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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.

What’s hot this month: gelato, twilight tastings & Xmas lights

​ Summer has arrived and you know what that means. December is all about fun and festivities as we count down the days until Christmas and enjoy endless sunny days, so we've handpicked some of our favourite summer activities here in the Valley.


Nothing screams summer more than a melting ice-cream and the tastiest place to get your creamy scoop is The Hunter Valley Gelato Company at The Smelly Cheese Shop. The gelato bar inside this food emporium has every flavour under the sun with 46 gelato and sorbets on display all-year-round. They switch the flavours all the time as they have more than 100 recipes to choose from – including seasonal flavours made specially for the Christmas season. How does Brandy & Caramelised Fig Gelato and Christmas Pudding sound? Pretty darn good, right. They're in store now but you'd better be quick.

If you're looking for a refreshing flavour to beat the heat, their best summer sellers (available all year) include Coconut & Lychee Gelato, Honey Caramel Gelato, Ferrero Rocher Gelato, Raspberry Ripple Sorbet and Mango Sorbet. 


If you love the long summer days, odds-on December is your favourite month as the summer solstice falls on December 22 – the longest day of the year. To take advantage of all that extra sunshine some cellar doors extend their opening hours, so you can enjoy a twilight summer sipping session.

Sunset at Cockfighter's Ghost Cellar Door

Cockfighter's Ghost Wines

You can watch the sun slowly sink towards the Brokenback mountain range from this sleek cellar door. Sunshine yellow bar stools surround wine barrels in the tasting area but the eye-catching views from the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors really steal the show.

You can taste indoors or slip out onto the deck, which overlooks a large dam and 100-year-old Shiraz vines with a side view of the sun-strafed mountains. Until Christmas Eve you can taste both Cockfighter's Ghost and Poole's Rock wines on Monday and Friday until 7pm and Saturday evenings until 6pm.

Wine & Cheese Tasting at First Creek Wines

First Creek Wines

First Creek is also opening later on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. No need to rush around trying to squeeze in your tasting during office hours – you can rock up until 7pm each day.

The welcoming cellar door is all timber and Colorbond – how Aussie is that! – and you've got a choice of two spaces to sit and sip. The indoor tasting room has a large window overlooking the cavernous winery with hundreds of wine barrels stacked high, or there's a large timber verandah out front with bar stools and tasting tables overlooking gum trees and undulating pastures. The verandah is a good posy when there's a soft evening breeze blowing.

Tamburlaine Wines Cellar Door

Tamburlaine Organic Wines

Tamburlaine is Australia's largest organic wine producer and usually opens from 9am to 5pm, but this month they're open until 7pm from Wednesday to Saturday. So, there's no need to mount an attack on the castle-like portcullis at the entrance to the cellar door for evening access!

A portcullis is one of those lattice-like metal gates that guard the main entrance of castles from attack and Tamburlaine has a beauty – with a decorative metal statue guarding the vine-covered walkway to the tasting room. Once you've snuck past the guard you can prop yourself on the timber bar and make the most of the twilight tasting. Seize the day just like Tamburlaine The Great did – the great conqueror of Christopher Marlowe's 16th-century play.

Wine House Hunter Valley

Wine House Hunter Valley

Want to taste a swag of different labels all in the one place? Then this is the sunset spot for you. It used to be called The Small Winemakers Centre, but they've expanded and rebranded to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

One of the new features is twilight tastings on Friday and Saturdays until 7pm. You can sample wines from a handful of premium Hunter winemakers including Thomas Wines, David Hook, Hart & Hunter, Little Wine Co and Silkman Wines at the tasting bar. The other option is to head to the lounge where there are 40 super premium Aussie and international wines by the glass via enomatic machines. You can enjoy them indoors or pull up a pew on the terrace overlooking the lake with a snack from the all-day share-plate menu.

Taste the Hunter tour

iHop Hunter Valley runs a three-hour bus tasting tour with pick-up at your hotel at 5.30pm. It's actually called the "after dark tour" but in summer should be renamed the twilight tour! The tour includes a stop at a winery for wine and cheese, a beer-tasting paddle at a boutique brewery and pizza and snacks at a tapas restaurant. 


​ And of course, the annual Christmas Lights Extravaganza at Hunter Valley Gardens is an all-time summer favourite. Kids go ga-ga over the two million lights on display but then there's the colourful carousel, the swing chairs and the massive ferris wheel. If you've never been, it's one to put on the bucket list on a balmy December evening. And if the bright lights have inspired you, drop into The Hunter Valley Christmas Shop in the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village and pick up everything you need to deck out your home and outdo the neighbours.

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