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HUNTER VALLEY BLOG

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.

​Fireside tastings - the best places to sip and sit fireside

​If warming reds, fortified wines, toasted marshmallows and log fires is your idea of the perfect winter's day, you're in luck. Here's a list of cosy cellar doors where fine wines, flames and friends go hand in hand. 

Pictured: Oakvale Wines.

​Blueberry Hill keeps their firepit cranking from 4.30-6pm on Friday and Saturday evenings so visitors can park themselves beside the cheery blaze and sample their handcrafted boutique wines with great sunset views. Throw rugs are on hand but if the wind chill factor kicks in there's an indoor fire too. Bookings required and cheese platters can also be ordered.

​Fancy a romantic table for two among the vines with your own flaming fire? Book Briar Ridge's Private Tasting in a Mystery Vineyard and you'll get that and more. You'll be given a glass of bubbly to start, then go on a vineyard tour and enjoy a fireside tasting of current and museum release wines with a cheese and antipasto platter in the middle of a vineyard. Bookings essential.

​The huge deck overlooking the dam is the go-to spot to sip wine in summer, but in winter it's time to huddle beside the glowing coals in the combustion fire indoors and let the good team here pour you some tasty tipples. You can also book in for a special Fortifieds By The Fireside tasting and tutorial being held each weekend this month.

​You can also savour special wines and special moments with friends beside the fire inside Glandore's cellar door. The revamped tasting rooms are a stylish space to shelter indoors with a warming red and they have wine and cheese/chocolate matching experiences too. There's also an outdoor firepit with both fires lit every weekend.

​Glenguin's Winter Fireside Chats have been selling out most weekends, so you'd better get in quick as the last one is being held on August 24. They run from 4pm every Saturday evening in front of the fire at the Glenguin cellar door, where you'll taste current release wines alongside back vintage and museum wines, including some that can't be tasted elsewhere. And there's cheese and charcuterie to accompany the wines too.

​Margan has a fabulous double-sided fireplace that heats the acclaimed restaurant on one side and the cellar door on the other. It's the perfect place to lounge in the comfy chairs next to the fire and sample the estate-grown and estate-made drops or book an experience like the one-hour winery tour and gourmet platter for two.

Make the most of the last few weeks of winter with an alfresco fireside tasting at this boutique winery. The rustic gallon drum firepit is the place where visitors gather to sip and socialise, and you can also enjoy a game of boules or croquet. If you have your canine

companion with you, they're welcome too. You do need to book so they've got the fire blazing when you arrive.

​The combustion fire in the main cellar door area at McLeish is the hottest hangout in winter and there's plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the warmth. You can request a table near the fireplace and settle in to enjoy a range of tasting options, including their iconic experience where you explore the vineyards and have a fireside tasting including a flight of the Reserve 2014 vintage wines – one of the best vintages ever – with local cheeses to snack on.

​The folk at Oakvale have the fire burning in the cellar door every weekend until mid-August, but if the weather stays cold they'll keep it going longer. You'll see visitors belly crawling to get in front of the flames… yep this place is pooch-friendly so your fur baby can curl up in front of the fire while you curl your hand around a glass of lip-smacking wine.

The firewood is stacked high beside the large, open fireplace at Pepper Tree Wines. The brick hearth is right next to the large tasting bar so you can soak up the warmth of the fire while sampling award-winning tipples in the quaint timber-clad cellar door.

​The open fire in the cellar door at Peterson House is the central feature of the space so no wonder they hold their sparkling wine tastings slap-bang in front of it. It's a fabulous setting to taste the huge range of sparkling wines on offer inside the beautiful sandstone walls with exposed timber ceilings.

​The aubergine-coloured brick fireplace here is a real drawcard when its icy outdoors. The wood combustion fire is a cosy spot where you can try up 20 wines throughout winter, as well as cheese plates too. There's a restaurant next door too if you want a hearty winter meal

If you love rugging up and enjoying the brisk country air, head to Stomp! Wines on Saturdays for their outdoor firepit tasting. You can taste the current range of wines, which includes several whites for winter, including the 14 and 15 Chardonnay and 18 Fiano, as well as their 17 reds and fortifieds. And they encourage guests to toast marshmallows over the fire with a warming fortified to finish off the tasting.

​Stonehurst is a boutique winery in the picturesque Wollombi Valley committed to organic and sustainable farming. The sandstone cellar door has an antique 1900s pot belly fireplace that will keep you warm and toasty while enjoying a tasting of the estate-grown, sparkling, white, red and dessert wines with a local cheese platter.

This family owned cellar door has several comfy tasting spaces, but everyone makes a beeline for the corner fire with its lovely sandstone surround when the August winds hit. You can take a seat by the fireplace and enjoy the handcrafted wines on the tasting list or try a wine and chocolate matching, mystery wine tour or museum wine experience.

Angus Vinden is a dab hand at winemaking, as you'd expect, but he's also pretty talented at outdoor firepits. He's just finished the outdoor firepit area at VInden, so after enjoying a tasting of his Sparkling Alicante Bouschet, Semillon, Chardonnay or Shiraz indoors you can buy a bottle of your favourite drop and adjourn to the open fire outside and polish it off.

Another first-rate spot to chase away the winter chills with a glass of artisan wine in front of a roaring fire. You can relax on comfortable lounges and immerse yourself in an educational wine tasting experience in front of the combustion fire at this boutique beauty with cheese/antipasto platters and pizzas available to complement your experience from Friday to Sunday.

Wine, wombats and warm fires – not a typical threesome that comes to mind when wine-tasting but it's a pretty good combo here. You can find comfort in front of the combustion wood heater and enjoy an unhurried, personalised sit-down tasting of their single vineyard wines, including Semillon, Chardonnay, Rose and Shiraz, while finding out more about their wombats' adventures on Facebook.

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