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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
hunter valley heaven by the sea at Uncorked Balmoral
Pic credit: Mount Pleasant Wines

Pic credit: Mount Pleasant Wines

The sunny shores of Balmoral Beach is the place to be on Sunday 7 October. Hunter Valley Uncorked Balmoral will burst to life on the iconic Esplanade bringing with it the good life and all the incredible epicurean delights of the Hunter Valley.

Presented by Wine Selectors, it’s the perfect opportunity for pleasure-seekers to immerse themselves in the amazing food and wine of Australia’s oldest wine region. Balmoral will be turning it on with all the sights, tastes and stories of the Hunter – known the world over for its exquisite wineries and award-winning vintages.

Visitors can explore the best of the Hunter on their doorstep sampling the finest drops and gourmet delights, while enjoying tunes from Soul Shack Entertainment. The day will kick off with some jazz-inspired vibes and include live DJ sets later in the day to groove along to. 

A highlight of the day will be six Alfresco Tasteswine and barbecue sessions featuring expertly paired tasting glasses of Hunter Valley wines with a delicious gourmet barbecue dish. Hosted by Wine Selectors in partnership with Everdure by Heston Blumenthal, each session will showcase various barbecuing techniques and entertaining tips, as one of Everdure’s talented chefs creates a sumptuous summer dish on the barbecue.

Session times are as follows: Tex Mex: 11.30 and 2.30; Greek: 12.30 and 3.30; and Desserts: 1.30 and 4.30. Sessions are $10 and are available directly from the Wine Selectors stall on the day. 

For the first time, Uncorked Balmoral will be host to the Hunter Valley Distillery, producer of an exceptional range of top shelf spirits, including vodkas, liqueurs, schnapps and the award-winning Copperwave Distilled Gin.

Entry is free with wine-tasting packages available from $26 to $31 per person. Guests can pre-purchase tasting packages and go in the running to win a mixed dozen case of premium Hunter Valley wine valued at more than $300.

There are some exciting new additions to this year’s line up with three first time wineries showcasing at the event along with a number of old favourites returning with some new release wines. This year you will find Allandale Winery, Boydell’s, Briar Ridge Vineyard, Brokenwood Wines, Colvin Wines, De Iuliis Wines, Glandore Wines, Hungerford Hill, Leogate Estate Wines, Margan Wines, Mistletoe Winery, Mount Pleasant Wines, Oakvale Wines, Pepper Tree Wines, Peterson House, RidgeView Wines, Saddler’s Creek Wines, Tamburlaine Organic Wines, Thomas Wines, Tulloch Wines, Tyrrell’s Wines, Vinden Estate Wines and Wine Selectors. 

Satisfying all your food cravings on the day will be a number of restaurants and producers including The Deck Café Lovedale, RidgeView Restaurant, Oaks Cypress Lakes Bar & Bistro, Bar Coco Coffee & Gelato, Cupcake Espresso, Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, Pukara Estate, Sydney Oyster Girls, The Red Apron Gourmet Kitchen and Two Fat Blokes Euro Deli. 

Uncorked Balmoral begins at 11am, with the last wine vouchers being sold at 4.30pm and last wine poured at 4.45pm for a 5pm finish. 

The Mosman Rider will provide easy access to the event with additional free shuttle buses running every 15 minutes from Mosman and Spit Junction to Balmoral Beach.  Hunter Valley Uncorked Balmoral is supported by Mosman Council.

Visit for more information or to pre-purchase tickets!

Christina Atherton
Shiraz the star of the 2018 Hunter Valley Wine Show
Sarah Crowe, Chair of Judges.

Sarah Crowe, Chair of Judges.

Glasses have been raised, wines have been tasted, results have been tallied and the winners celebrated at last Friday’s CCL Clear Image Hunter Valley Wine Show Celebrations Luncheon at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.

 Over the three days of judging, this year’s panel tasted over 700 wines, with 49 gold, 77 silver, 210 bronze and 20 trophies being awarded to the winning wine producers. 

 With the Hunter Valley experiencing one of the best vintages on record in 2017, the week’s judging was dominated by last year’s stunning vintage, which continued to impress the panel throughout the tasting, including this year’s international judge, Asia Wine Service and Education Centre Senior Wine Educator Corinne Mui.

 ‘At this moment, Australian winemakers are making the best wine ever,’ she said.

‘The Shiraz in particular is fragrant and elegant, bursting with vibrant fruit.’

Chair of Judges Sarah Crowe said it had been an extremely rewarding week, with Hunter Shiraz just pipping Semillon at the total medal count post to be the most successful variety entered.

 ‘Shiraz from 2017 really stole the hearts of the judges and dominated the medal tally,’ Sarah said.

