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Spicers Vineyards Estate review


We’re regular visitors to the Hunter Valley, with just so much to love about Australia’s oldest and most historic wine region.  It’s deceiving how large the Hunter Valley is and you don’t want to waste precious wine tasting time by crisscrossing the valley so it’s best to plan ahead.

On this visit, we’re exploring Around Hermitage Wine and Food Trail stopping at wineries, boutiques & breweries along Hermitage Road before settling in for a night at Spicers Vineyards Estate.

Around Hermitage Hunter Valley is synonymous with the grape varieties of Semillon and Shiraz, but you’ll also find varieties not often seen in the Hunter such as Pinot Noir and Chambourcin. The beauty of stopping at a cellar door is the opportunity to meet the owners or winemaker, chat about the latest vintage, taste new releases and purchase wines not always available in bottle shops.


One such winery is Piggs Peake, where the majority of the wine is sold straight to their Lucky Swines Club members or directly from the cellar door. Winemaker Steve Langham buys grapes from the best regions, focussing instead on the art of wine making resulting in a vast array of wines to taste. It’s a great cellar door experience and Steve’s sister Linda takes us through the range finishing with a dessert wine of Suckling Pig Shiraz accompanied by dark chocolate, oh my!

Virtually next door to Piggs Peake is our home for the night at Spicers Vineyards Estate.  Driving into the estate there is a warm welcoming glow to the low set boutique hotel set amongst a backdrop of vines.  As light rain begins to fall, Receptionist Mel bearing an umbrella and a broad smile, greets me at the car door & offers to assist with the luggage. It’s this high level of service and anticipating our needs that continues throughout our stay.


It’s been a year since my last visit and there have been lots of changes at Spicers Vineyards Estate, mainly in the form of soft refurbishment of rooms and the restaurant, Botanica. Settling in with a glass of Brokenwood Semillon or two for fireside chats with owner Belinda Stapleton I learn more about the changes including the appointment of General Manager, Rhiannon Hurtz and Head Chef Joshua Duncan allowing Belinda & husband Mark to relinquish some of the day to day tasks and focus on the strategic direction of the hotel. Exciting times ahead!

The menu at Restaurant Botanica is devised around their kitchen garden with a modern menu paired with a wine list offering a great selection of regional icons and international favourites. You can choose either a two or three course experience accompanied by delicious artisan homebaked breads. We start with the Chef’s garden globe artichoke, organic root vegetables, white balsamic, black olive presented as a little sprouting garden full of flavour and crunch.


I’m gripped by indecision when choosing from the mains menu and can’t decide between Mandagery Creek venison, tortellini, sweet potato, chestnut, brussels sprouts or the Herb roasted lamb rump, parsnip, black garlic gnocchi, ricotta, pumpkin seed, jus and request to be surprised. I’m promptly delivered the lamp rump, which is a generous size with great flavours. Just about ready to roll back to my room, Head Chef Josh comes out to chat to guests and see how we enjoyed the meals. I’m easily charmed and persuaded to stay a little longer and enjoy a chocolate dessert.

Returning to my room sated, it’s time to cosy up by the fire for the night. It’s easily done when the fireplace is pre-set with firewood & firestarters so all you need to do is strike a match and stoke the fire occasionally, what a dream for a city slicker! Our ground floor King Spa Suite is a warm and inviting sophisticated split level space with lounge area by the fire and luxurious king bed and spa bathroom with Apelles amenities. The room is well kitted out with a coffee machine, T2 tea, fluffy bathrobes, slippers, iPod dock and even a curated music selection created a welcoming mood. The minibar is bursting with local treats such as Binnorie Dairy cheese, Cocoa Nib chocolate and Hart & Hunter wine that has us ready to seek these producers out the next day.


Waking to a misty morning across the vines, we head to breakfast at Restaurant Botanica served between 8.30-9.30am or until 10.30 if you’d prefer breakfast delivered to your suite and a sleep in. The breakfast feast starts with a fresh fruit cocktail of the day, a breakfast amuse bouche, a selection of cereal and cooked breakfast to order. I opt for the Gourmet Breakfast of poached eggs, smoky bacon, tomato chilli jam & wild mushroom sautéed with spinach & ricotta with Vittoria Coffee or T2 tea.

There’s also an onsite day spa; Spa Anise to relax and rejuvenate, an outdoor pool and bikes to hire; however we hit the road in search of more Around Hermitage producers. We pull into Keith Tulloch winery and make a bee line for Cocoa Nib. It’s a beautiful new store with a seated area to admire the vineyard while enjoying a hot chocolate or Silverskin roasters coffee & be tempted by a huge range of handmade chocolates. Created by Aymee Slaviero, a former pastry chef now turning her hand at artisan chocolates they are nothing short of amazing. We leave laden with goodies, our favourite turns out to be the peanut brittle; we’ll definitely be going back for more.


Another new addition is EXP Restaurant, which opened recently at Oakvale winery by Chef/owner Frank Fawkner (ex-Muse Restaurant).  It’s a sleek and sophisticated space featuring hand crafted local furniture. It’s an intimate dining room with additional seating along the bar where you can peer directly into the kitchen while interacting with the team. Definitely one to watch.

A stay at Spicers Vineyard Estate is supremely comfortable and professional, with sharply honed service from start to finish making it a great base to explore Around Hermitage and beyond.

Where are your favourite places to stay, play, drink and dine Around Hermitage and the Hunter Valley?

The writer was a guest of Spicers Vineyards Estate.

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