August 04, 2019

Hunter Gatherings: a day of wine and food in the Hunter Valley

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Words by John Maddocks
Images by Roderick Eime and John Maddocks

It's an early start in Sydney for our group of wine and food lovers, but no-one's complaining. In fact, there's an air of anticipation as we board the brand new, custom-built luxury coach and settle in for the two-hour journey north to the Hunter region. After all, we're headed for three exceptional estates in the country's oldest wine producing region and lunch at an award-winning restaurant. And when the wine tasting is over, we won't have to worry about driving.

John and James Lusby of Tintilla Estate
Taking a day tour makes sense in other ways too. With over 150 vineyards in the Hunter Valley, some expert guidance is needed. A lot has happened here since James Busby came back from Europe in 1832 with 20,000 vine cuttings and inspired the founding of vineyards that currently boast some of the oldest vine stock in the world. And while most wine buffs know that the Hunter has long been renowned for a unique Semillon and famous Shiraz, a new breed of young winemakers is now producing Sangiovese, Fiano and Tempranillo styles as well.

After turning off the Pacific Motorway, we enjoy the attractive Hunter landscape of rolling hills, endless vines and numerous olive groves. Soon there are several sightings of kangaroos. Reaching Pokolbin, we enter the tree-lined driveway at Tintilla Estate and are soon greeted by our hosts, John and James Lusby. Here we taste a range of whites and reds, starting with a Spritzanti and moving on to a Semillon called The Angus. Tintilla also boasts a highly rated Shiraz, an excellent Merlot and a distinctive Cabernet Merlot. The Lusbys were central in pioneering Sangiovese in the Hunter, producing a Rosato di Jupiter and a blended style. The tasting is accompanied by some delicious Tintilla olives.

Tintilla Estate wine tasting

The striking thing about our next stop, Bimbadgen, is undoubtedly the amazing view. In fact, the name itself derives from an indigenous word for 'place of good view'. Bimbadgen is well known for several other reasons too, including world-class concerts in the 'Day on the Green' program and the multi-award winning Esca restaurant. Our lunch choices at Esca are matched with appropriate wines, so the Char Siu Duck, for example, is matched with a Bimbadgen Fiano and the delicious St Agur dessert of figs, lavender, honey and meringue is accompanied by a Merlot.

Char Siu Duck at Bimbadgen
Our last stop is Leogate Estate, which needs no introduction to wine connoisseurs. The original Brokenback Vineyard was planted under the direction of a syndicate headed by the late wine writer Len Evans, and what is now Leogate Estate produces some of the finest examples of Hunter Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz. The wines are so good, in fact, that Leogate's 'The Basin' Reserve Shiraz and 'Brokenback Vineyard' Shiraz have been selected for Qantas First and Business Class wine lists. Needless to say, the wine tasting here was memorable.

The writer travelled courtesy of AAT Kings

Getting there: AAT Kings runs a Hunter Valley Harvest Wine Experience from Sydney. See


Tintilla Estate
725 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin NSW
Tel: (02) 6574 7093

790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW

Leogate Estate
1693 Broke Road Pokolbin NSW
(02) 4998 7499

See John's new book Against the Odds: surviving the world's worst tsunami and overcoming trauma at

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