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HUNTER VALLEY BLOG

With more than 150 wineries and cellar doors, 65 restaurants and 180 comfy accommodation places to stay, where do you start?

Follow our insider tips by the people who know best… the locals. We ask talented winemakers, chefs, farmers, brewers and journalists to blog about their favourite places and experiences in this fertile wine region.

Gorgeous gifts for the festive season and beyond

Looking for a unique gift or stocking filler? Then it's time you filled your Christmas list with goodies from the Hunter Valley. We're blessed with tons of delicious drops, so wine lovers, beer drinkers and G&T fans are all taken care of. We also have plenty of extraordinary experiences including gourmet dining, balloon flights, cooking classes and spa treatments if you prefer to give a gift voucher. The #buyfromthebush campaign has really put a spotlight on rural communities and the beautiful boutiques and goods they produce. Pokolbin Village and Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village are both home to a wide variety of retail outlets, so ideal for the one-stop shopper. But we also have a handful of hidden Hunter treasures where you can shop instore or online and buy regional this Christmas.

​If you're scratching your head about a pressie for that hard-to-buy person you're bound to find something at this bijou boutique. It's packed with stylish home wares and knickknacks, carefully curated by owner Katrina Bradley. She set up shop in her family's winery at Calais Estate in 2013 so, unsurprisingly, stocks a range of wine gifts, including colourful coasters, ice buckets and decanters. They're dotted between beautiful camphor laurel cutting boards, cheese knives, homemade jams, soaps, sparkly handmade earrings and necklaces, hair clips and trinket boxes. There's also a rack of cloud-light silk dresses that are simply divine.

Alpaca is another luxury fibre that's super-soft and lightweight – and unlike wool, has no lanolin, so it's coveted by people with sensitive skin and allergies. The incredibly beautiful, breathable yarn is fashioned into some lust-have garments at The Australian Alpaca Barn. There are three outlets in the Valley where you can find a colourful collection of capes, coats, scarves and sweaters. You can also dress your home in this ever-so-versatile hypoallergenic fibre with throws, quilts and blankets that have timeless appeal.Some say alpaca is softer than cashmere, so the stuffed toy koalas, kangaroos, teddies and alpacas are spot-on for toddlers.

Chocolates are always a festive favourite but if you want to bowl over chocoholics, handmade artisan confections are the way to go. Aymee Slaviero makes all her chocolates by hand in her shop at Keith Tulloch Wine going through about 100-150 kilograms of Weiss French chocolate each week. The display cases are filled with 40 different treats, including her favourite – the chocolate bonbons, that take a couple of days to make as they're all hand-painted or air-brushed. Macadamia Butter Crunch is a big seller but at this time of year the Peppermint Christmas Trees get the big nod.

This chocolate shop is in the Maitland suburb of Tenambit, just up the road from historic Morpeth. Owner Donna Archer also hand makes and handpaints all her chocolates, using the finest Cacao Barry chocolate from France and Callebaut from Belgium. She lost her heart to a raspberry chocolate with a real raspberry centre years ago and, after not being able to find another of the same quality, ditched her day job and trained as a chocolatier. Her first creation? A raspberry heart-shaped chocolate that's won several awards… and is wickedly good. As well as her regular choccie range, she has a range of novelty festive chocs, including Christmas trees, angels and Santas in every flavour you could want, but my favourites are the adorable 15cm-high reindeers. Charlie the multi-coloured unicorn is pretty cute too.

​If you love the smell of Christmas, you'll want to visit this aromatic showroom in Morpeth. Andrew and Susan Mason are constantly coming up with new fragrances for their reed diffusers and 100% soy candles, which they hand pour several times a week using non-toxic, additive-free fragrances. This month they have a candle that smacks of Christmas cake aromas, as well as a new pomegranate and rhubarb scented candle in a ruby red glass jar. Both beautiful ways to add a bit of scented sparkle to your Christmas celebrations. There's also a candle for wine lovers based on the region's signature Shiraz and a fresh lime and coconut scent that screams summer. Oh, and if you were wondering how to pronounce the name, it's 'oonyah' – a Gaelic word that means green and verdant, which they say reflects their beautiful Hunter Valley home

While you're over Maitland way, head on to Mortels Sheepskin Factory, home of the biggest UGG boots. After a quick selfie with the five-metre-high UGGS outside, you can step inside and slip on some sheepskin toe-warmers. Super soft and super warm, it's no wonder they have a cult following Australia-wide and make the perfect gift for family and friends having a white Christmas overseas. But there's more to this sheepskin shop than just UGGS. They have sheepskin car seat covers, woollen rugs, scarves, patchwork pet rugs, cowhide handbags, cuddly teddy bears and the ultimate stocking filler for beer drinkers who have it all – a sheepskin stubby holder.

If you know someone who's a fan of fudge as well as chocolate, you'll want to visit this sweet superstore. They've been making handcrafted chocolates for 20 years using high-calibre Belgian couverture chocolate, but also A bottle of wine is high on everyone's list of favourite Christmas treats, but for something a bit extra-special what about a bottle engraved with a personal message? Ivanhoe Wines specialises in custom-engraved wines for any occasion. You simply choose which wine you'd like to buy from their extensive range – from Shiraz, Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Verdelho, Semillon, Sparkling Moscato/Traminer to a Muscat or Tawny – and they'll engrave your message in gold or silver, put it in a satin-lined gift box and deliver to your door. It's a unique gift for the person who has everything. have a blockbuster range of freshly made fudge with 35 on display. Among the summer highlights are pine lime splice and watermelon fudge, plus there's a huge selection of beautifully crafted speciality creations for Christmas, and an Aussie Mates range of choccies, including koalas and kangaroos, that will delight overseas friends. They have three outlets but the bonus of a visit to the 2320 Broke Road location is that you can watch Peter, the chocolatier, and Lorraine, the fudge maker, in action through the viewing window at the back of the factory.

A bottle of wine is high on everyone's list of favourite Christmas treats, but for something a bit extra-special what about a bottle engraved with a personal message? Ivanhoe Wines specialises in custom-engraved wines for any occasion. You simply choose which wine you'd like to buy from their extensive range – from Shiraz, Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Verdelho, Semillon, Sparkling Moscato/Traminer to a Muscat or Tawny – and they'll engrave your message in gold or silver, put it in a satin-lined gift box and deliver to your door. It's a unique gift for the person who has everything.

And if you have someone in your life who is a die-hard wine and food lover?Ask Anthea Cameron to send a gourmet hamper filled with an enticing selection of boutique wines and local gourmet goodies. She believes Hunter products are among the finest in the world and creates beautiful gift hampers that are simply irresistible. You can visit the showroom in Morisset, near Lake Macquarie, and browse the epicurean emporium or build your own custom hamper online. Local loot is on offer from Hungerford Hill Wines, First Creek Wines, Tamburlaine Organic Wines, Hunter Distillery, Ironbark Hill Brewhouse, Lovedale Lager, Binnorie Dairy, Pukara Estate Olives and Donarch Chocolates to name a few. Just the thing to spoil that someone special or thank a client.

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