billiards room if you've maybe a large family or group of friends staying for a couple of nights.

Part of the Mount Eyre Vineyards, the property also includes the Three Ponds Vineyard which was established in 1999 by the Iannuzzi and Tsironis families, migrants respectively from Italy and Greece and with a naturally goodly amount of wine culture in the their blood.

They have created magnificent gardens around the hilltop Holman house, which has been lavishly furnished to reflect their love of fine art.

The long, painting-lined hallway leads past the bedrooms to an enormous combined lounge and dining area whose plush furnishings and huge fireplace provide the feel of a European chateau.

The modern kitchen has top-of-the-line appliances and all the utensils required by even the most ardent foodie.  Essentials such as tea, coffee, sugar, olive oil, etc are provided, and there's a supply of Mount Eyre wines to help yourself to on an honour system,

And then, of course, there's the billiard room. The table isn't full-size but it's a  good one for a few games of after-dinner billiards, snooker and pool – and best of all, there's no slot marked "insert coins here".

It's easy to spend a few days relaxing in the house and doing some touring without having to leave Gillards Road: at the end of the road is the small tasting room of Constable Estate — surrounded by immaculate parklike gardens that include more than 70 varieties of camellias, separate rose and herb gardens, and an impressive sculpture garden featuring work by prominent Australian artists.

The latest addition here is a larger-than-life bronze of renowned English cellist Jacqueline Du Pre.

At the other end, where Gillards Road intersects with McDonalds Road, is Il Cacciatore, which for seven of the past eight years has been named the Hunter's best Italian restaurant in the Restaurant & Catering NSW Awards for Excellence. They're still trying to figure out what happened in 2006.

Run by Mark and Noreen Gottaas, it's part of Hermitage Lodge, and executive chef Michael Haines has put together a scintillating menu of Italian-inspired delights, including his speciality of pan-fried gnocchi with local chorizo, roast pumpkin, wild rocket and basil pesto.

And after lunching here on a Saturday or Sunday you can always do a tasting at Scarborough as you toddle the few minutes back to the house.

Tariffs at Holman Estate range from $1350 to $1800 for two nights for eight adults, and the bonus is that with the vast living and entertainment space you don't feel like you're living out of a suitcase in a motel room.

For further information: Holman Estate — visit www.mounteyre.com  or phone 0438 683 973.

Constable Estate — www.constablevineyards.com.au

Il Cacciatore — www.hermitagelodge.com.au

Scarborough Wines — www.scarboroughwine.com.au


Photos courtesy of Sandra Burn White
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