Today we hope to inspire you to visit some small boutique wineries in the Hunter Valley. By showing you why these wineries are so special, we hope you will discover a whole new way to visit NSW’s premier wine region!
How To Visit The Hunter Valley Differently
Visitors, young and old alike, love the Hunter Valley. With over 150 wineries, multiple craft breweries and many beautiful hotels and fun activities to choose from, it is a great destination. But with that much choice, it can be hard to choose where to go.
Therefore it should be no surprise that most people actually visit the same spots as everyone else. These tend to be familiar sounding locations of brands that we recognise and love. But when there are over 150 wineries to choose from, why not discover a new hidden gem?
The usual suspects versus the unknown
Pokolbin is the main wine destination in the Hunter Valley and was put on the map over 200 years ago by wineries such as Ben Ean, Tyrrell’s Wines, and Audrey Wilkinson. You’ll easily recognise their wines from your local bottle shop, and it’s always great to see the winery behind that bottle that you know and love.
For the tastings in these famous wineries, you are welcomed into gorgeous, grand tasting venues for one of their standing tastings, usually paying a fee between $10 and $15. With their rich histories in the Hunter Valley, they are a staple for most people visiting the region, whether on a wine tour or a self-drive adventure.
If you’ve ever been to the Hunter, as the locals call it, you would have most likely been to Pokolbin and a few of these famous wineries. But the Hunter Valley also offers smaller, local, often family-owned boutique wineries, stretching well past this small town that is working hard to give us the best possible wines and provide tastings with amazing service and flavours. So what’s so special about these unknown boutique wineries, and which ones should you definitely visit? Let’s find out!
What is so special about boutique wineries?
Boutique wineries tend to be small, often family-run, businesses that pride themselves on making the best possible wine from their land and providing a special, friendly and unique service to everyone who steps foot in their venue.
While there isn’t a textbook definition for a boutique winery, the consensus is that they produce less than 10,000 cases of wine per year.
A different tasting experience
For those of us who are looking to connect with the winemaker when visiting the Hunter Valley, boutique wineries are great!
- You often get to have a chat with the passionate winemakers themselves.
- As they also tend to offer seated wine tasting experiences rather than standing tastings, it really allows you to discover the whole range of wines at your own pace.
- These wine tastings are all about getting to know the wines and finding the perfect one for you. We promise that you’ll feel right at home!
Taste and buy their wines in the cellar door
The reduced production that defines boutique wineries means that they often don’t sell to national bottle stores, and you can only buy their wonderful product in their own cellar door. It also means that boutique wineries need to sell wine after their tastings to make a sustainable living. This makes it extra special when you visit them and pick up a bottle to take home.
Buying something is what keeps wineries small and large alive and able to stay open for years to come so we can keep going back and enjoying these amazing products! And while this mentality is important when visiting small business owners, it is crucial after the year we’ve all had!
Try other locally grown products such as cheese, olives & chocolates
We already mentioned that boutique wineries often provide epic seated wine tasting experiences rather than standing wine tastings. This is for a few reasons.
- First, they want you to take the time to taste every wine to make it is as much about the experience as it is about deciding which one is your favourite.
- Second, it facilitates conversation better, and you can fully focus on the tastings without feeling like you’re holding up other customers.
- Third, it allows you to taste locally-made cheeses, olives, and chocolates that the boutique wineries often provide to enjoy with their delicious wines.
Learn more about the region
Nobody knows the Hunter Valley better than the local winemakers and producers. Ask around and find out where the best locally-made cheese can be found, which olives have that little bit extra flavour and what other boutique wines you really have to try!
If we’re not going on a Hunter Valley wine tour, we love heading out without a plan and asking every venue which one they recommend next. You’ll find yourself in undiscovered small vineyards, local soap shops and the best restaurants.
Support the community
Visiting boutique wineries gives you the chance to do something pretty special, which is to have a direct positive impact on your community! We already mentioned that boutique wineries tend to be smaller businesses.
In our experience, we tend to see that the winemaker is either also the owner, or there is only 1 degree of separation between the expert winemaker and the passionate owner.
A good thing about these boutique wineries is that the tasting fee can be anywhere between $15 and completely free of charge. In general, they do tend to be a bit cheaper than commercial wineries.
