The Hunter Valley Wine Region – New South Wales, Australia

Premier Vineyards Down Under

The Hunter Valley conjures up visions of horse and cattle breeding and of mining, but for the most part Australians associate it with the grape, since the area is home to more than fifty wineries and dozens of restaurants.

Visitors may recognize such international labels as Rosemount or Lindemans, while smaller, limited-production operations are much respected at home. An easy two-hour drive from Sydney—making it the most pop­ular and well-known of Australia’s four wine regions—Hunter Valley is best avoided on weekends; on weekdays you’ll find the roads quiet and dinner reservations easy to come by.

Gourmands who like charming country hotels should head for the Pepper Tree, a magnificent complex in the heart of the valley. Hotel-restaurant combinations don’t get any more idyllic: lovely accommodations are in a tum-of-the-century former convent, where your elegant suite may be a former kindergarten or music room.

The hotel’s multiple-award-winning Robert’s restaurant serves long and leisurely meals in an 1876 settler’s cot­tage, accompanied by vintages from vines you can reach out and touch. Even if you don’t stay for dinner, stop by to pick up a gourmet hamper for a lunch under the trees down by the creek.

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