It’s an early start in Sydney for our group of wine and food lovers, but no-one’s complaining. In fact, there’s an air of anticipation as we board the late model coach and settle in for the two-hour journey north to the Hunter region. After all, we’re headed for three exceptional estates in the country’s oldest wine producing region and lunch at an award-winning restaurant. And when the wine tasting is over, we won’t have to worry about driving.

 Taking a day tour makes sense in other ways too. With over 150 vineyards in the Hunter Valley, some expert guidance is needed. A lot has happened here since James Busby came back from Europe in 1832 with 20,000 vine cuttings and inspired the founding of vineyards that currently boast some of the oldest vine stock in the world. And while most wine buffs know that the Hunter has long been renowned for a unique Semillon and famous Shiraz, a new breed of young winemakers is now producing Sangiovese, Fiano and Tempranillo styles as well.

Tintilla produces some marvellous wines, including Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Merlot and Sangiovese.

After turning off the Pacific Motorway, we enjoy the attractive Hunter landscape of rolling hills, endless vines and numerous olive groves. Soon there are several sightings of kangaroos. Reaching Pokolbin, we enter the tree-lined driveway at Tintilla Estate and are soon greeted by our hosts, John and James Lusby. Here we taste a range of whites and reds, starting with a Spritzanti and moving on to a Semillon called The Angus. Tintilla also boasts a highly rated Shiraz, an excellent Merlot and a distinctive Cabernet Merlot. The Lusbys were central in pioneering Sangiovese in the Hunter, producing a Rosato di Jupiter and a blended style. The tasting is accompanied by some delicious Tintilla olives.

Let the wine tasting begin!

The striking thing about our next stop, Bimbadgen, is undoubtedly the amazing view. In fact, the name itself derives from an indigenous word for ‘place of good view’. Bimbadgen is well known for several other reasons too, including world-class concerts in the ‘Day on the Green’ program and the multi-award winning Esca restaurant. Our lunch choices at Esca are matched with appropriate wines, so the Char Siu Duck, for example, is matched with a Bimbadgen Fiano and the delicious St Agur dessert of figs, lavender, honey and meringue is accompanied by a Merlot.

James and John Lusby, the men behind Tintilla wines.

 Our last stop is Leogate Estate, which needs no introduction to wine connoisseurs. The original Brokenback Vineyard was planted under the direction of a syndicate headed by the late wine writer Len Evans, and what is now Leogate Estate produces some of the finest examples of Hunter Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz. The wines are so good, in fact, that Leogate’s ‘The Basin’ Reserve Shiraz and ‘Brokenback Vineyard’ Shiraz have been selected for Qantas First and Business Class wine lists. Needless to say, the wine tasting here was memorable.

The bell tower at Bimbadgen has become the logo of the wine brand.

The writer travelled courtesy of AAT Kings

Getting there: AAT Kings runs a Hunter Valley Harvest Wine Experience from Sydney. See


Tintilla Estate
725 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin NSW

Tel: (02) 6574 7093

A tempting array of wines greets us at Bimbadgen.


790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 


A platter of fine food is the ideal accompaniment for good wine.

Leogate Estate

1693 Broke Road Pokolbin NSW

(02) 4998 7499

The Leogate Estate’s Brokenback Vineyard is producing some of the best wines in the Hunter region. 

See John’s new book Against the Odds: surviving the world’s worst tsunami and overcoming trauma at

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Written by John Maddocks