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Tours & tasting sessions you won't want to miss

The Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival dishes up a smorgasbord of tasty events this month for eager epicureans who'd like to learn a little more about food and wine. Whether you want to brush up on your wine knowledge or improve your kitchen skills there's a class to suit. Numbers are pretty limited and missing out sucks, so you'll need to book to secure your spot.

You've probably heard that a good curriculum is the most important thing when choosing a school… well this one is a standout. Forget literacy and numeracy, the topics here involve jelly beans and chocolate!

"Our Sensory Schooling is about learning how to recognise the aromas and flavours that you hear winemakers and writers use all the time," explains Sally Scarborough. "Sensory items like strawberries, apples, cinnamon, honeyed nuts, chocolate and Jelly Belly's (yes, the jelly beans) are laid out for you to smell and taste to start to recognise those characters."

You then get to taste three whites and three reds and have to guess which variety you think each wine is based on the sensory items you've sampled. You also receive a complimentary cheese plate to enjoy while sleuthing your way through the wines. It's on every weekend in June and the cost includes a bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to take home with you.

Epic Tasting Experience at Hungerford Hill

Looking for a tasting experience that combines fine wines with snacks from the best fine dining winery restaurant in the Valley? Better book in for this 90-minute gastronomic adventure at Hungerford Hill then.

The striking building on Broke Road not only houses the Hungerford Hill winery and cellar door, it's also home to the trailblazing two-hatted Muse Restaurant. And from Wednesday to Sunday this month you can book in for an epic tasting experience like no other. You'll be greeted with a glass of sparkling wine before sitting down to a tutored tasting experience with five tasting bites prepared by the award-winning restaurant, each paired with a different Hungerford Hill wine. One of Hungerford Hill's staff will talk you through the flavours, aromas and history of each wine and why they were chosen to match with each snack.

De Iuliis Wines

The De Iuliis Wines website says it all – "Hard to pronounce, easy to drink". Yep, De "Uli-iss" is a bit of a tongue-twister but there's nothing tricky about Mike De Iuliis's wines… they're stupendously drinkable and have won oodles of awards. And this month you can sample them with some yummy cheeses.

If you're a newbie to wine and cheese pairing – or just enjoy boutique, hand-crafted wine and cheese – this is the perfect session for you. Every day in June you're invited to taste two Semillons and two Shiraz paired with four delicious cheeses from local cheesemakers Binnorie Dairy and Hunter Belle Cheese in the sleek cellar door in the heart of Pokolbin. Mike says it will take your tastebuds on a journey you won't forget.

Oaks and Vine Masterclass at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort

Every Wednesday this month you can also brush up on your cooking skills at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort. It's a fun hands-on masterclass for groups of eight who want to learn how to create restaurant quality dishes in a commercial kitchen. The Oak & Vine Restaurant is opening their kitchen doors and invites you to work alongside their award-winning executive chef Praveen Leelavathy and head chef Viktoria Markwell Burgmann.

You'll learn to master the art of two dishes – a scallop, pea puree, prosciutto and elk entrée, followed by braised beef short ribs, cauliflower puree with Pedro Ximenez for main. Praveen and Viktoria will guide you step-by-step through both dishes and help with the preparation. And you then get to tuck into your creations with a glass of bubbles.

Kelman Wines

Kelman is different to your usual vineyard because it's also a residential estate. This boutique vineyard has over 20 acres of vines planted around 80 homes in a quiet pocket of the Hunter and the owners of the houses also own and run the wine operation, so it's a real communal enterprise.

Every Saturday and Sunday in June they're offering a private tasting for small groups (up to eight people) with a tasting plate of nibbles matched to the wines. You'll learn about the history of the estate and how this unusual winery operates, while sipping eight of their wines, including bubbles, three whites, three reds and a fortified Muscat. And if you've ever fancied living amongst the vines, picking and making your own wine, this could be your dream come true.

Other highlights include a nose-to-tail lamb masterclass at Margan's Cooking School on June 16, a wine-tasting and blending workshop where you blend your own wine at Briar Ridge on June 22, and from Thursday to Sunday at RidgeView you can taste a trio of award-winning wines with matching morsels.

A June getaway is the perfect opportunity to unwind and pick up some handy hints from our local chefs and winemakers. 


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