‘Pristine fruit with flavour intensity has been handled with respect in the winery, and the many beautiful examples meant it was a delight to judge. These wines are youthful and have a very strong future and I expect they will perform well in future shows too. 

‘Teasing out the top wines was very difficult and full respect goes to the winemakers who showed restraint with oak and bottled their wines so bright and fresh. These are the wines collectors should seek out for cellaring.’

Sarah said the very young 2018 Semillons also performed well and she expected them to be even better again next year once they’d had time in the bottle.

‘The 2017 Semillon classes were stunning, the wines showing great purity of fruit with pristine acidity,’ she said.

‘In the museum Semillon class, the 2013 vintage was very strong. With five years’ bottle maturation, coupled with the intensity of fruit, they are now hitting their straps and were rewarded accordingly. Having said that, there were also stunning examples of 2009, 2006 and 2005 showing how remarkable a wine style Hunter Semillon is.’ 

Other high-performing whites were Chardonnay and Verdelho, which Sarah said had ‘returned to form’ with a trophy going to a bright, fresh style of a well-loved variety.

‘A new variety to the Hunter, the Fiano, also had the judges talking,’ she said.

‘The Fiano seems well suited to the Hunter Valley and we’re looking forward to watching this variety in the future.’

Hunter Valley Wine Show President David Flynn said the show not only showcased the quality of the region’s excellent wines, it was also a valuable tool for winemakers to gain a valuable industry benchmark.

 ‘It was great to see the fruits of last year’s fabulous vintage – our winemakers have once again demonstrated the excellence the Hunter Valley is so highly regarded for,’ he said.

The Hunter Valley Wine Show is considered one of Australia’s oldest wine shows and has been held continuously since 1974. The annual regional wine show aims to assess and showcase the quality of wines being produced by the Hunter Valley, with medallists selected through a rigorous tasting process. 

Christina Atherton
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McLeish Estate will come alive for a gastronomical experience like no other as lovers of all things gourmet flock to the vineyard during the inaugural End 2 End Festival on Saturday, 15 September.

Bringing together the very best of Pokolbin’s food, wine and produce, the Festival will celebrate the unique character of the picturesque region and include masterclasses, wine tasting, gourmet delights, helicopter flights and much more.

Spread over four venues, the End 2 End Festival will incorporate more than 20 wineries, with hop-on, hop-off shuttle buses running all day so visitors can move among the pleasures of the region’s most awarded and historic vineyards and local providores.

Set in the incredible scenery of the McLeish Estate hub, the ‘Semillon 2 Seafood’ experience will be enjoyed lounge style among the vineyards, with tickets to the McLeish hub including a festival glass on arrival and the region’s leading wineries; Brokenwood, Elbourne Wines, Ernest Hill, McLeish Estate and Mount Pleasant Wines will offer tastings.

Highlights of the day will be four free masterclasses hosted by celebrity chef Ed Halmagyi (Fast Ed), widely known for his role on Better Homes & Gardens. The masterclasses will include how to pair Semillon and seafood; Chardonnay and cheese; seasonal sensations and chocolate and wine.

There will be platters available to purchase from the Hunter Valley Cheese Company; Olio Mio and Moorebank condiments tastings and stalls; live music by local duo Phonic; Hunter Valley Aqua Golf; a petting farm for the kids; and Slattery Helicopters will run scenic flights over Pokolbin.

Local chef Matt Dillow will prepare a gourmet lunch perfectly matched to the incredible wines on offer, including wood smoked trout salad of roasted pumpkin, goats cheese, baby English spinach, currants and beetroot relish; slow roasted beef cheeks on soft polenta with gremolata; lemon curd tart with Italian meringue and raspberry coulis; and chocolate Muscat and almond cake with raspberry coulis and vanilla mascarpone.

McLeish Estate vigneron Jessica McLeish said the End 2 End Festival was the perfect way for visitors to enjoy the unique local flavours, incredible landscapes and the village vibe of Pokolbin.

‘There is nothing like a day among the vines, soaking up the sun, tasting local produce and enjoying the company of the people you love,’ Ms McLeish said.

‘The Pokolbin parish is a little piece of paradise – perfect for taking some time out, letting the world go by and enjoying the moment! We’re looking forward to sharing it with our visitors.’

The End 2 End Festival begins at 10am and finishes at 5pm. Early Bird Tickets are $43.95 (youth 13-17 $33.95). Shuttle bus tickets are $11. Pre-booking is advised for masterclasses.


Christina Atherton
2018 hunter culinary association Food Fight Winner announced
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It was the annual clash of the pans as four of Australia’s leading chefs cooked off at the ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight.

