The Hunter Valley is the center of the New South Wales wine country. In the heart of the Hunter, the village of Pokolbin is the epicenter of activity in the Hunter. When you visit Pokolbin today, you could be forgiven for believing that viticulture has always been the lifeblood of the region, but that’s not quite the case.

Different sources give two different families credit for establishing the valley’s first vineyard. Many say the Drayton family planted the first vines in Pokolbin in 1830. Others give credit to the Wilkinson family two years earlier, in 1828. Whether it was the Drayton’s or the Wilkinson’s, one thing’s for sure: vines have been growing in the region well over a century and a half.

Alongside of the big wineries such as Tyrrell and Lindeman, many thriving boutique cellars are located in Pokolbin and the surrounding area. One of the real pleasures of touring the region is discovering a lesser known winery and sampling their selections.

The Hunter Valley is best known for its traditional Semillon and Shiraz wines, but today many other varieties can be found as well, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and even some Pinot Noir. Mountain ranges on three sides of the Hunter Valley help protect it from the harshest weather conditions, while the Tasman sea breezes help keep the summer heat down. However, extreme summer heat and winter frosts offer challenges to vintners.

It comes as a surprise to many newcomers when they learn that the Pokolbin region has not always been known for its wines. For over a century, mining was the principle industry in the area. After many of the mines were closed in the sixties, wine making took over as the primary local industry. By then, the vines had matured and the vintners were ready to start making their mark on the world.

The sixties, too, was when Australians first started to appreciate the quality of their own home produced wines. The Hunter Valley, being so close to Sydney, became a magnet for Sydney wine lovers and the tourist industry in and around Pokolbin began to boom. Over the years, amenities and attractions for visitors were developed, including golf clubs, resorts, art galleries, restaurants and other attractions. Wine is still what attracts the majority of visitors, but the Hunter is becoming increasingly popular for other reasons as well.

Tucked away against the Brokenback Ranges not far from Pokolbin is the Hunter Valley Garden, a popular destination for families. This large, beautifully landscaped “garden” of over 25 hectares is actually divided into twelve separate feature gardens. Designed to be a family attraction, the Hunter Valley Garden hosts regular holiday events such as their annual Easter Egg Hunt. On the third Sunday of each month, they host a local market that attracts artists and artisans from all over the region.


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