The Hunter Valley comes back to life after long COVID lockdowns

Hunter Valley’s wine and food playground is getting its mojo back after enduring lengthy COVID-19 bans.

Tourism chiefs tell me the recovery is uneven.

The cellar door of Carillion Wines in the Hunter’s Mount View sub-region was a pleasant place to view the rolling vineyards and to swirl, sniff and drink a few willing vintages.

From there, we look down at the vines that 300 million years ago would have been at the bottom of the ocean. At the bar, a display case displays ancient shells and molluscs unearthed during the planting of the vineyard.

Compared to Hunter’s which has great wine merchants like Tyrells, Mount Pleasant and Brokenwood, Carillion seems to me to go unnoticed. But it maintained its five-star rating for 10 years.

A round of applause for winemaker Andrew Ling _ and the Davis family who are funding this, and other wine projects.

Carillion is 20 minutes south of Pokolbin and we were lucky that it is in the same building as Bistro Molines, a famous French restaurant overlooking the vineyard whose menu reads like pages of Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French cuisine.

Orange glazed duck. Lamb brain. Asparagus and leek tart. Boneless quail. Tender pigeon. Venison hazelnut. Fish from the market… French fries everywhere please! You get the picture. A few Italians had crept onto the menu, including baked figs with stinky gorgonzola wrapped in prosciutto.

Our group tried all of these dishes and more. It was high quality food from a well trained kitchen team who knew exactly what they were doing. The twice cooked duck was tender and chewy and came with braised red cabbage and speck pimped peas. The lamb brains were creamy and garlicky and had a lush texture. The heightened flavors of carrot remoulade and lemon and caper butter.

During lunch and earlier in the tasting room, we sipped Carillion 2019 Crystals Chardonnay ($35) made from cool-climate grapes from Orange. There were scents of white flowers and stone fruit followed by flavors of pears and citrus and filigree minerality and a crisp finish.

Carillion Lovable Rogue 2021 “Skin Contact” Vermentino ($30) was a surprise package. Richer and more structural with heady aromas like musk, grapefruit and pink pepper.

Carillion Lovable Rogue 2020 “Moon Child” Aglianico ($30) showed luscious dark fruit flavors and a complex nose of potpourri (rose petals?) leather and berries.

The best of the reds was Carillion’s 2015 Stonefields ‘Arbitrage’ Cabernet Merlot Shiraz Blend ($40) showing great depth in the Super Tuscan style. The fruit came from the family’s South Australian vineyards.


We stayed at Villa Clare, a Tuscan style country house (sleeps 6) in Wandin Estate, Lovedale. Our group paid $3375 for 3 nights. Tel 02 4930 9888.

Bistro Molines 749 Mount View Road, Mount View. Tel 02 49 909553

We paid $115 per person for three courses.

Best breakfast: The Deck Cafe, Lovedale. Eggs Benedict $22. Tel 04 49309007

Travel Warning: Some Hunter stores and restaurants are operating limited hours due to staffing shortages.

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