House of Airlie Public Relations
Public Relations




Dark Horse Vineyard in the Hunter Valley will once again host the prestigious Polo in the Vines this year, bringing all the glamour and fun of the popular event to this pretty pocket of the Hunter Valley.

Following on from the success of last year’s inaugural event, the stunning boutique vineyard will once more come to life with the excitement of thundering hooves, top horsemanship, fine Hunter Valley wines and mouth-watering cuisine.

The event is part of the hugely-popular Urban Polo series, and this year’s Polo in the Vines promises be another day to remember as guests soak up the excitement and enjoy the autumn scenery of lush grapevines bordering the purpose-built field during an incredible VIP experience from esteemed local chef Troy Rhoades-Brown and his team.

This year’s polo match will see home state NSW take on the Victorian team in a six-chukka game.

Urban Polo Founder Janek Gazecki said it was fantastic to be returning to Dark House for the second year. 

‘After searching for five years to find the perfect venue, last year the setting and hospitality was incredible and we are thrilled to be back,’ Gazecki said.

‘The polo field is superb, surrounded by verdant vines on two sides, and a horse yard on the third.  The remaining side is graced by a rustic barn converted into what appears like a showcase Hermes home, the perfect place for our VIP area,’ 

Dark Horse Vineyard, owned by Olivia and Martin Pukanic, is a private vineyard located on Wilderness Road in the popular Lovedale area. 

The primary focus of Polo in the Vines is the VIP dining experience, which will be held inside the Dark Horse barn. Guests will be treated to a fantastic meal prepared by Rhoades-Brown, widely known as restaurateur and chef of the two-hatted Muse, matched with the very best Hunter Valley wines.

 ‘We are really looking forward to working with Troy and his team,’ Gazecki said. ‘There is no one better to capture the essence of Autumn in the Hunter Valley – Troy is renowned for his incredible cuisine.

 ‘We are extremely excited about working with him to evoke the excitement and glamour that always surrounds a prestigious polo event.’

Popovic said the event was the highlight of the year at Dark Horse.

‘When we bought the site and renovated the cellar door it was especially for events like Polo in the Vines.’

In addition to the VIP Experience, guests can also enjoy a more casual day with friends and family from the comfort of the Vineyard Polo Lounge and the Polo Club. There will be tunes from the resident DJ throughout the day, Fashion on the Field, Pamper Suite and plenty of delicious food and local beverages for sale at the bar.

Tickets available through Ticketek here:

For more information, visit

Christina Atherton

The highly anticipated – and always delicious - Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Autumn Seasonal Lunch has taken a sweet turn this year with a new partnership bringing all the pleasures of baking to the plate at the stunning Elements Restaurant and Bar at Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens Resort, Pokolbin.

 Partnering with leading European food wholesaler Eustralis, the HCA is not only offering a mouth-watering chocolate demonstration at its first event in 2019, but has also added an exciting new scholarship to its offering of scholarships supporting up-and-coming local talent.

 A supplier of ready-to-bake products and essential ingredients for pastry chefs, cooks and catering companies, Eustralis has recently established a partnership with the Hunter Culinary Association. As part of that Partnership Eustralis has provided a scholarship opportunity for an experienced or aspiring pastry chef.

 Guests at the lunch will be treated to an amazing chocolate demonstration from Eustralis pastry chef Jeremie Mantelin, who has worked as a pastry chef in France and Australia alongside noted chefs like Tony Bilson and Adrian Zumbo. His French cheffing pedigree takes in the Hotel San Regis and the three Michelin Star-rated Jacques Marcon in Paris.

 Following the demonstration, guests will be treated to a three-course meal highlighting the seasonal produce of autumn, prepared by Elements’ Executive Chef Michael Watson, complemented by a selection of beverages provided by Peter Drayton Wines and Ironbark Hill brewery. The event will be rounded out with an incredible chocolate-based desert showcasing Eustralis product.

 HCA Chairman Gus Maher said the new partnership significantly broadened what the Hunter Culinary Association was able to offer its Members and the industry.

 ‘Eustralis bring to us their culinary expertise in a very specialised field, which we are confident will provide a great benefit. That benefit at lunch will be chocolate in all of its wonderful glory!”

 Eustralis Sales Manager Greg Bonneau said he was thrilled to be partnering with the HCA.

 ‘The type of industry exposure enabled by scholarships and events such as this can make a huge difference to a chef’s career development and we are as passionate as the HCA is about guiding and empowering the Hunter’s aspiring chefs through mentoring and knowledge.’


 Date: 9 April 2019.

Time: 11.30am – 3pm.

Location: Mercure Hunter Valley Gardens Resort, Pokolbin.

Cost: $100 for HCA members, $130 for non-members and $30 for apprentice chefs. 

To book contact Angela at Hunter Culinary Association – or visit


Christina Atherton

The highly-anticipated culinary celebration that is A Little Bit of Italy in Broke is once more promising another incredible Italian-style weekend as stunning Broke Fordwich comes to life with all the vitality and warmth long associated with Mediterranean hospitality.

The event will run onSaturday 13 and Sunday 14 April and will span 12 venues, bringing with it a weekend full of fun and hospitality – as well as an abundance of fresh, authentic cuisine, local produce, cooking classes, workshops, demonstrations, vineyard tours and the region’s renowned local wines.

 Set in the stunning rural scenery of Broke Fordwich, the festival, now in its 15thyear, offers the perfect foodie escape. Showcasing the region’s diverse wine offerings along with its abundant local produce, A Little Bit of Italy in Broke offers the visitor the best of local hospitality with a touch of that special Italian magic.