The chef’s challenge - working their magic to create unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time - was much enjoyed by the 300 guests. The Food Fight auction then raised $40,000 to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity, OzHarvest.

The hotly-contested battle saw chefs Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) going head to head. The final victor was Frank Fawkner, with his Scampi Cocktail winning over diners and earning him this year’s title.

The highly anticipated HCA annual signature event was held this year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pokolbin and was hosted by two of Australia’s leading chefs and long-time supporters of the event, Colin Fassnidge of 4Fourteen and My Kitchen Rules and Matt Kemp of The Byron at Byron.

The first course, a Scampi Cocktail, was prepared by Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant). It was followed by a Carpaccio Parmigiana, cooked by Mitch Orr (ACME). The third course was Joel Bickford’s (Aria) Lamb Roast and for dessert, Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) served diners a Strawberry Eton Mess.

Another winner on the day was Newcastle and Hunter regional hospitality pioneer Neil Slater. As a passionate advocate for the Hunter culinary industry, Neil was awarded the Association’s highest honour of outstanding contribution by an Individual.

Former long-time HCA Chairman Ben Neil was also honoured with life membership of the Association.

HCA Chair Gus Maher said the generosity of members and guests was incredible and he had been humbled by the response to the event.

‘Everyone was genuinely impressed with the quality of the food which the chefs presented,’ he said.

Mr Maher said that in addition to being an incredible gastronomic experience, the Food Fight auction enabled the Association to offer support to young and aspiring chefs and apprentices, including the Brett Graham scholarship, which gives a young chef the opportunity to work with ex-Novocastrian Brett at his acclaimed London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.

‘We acknowledge the wonderful support of our Commercial Partners, auction prize contributors, and generous bidders’.

Christina Atherton
Prestigious Legends & Wine Industry Awards presented at Hunter Valley wine industry gala
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It was another triumphant evening for the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism world last night when its industry greats came together to celebrate the 12th annual Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards.

Held at newly renovated Ben Ean, Lindeman’s Estate, the evening paid homage to those who have contributed significantly to the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Industries. This year’s highest honour was presented to a wine luminary who has reached ‘Living Legend’ status through more than 30 years’ continuous involvement and two hospitality greats that have made a significant contribution to wine and tourism in our region.

This year, the highly-anticipated Wine Legend award was presented to Greg Walls, who has been a stalwart of the industry for almost 40 years; taking Hunter Valley wines to every region in Australia by providing a central location for local producers to sell their wines. He did this through his establishment of the Hunter Valley Wine Society in 1975, later evolving the business to Wine Selectors, which now delivers Hunter wines to a nationwide membership of more than 200,000.

This year, for the very first time, the Tourism Legend Award was presented to two icons of the Hunter Valley, Robert and Sally Molines. Robert and Sally have been delighting diners in the Hunter Valley for over 45 years, proudly supporting the wine and tourism industries with their culinary expertise and most recently at their one-hatted restaurant Bistro Molines nestled in the vines at Tallavera Grove in Mount View.

Greg, Robert & Sally’s new status as Living Legends puts them in the company of well-known names such as Jay Tulloch, Brian McGuigan, Ian Scarborough, Fay McGuigan, Max Drayton and last year’s winner, Ian Tinkler.

Hosted by Sally Evans, the daughter of late Living Legend Len Evans, the night was once again a whirl of delicious cuisine, fine wine and bubbling personalities as the industry honoured the passionate contributors who make Australia’s oldest wine region the very special place it is today.

Other winners on the night were:

Winemaker of the Year - Stuart Hordern, Brokenwood Wines
Viticulturist of the Year - Neil Stevens, Glen Oak Wines
Rising Star of the Year - Aaron Mercer, Tamburlaine Wines
Cellar Door of the Year - Margan Wines
Hunter Valley Wine Industry 2018 Heritage Award - Drayton's Bellevue Wine Label 

Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association Vice President, Brian McGuigan congratulated all the winners, noting their contributions to an industry which had reaped international recognition as a premier wine and food destination because of the hard work of its many passionate custodians.

‘The Hunter Valley is the oldest and most visited wine region in Australia by overseas tourists and its incredible wines have found their way into the homes of many others, thanks to the hard work and vision of all our winners,’ Mr McGuigan said.

‘We all thank him for that.’

Christina Atherton
Wine Australia grant set to take Hunter Valley tourism to the world
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The Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association (HVWTA) will take the stories behind the wine and tourism experiences of the Hunter Valley to the world through incredible lifelike digital campaign, thanks to its successful bid for a share in the $7.4million International Wine Tourism funding pool, which includes $2.8 million from the International Wine Tourism Competitive Grants Program. 

