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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.

The Hunter's hottest events

Looking for an excuse to cosy up beside a flickering fire, nursing a glass of warming red wine? Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival is reason enough with a range of events where you can rug up and inhale the scent of burning wood outdoors or feel toasty indoors beside a flickering fireplace.

There's one event that really sums up the Hunter Valley winter experience and that's Glandore's Burning of the Barrel.

It's a special night where everyone wraps up and parties around an enormous bonfire, sipping some of Glandore's best drops while chowing down on warming tucker by local chef Andy Wright. There's toe-tapping music by soloist Cam Thorton and a rockabilly trio led by Dave Bean of The Cabin in Maitland with a spectacular fireworks display by KaBoom Fireworks.

But back to that bonfire. Just how big can that fire be if they're just burning one barrel I hear you ask?

"We have about 75 tonnes of wood delivered and will also add some stuff from around the property to create a great big bonfire," says winemaker Nick Flanagan. "But usually, only one poor, unsuspecting wine barrel is sacrificed for this great occasion," he laughs.

No wonder this mix of flames, food, wine and entertainment was named in Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine's Top 50 Wine Experiences.

It's a family friendly event but with more than 500 people expected to hotfoot it along – sorry about that – on June 29, you'll need to get there early to nab a spot at the front of the fire.

Another top spot to sip tasty boutique wines beside a crackling firepit is Stonehurst Cedar Creek's Music in the Woods event on June 8

It's a celebration of the first signs of winter in the beautiful Wollombi Valley with three live bands belting out dance tunes among the 100 poplar trees, gourmet food and a range of Stonehurst's award-winning wines including mulled wine.

The delicious combo of spices and wine is a traditional part of winter celebrations the world over and the great thing about it is that it's served warm. Perfect on a chilly evening when you're perched beside a firepit in the woods.

At Mount Pleasant Wines you can taste a couple of the Hunter Valley's iconic wines beside a roaring fire daily in May and June. They're hosting their Life's Iconic Pleasures event in two rooms, both with a fireplace which will be lit during the day (if the weather suits, of course). You can shelter from the cold and enjoy a three-vintage vertical of Lovedale Semillon and Maurice O'Shea Shiraz paired with some of the world's finest cheeses.

There's also a smokin' hot menu being served every Sunday in May and June at Matilda Bay Brewhouse. Chef Phil Collis is firing up the barbie so you can tuck into a good old-fashioned Texan barbecue that's cooked low and slow with fiery chipotle and a craft beer or two.

Smokey Sundays kicks off at noon with pulled pork burgers, blackened brisket burgers and the ultimate smoked meats board with 16-hour blackened brisket, smoked chorizo sausage, eight-hour smoked pork shoulder with smoked BBQ sauce and chipotle. And they've also come up with the perfect beer match for those smouldering smoky flavours with a Smokey Sundays red ale or frothy ale on tap.

Just four fine ways to make your getaway even cosier during Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival.

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