We’re definitely not complaining about these cheaper tastings as that leaves both you and me with more budget for buying bottles of wine! While the tasting fee often gets deducted from bottle purchases, buying wine is incredibly important when visiting these boutique wineries.
This is for a few reasons. First, regardless of the tasting fee, having a full tasting with 5+ wines to taste means that you will consume between one and three full glasses of wine, depending on serving sizes.
While you’re enjoying your wine, there will be someone, most likely either the winemaker or the owner, taking the time to talk you through every wine on offer and often sneaking in a special one. You can imagine that a $5 or even $15 tasting fee does not nearly cover the costs of these wineries to receive guests in their cellar door and run these tastings.
Second, we already touched on it before, but boutique wineries rarely sell bottles of wine outside their cellar door. While this makes your visit to a boutique winery and taking a bottle home extra special, these bottle purchases are essential for these wineries to survive. So once you’ve enjoyed the full range of whites, reds and dessert wines, we encourage you to think about supporting a small business next.
Purchasing something during your visit will allow large group wine tastings to remain worthwhile (and profitable) for boutique wineries (and tour operators in the area).
Finally, when travelling in a group, especially a larger group, you will naturally consume more wine, time and space at the boutique winery. And while most boutique wineries love to have your group over, some boutique wineries no longer allow large groups because it is not viable for them.
If you are unsure how to best visit boutique wineries as a group, talk to a large tour group specialist like Urban Legends Tour Co. As a small business themselves, they strongly believe in supporting the community and thus encourage all of their boutique winery tour guests to purchase at least one bottle of wine for each venue that they visit for these exact reasons. This purchase is a significant gesture of thanks to the venue and staff that goes a really long way in the Hunter Valley! They can work out a great itinerary for your group that fits perfectly.
Great Boutique Wineries in the Hunter Valley
Put these four boutique wineries on your radar for your next visit.
Briar Ridge Winery
Proudly off the beaten track, Briar Ridge Winery finds itself in Mount View. Their 45-year old vines produce the loveliest Semillon, Shiraz and Chardonnay. It truly is a spectacular boutique winery, having received James Halliday’s 5-star winery rating for eight consecutive years!
Don’t forget to enjoy their mountain views and maybe even the antipasto plate while tasting their award-winning offer of wines.
Where: 593 Mount View Road Mount View
When: Daily from 10am until 5pm.
Whispering Brook is a boutique winery loved by many, and with values such as quality, family and sustainability, we’re fully on board. With vineyards located both in Broke and in Wollombi Brook, it allows Whispering Brook to get the best out of their soil and produce the best reds and whites.
Offering a broad selection of artisan wines, olives and food and wine experiences, we recommend this winery for anyone planning a trip to the Hunter Valley. You can even stay in their stunning guesthouse if you can’t see yourself going back home.
Where: Rodd Street, Broke
When: Thursday to Sundays, 10.30am to 5pm
Easily recognisable by their gorgeous Red Barn cellar door, Greenway Wines is the perfect example of a wonderful boutique winery further away from the busy Pokolbin area.
Located in dreamy Broke, Greenway Winery is a real passion product of owner Anne who gave up her career to start this winery.
Greenway Wines produces solely handcrafted, small-batch wines from 100% estate grown from their sustainably grown single vineyard fruit. Alongside their delicious wines, they also offer cheese and chocolate platters and antipasto plates.
Where: 350 Wollombi Rd, Broke
When: Fridays 11am-3pm, Saturday 11am-4pm, Sunday 11am-3pm.
As a family-owned & operated boutique vineyard since 1986, Moorebank Vineyard has been a staple in the Hunter Valley for some time.
They offer a wide range of premium wines and even produce excellent condiments to accompany their delicious wines. They love educating their visitors about how they make their boutique wines sustainable and tasty, and if you’re lucky, you might even meet their cute farm dog, Stella!
Where: 150 Palmers Ln, Pokolbin
When: 10am-5pm (closed Tuesday)
We hope we have inspired you to check out some new spots next time you visit the Hunter Valley. If you are in the area for a couple of days, we highly recommend stopping at Morpeth on the way home. It’s a picturesque little town with some fabulous antique shops and cafes.