New South Wales – Hunter Valley – exploring little-known Lovedale

By Winsor Dobbin
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Allandale Winery and Vineyards

Allandale Winery and Vineyards [©Winepros/]

Lovedale long lunch © Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism


The Hunter Valley is home to hundreds of wineries, big and small, but most visitors tend to focus their attention on Pokolbin, where  most of the big cellar doors are situated.

If you turn right off Wine Country Drive, onto Lovedale Road, on your way out of Cessnock, instead of turning left to Pokolbin, you will discover the many smaller boutique producers and restaurants of the Lovedale sub-region.

Stop 1 – Balloon Flight

Balloon Aloft
The Hunter looks magical in the morning – and there is no better way to enjoy the countryside than from a hot-air balloon.

Balloon Aloft has been soaring above the Hunter at sunrise since 1980 – and you get an altogether different perspective from up above as kangaroos and other wildlife scatter below. Each flight is concluded with a light breakfast accompanied by sparkling wine and fruit juice.

Operates: Daily, depending on the weather conditions.
Bookings essential. Meeting points vary.
Tel: (02) 4990 9242 or 1300 723 279


Stop 2 – Wine Tasting

Allandale Winery
Just across the road from the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Hotel is the welcoming Allandale cellar door, owned by Wally and Judith Atallah, who have built the business up since it was established in 1978.

Winemaker Bill Sneddon, a local boy born and bred in Cessnock, has been the winemaker for close to two decades and uses fruit from the Hunter as well as sourcing grapes from the Mudgee region, Hilltops and McLaren Vale.

Allandale is one of the major venues for the annual Lovedale Long Lunch held each April.

You must taste:

  • Sneddon is a dab hand with white varieties and Allandale’s semillons, verdelhos and chardonnays are all outstanding.  The Allandale verdelho is more restrained than many, while the chardonnay is beautifully balanced year in, year out. Allandale also makes stylish Hunter shirazes.

Open: Daily. Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday: 10am-5pm.
132 Lovedale Road,
Tel (02) 4990 4526  

Stop 3 – Lunch

Leaves & Fishes
Enjoy lunch at Leaves & Fishes, a licensed café/restaurant and aquafarm where you can dine indoors or out looking over a dam filled with yabbies and perch.

Chef Jamie Hartcher, who made his name at Chez Pok, is back behind the stoves serving tasty fresh and simple dishes like a deli platter of home-made duck paté, chicken and pistachio terrine, pickled vegetables and Italian salami. Follow up with a bucket shellfish, dipping sauces and sliced ciabatta, or the fish fillet of the day.

Open: For breakfast at weekends, lunch Wednesday to Sunday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
737 Lovedale Rd,
Tel (02) 4930 7400

Stop 4 – Olive Oil Tasting

The Adina cellar door and winery is also home to a café that’s a great spot to grab a cup of coffee and a snack, and also to an on-site olive mill. Visitors can taste the Adina wines as well as sampling farm-fresh olives and olive oils.

Open: Daily 10am-5pm. Café Wednesday to Sunday, 9am-3pm.
492 Lovedale Rd,
Tel (02) 4930 7473


Stop 5 – Wine Tasting

Gartelmann Hunter Estate
Jorg and Jan Gartelmann offer a warm welcome at their attractive cellar door/tasting area surrounded by lovely gardens. You’ll find a fun, relaxed but informative atmosphere at this friendly family-owned and run winery.

Gartelmann specialises in the classic Hunter varieties of semillon and shiraz and also make chardonnay, merlot and verdelho.

You must taste:

  • Museum wines like the 2003 Benjamin Semillon are often available, but make sure to try the beautifully balanced 2005 Diedrich Shiraz.

Open: Daily 10am-5pm
701 Lovedale Rd,
Tel (02) 4930 7113


Stop 6 – Dinner

Mojo’s On Wilderness
Adam and Ros Baldwin have created a gem of a restaurant out in the sticks on Wilderness Road – it has been a favourite with locals for over a decade. The food is European influenced but features local ingredients, the service is slick and there’s an excellent wine list.

Choose from dishes like sumac-spiced lamb cutlets with beetroot puree and coriander yoghurt; roasted pork loin cutlet with celeriac and potato gratin, or daily blackboard specials.

There is cottage accommodation available if you feel like spending the night.

Open: For dinner seven nights from 6.30pm. Bookings essential.
84 Wilderness Rd,
Tel (02) 4930 7244  


  • Lower Hunter (NSW)
  • Hunter including Newcastle (NSW)
  • Upper Hunter Valley (NSW)
  • Hunter Valley (NSW)

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