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5 bucket-list experiences for Hunter Valley foodies

Private tasting parties. A salumi cellar door. A spectacular, vine-dripped dining terrace. The Hunter is filled with incredible food experiences – this bucket list takes in our pick of the best things to do this winter. The only challenge? Deciding which to savour first. Good luck!

Scoff salumi and cheese at Usher Tinkler

​ Picture an old wooden chapel, surrounded by bucolic backroad countryside. Throw in a few weeping willows, some vineyard-covered hills in the distance and a sign that says 'cellar door'… and what do you get? Usher Tinkler Wines, of course. Gather on chesterfield couches or perch on a barstool for a social glass or three at this salumi bar-cum-neighbourhood hangout: aside from being the only winemakers in the Valley to grow Prosecco, the label has become known for their fortified Verdehlo… and their generous meat and cheese platters. Put in your order and watch as cured meats are carefully sliced; the chrome machinery, operated by hand, makes for quite a spectacle. So too, the view: the sun sets almost directly in front of full-to-ceiling windowpanes, flooding the scene with atmosphere and warmth.

Enjoy a breakfast board at Café Enzo

On weekends Café Enzo buzzes, as locals are joined by discerning weekenders hungry for top-notch food. Watch as expert staff dance between tables, whizzing out prettily plated fruit and generous servings of waffles and pancakes in the garden-edged courtyard; the highlight here is arguably their artfully arranged 'breakfast board', which comes with heapings of savoury foodstuffs, among them cheese, pickles and pistachio red pesto. The café itself is situated within the picturesque Peppers Creek Village, an experience in itself: make sure you wander the grounds and admire the quaint old buildings.

Find a hidden, private tasting party

Your jaw might drop when you arrive at Briar Ridge for a private tasting among the vines. Nestled somewhere into the hillside, between rows of vines and the property's explosions of bougainvillea, awaits your destination for the afternoon: a white-clothed table, laden with wine and food. Ask questions about the winemaking process or simply enjoy the setting as you sample both current and museum release vintages accompanied by a tasting plate of local goodies (and one of the Hunter's spectacular sunsets). Located in the southern, lesser explorer end of the valley, the experience is one of the region's best-kept secrets.

Try 'The Dessert'

Did you even go to the Hunter if you didn't try The Coconut? Two-hatted restaurant Muse, housed inside the spectacular Walter Barda-designed building at Hungerford Hill winery, made waves when it burst onto the Hunter Valley food scene almost a decade ago. Today, it's become a must-visit destination in its own right, attracting foodies – and a swathe of awards – from around the nation. And, while any dish ordered will make for a memorable meal here, the 'Muse Coconut' has become something of an icon. Encased in a delicate chocolate shell and delicately dusted with edible flowers, this white chocolate and coconut-flavoured mousse dessert is worth the wait – tables here book out well in advance, so plan ahead.

Have a long, long, long lunch

There was once a cottage, set atop its own hill, far from the hustle and bustle of the Valley below… it sounds like a fairy tale, but Bistro Molines is real – and just as special as its sounds. Despite relative isolation atop its view-soaked perch, the restaurant has earned a swathe of accolades over the years; French owner-chef Robert Molines and his wife Sally are a large part of its charm (the couple still personally oversees execution after a decade of operation). Sit outside on unevenly paved brickwork under vines thick with leaves, or move indoors for sweeping views across the Valley and vines below; the view has been known to cause more than a few to submit to a longer lunch than planned. Add in a few courses of exquisite French-Provincial food, some regional wines to match and you may well have it: the ultimate summation of the region's tag line. Here's to the good life indeed.



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