A well-loved short-break destination, the area is a premium wine-producing sub-region located in the Hunter Valley. Its peaceful, laid-back vibe and welcoming community make it the perfect setting for visitors to chat with growers and makers while sampling the wines and produce of the region.

Relaxation and indulgence is yours for the taking, with plenty to see, do, eat and drink. Many of the venues are teaming up with local restaurants for the festival to bring gastronomical delights to visitors, with a host of options available for delicious, fresh, authentic Italian cuisine.

The weekend will kick off with the famed Margan Welcome Dinner on Friday night where a three-course Italian-inspired menu in the stunning piazza under the stars will set the tone for the Festival. Over the weekend the Margan piazza will continue to be a drawcard, offering antipasto platters, salads, cheeses, coffee and sweets to guests as they indulge in all the pleasures of the cellar door.

Among some of the incredible cuisine on offer will be gourmet Italian barbecue, organic cheese and olives at Ascella Organic Wines; gourmet Italian picnic share hampers from Greenway Wines; wood-fired pizza and gelato in the Tuscan-inspired courtyard at Krinklewood; and delicious antipasto platters at Winmark Wines.

Visitors will also love the dishes at Mount Broke Wines such as traditional wood-fired pizza, antipasto, truffle gnocchi and delicious Itallian desserts; while Greenway Wines will host the famed Long Red Table on the bank of the Wollombi Brook. Tinonee Vineyard Estate will tempt you with classic favourites like gelato and Italian-originated macaroon, while at Whispering Brook a mouth-watering menu of Italian favourites will be served. And for the sausage lover, Somerville Wines is the place to go for home-made Italian sausages by the Barbalance family.

Dinner will also be available at Catherine Vale Wines and Nightingale Wines.

Once again there’s plenty on offer for those who love cooking and creating as much as eating, with gnocchi-making classes; Italian cooking demonstrations; Zafferano wine masterclasses; the Margan harvest and cooking school; and an ‘You are what you eat – why organic?’ workshop at Ascella Wines.

There’ll be olive oil appreciation workshops at Nightingale Wines, food pairing and cooking demonstrations at Greenway Wines, a grape tasting and heritage tour at Ascella Wines; Whispering Brook will host a vineyard and olive grove tour, and Catherine Vale Wines will host an olive oil masterclass.

Some workshops and demonstrations are free, while others charge a fee and require bookings.

Once again, a Little Bit of Italy in Broke has partnered with the Singleton Cancer Appeal and glass sponsor Zafferano, with $2 from every Zafferano glass sold going to the appeal.

 Transfer buses will run on Saturday and will pick visitors up from a wide range of accommodation in the Cessnock, Rothbury, Lovedale or Pokolbin areas, with shuttle buses running between festival venues over the course of the weekend. Be sure to book these in advance. And of course, there are plenty of accommodation options as well. 

The full program and more information can be found at

Christina Atherton
A recipe for success - Alessandro and Anna Pavoni visit the Hunter Valley this Spring
Alessandro and Anna Pavoni - The Ormeggio Group

Alessandro and Anna Pavoni - The Ormeggio Group

Restaurateurs Alessandro and Anna Pavoni are set to bring their passion for the hospitality industry to the Hunter for this year’s Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Spring Seasonal Lunch to be held at the acclaimed Margan Restaurant in Broke.

The highly-regarded husband-and-wife team operate four successful Sydney venues: Ormeggio at the Spit, Via Alta, Sotto Sopra and Chiosco by Ormeggio and are famed in the industry for their passion and dedication.

Alessandro will give guests a rare opportunity to see Italian cuisine prepared by one of the industry’s best. Always generous with his knowledge, Alessandro’s love of contemporary flavours, techniques and textures, combined with a passion for safeguarding Italian culinary culture, are an unforgettable combination.

He will be joined by his partner and wife Anna, a founding board member of Women in Hospitality and a highly-regarded force in the industry. Anna will share her back of house experiences across four venues, her passion for customer service, what she has learned about the hospitality industry, and the ‘business of business’.  Italian culinary culture is close to Anna’s heart, as is her passion for educating others in what she sees as a central part of her role as a restaurateur. 

The spring seasonal lunch is the second being hosted by the Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) in 2018 and will be held at the award-winning, one-hatted Margan Restaurant on Monday, 12 November. Following Alessandro’s cooking demonstration, Margan head chef Thomas Boyd will prepare a three-course lunch, which will be served with a premium selection of Margan wines.

HCA Chairman Gus Maher said the spring seasonal lunch was always a highly-anticipated event.

‘Alessandro and Anna have an incredible depth of invaluable industry knowledge and experience that can only be learned and accumulated through hard work, passion and dedication – not to mention talent and a love for Italian cuisine,’ he said. 

‘HCA workshops are aimed at educating apprentices, members and guests about the new trends, produce and technology being used in the industry and Alessandro is well-known for his passion for imparting his knowledge and developing young talent. 

‘It is an opportunity for our guest chefs to share their knowledge, talent, experience and passion with local apprentices, members and guests.  This type of industry exposure can make a huge difference to a young chef’s career development and the HCA is passionate about guiding and empowering the regions young and aspiring chefs through mentoring and guidance. ‘


Date: 12 November 2017.

Time: 1130am – 3pm.

Location: Margan Restaurant, Broke.

Cost: $100 for HCA members, $130 for non-members and $30 for apprentice chefs. 

To book visit

Christina Atherton