HVWTA has been allocated $50,000 in matched funding for its $100,000 project which will target potential Chinese visitors through a significant marketing campaign aimed at increasing visitation and spend in the Hunter Valley by using innovative augmented reality technology. The Grant is a component of the Federal $50M Export and Regional Wine Support Package that aims to grow the Australian wine sector and attract more international tourists to our wine regions.

The association will work with an agency partner to develop and implement a significant marketing campaign using the latest digital technology to highlight the best of Hunter Valley wine country and the tourism diversity of the surrounding local government areas.

HVWTA General Manager Jo Thomas said the campaign would make a valuable contribution towards increasing overnight visitation to the Hunter Valley and would also boost the local economy.

‘The Hunter Valley Wine sector contributes $502million to the Hunter Valley economy and supports 2800 jobs,’ she said.

‘It is imperative to the growth of the wine and tourism industry that we continue to implement marketing campaigns to encourage visitors to our region.

‘This campaign will include cutting-edge augmented technology on a website that brings the unique experiences of the Hunter to life via a first-person experience – for example, standing through a cellar door being guided through a tasting or stepping into a hot air balloon while the pilot greets you.’

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said the HVWTA was one of 21 successful wine tourism projects which would diversify Australia’s wine tourism offering and create a lasting impression of Australian wine.

‘It is important for the growth and success of our wine regions that we deepen engagement with international tourists and these successful projects will help attract more visitors to experience Australia’s wine offering’, he said.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston agreed maintaining Australia’s reputation as a ‘sensational’ international wine region and keeping the attention of international markets needed to be maintained by thinking that was ‘outside the box’.

The best way we can convince the world of our quality wine and make them ambassadors forever is to immerse them in an unforgettable experience in our regions.’


Christina Atherton
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The 2018 Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival is set to be bigger and better than before with the addition of 15 new events to its bumper program of food and wine experiences.

Celebrating the epicurean pleasures of the Hunter Valley over May and June, the Festival features more than 40 events showcasing everything from delicious gourmet dinners at award-winning restaurants, wine and cocktail master classes to food and wine trails, hands-on cooking classes and long lunches.

Presented by Wine Selectors, this years program features 15 new events including Viva Verdelho at Tulloch Wines, Magnum Madness at Hart & Hunter Cellar Door, Music in the Woods at Stonehurst Cedar Creek, Cheeses of the World at Two Fat Blokes and Picnic in the Park at Kirkton Park Hotel.

Complimenting these new events are Festival favourites including the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, Tyrrell’s Winemaker’s Luncheon, Meet the Farmer Dinner at Margan, Glandore Estate Burning of the Barrel and By the Fireside with Lisa McGuigan at Hunter Valley Resort.

There’s also a host of vertical tastings, vineyard tours and set-price lunches and dinners on offer during the Festival.

Just a two-hour drive north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is home to more than 150 wineries and is bursting with all the delights of its highly acclaimed food and wine culture. With accommodation and experience packages for every budget, the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival is the perfect opportunity for a sumptuous winter getaway.

For more information about this year's Festival visit

Christina Atherton


Four of Australia’s most respected chefs will step into the spotlight for the ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight in a hotly-contested battle to create the best and most popular new twist on a classic dish.

The annual Food Fight is the signature event organised by the (HCA) and is a highly-anticipated occasion on the Hunter’s culinary calendar.

This year’s clash promises to be as thrilling as ever, with the chefs going head to head working their magic and creating a unique take on classic dishes that have stood the test of time. Each chef will prepare one lunch course – their own interpretation of a classic dish or flavour combination. Every course will be matched with a Hunter Valley Wine, and guests will vote for the dish they preferred at the conclusion of lunch.

The chefs are; Joel Bickford (Aria) Mitch Orr (ACME) Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley)

In addition to being an incredible gastronomic experience, the Food Fight event also raises money for the Brett Graham Scholarship through a charity auction. The scholarship program is one of several offered by HCA and helps support the region’s young chefs by offering them the opportunity to work with Brett Graham at his acclaimed London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.


Date: Monday 18 June 2018

Time: 11am

Location: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Pokolbin.

Cost: $175 for HCA members, $220 for non-members and $90 for apprentice chefs


More info:

Christina Atherton
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Some 500 people attended the inaugural Polo in the Vines at the stunning Dark Horse Vineyard in the Hunter Valley on Saturday 7 April. In between the canapés and the delicious menu provided by The Cellar Restaurant for those in the Polo Lounge and the Dark Horse Polo Club there was the stomping of the divots and a traditional mens and ladies dash, plus, an amazing game of Polo.  The headlining culinary experience of the event was an exclusive six-course degustation dining experience with matching Dark Horse wines hosted by celebrity chef Guillaume Brahimi in the Dark Horse Vineyard barn. 


Christina Atherton