Midnight's Promise Estate, Hunter Valley review: A hint of poetry in the Hunter

Read our writer's views on this property below

Winemakers well-versed in the needs of guests make a cottage stay a pleasure for the senses, writes Mags King.

WE TAKE take the winding, pretty route to the Hunter Valley through Wisemans Ferry and it doesn't take long before a landscape of vineyards and fields emerges. What was once dairy and wheat territory is now a vision of chardonnay, shiraz and semillon vines.

Midnight's Promise Estate is in Lovedale; a quieter alternative to the more traditional destination of Pokolbin. Midnight's Promise sounds like the title of a Barbara Cartland novel - romantic and possibly a little saucy. The name, however, comes from Love's Usury, a poem by John Donne, the 17th-century English poet who penned sensual entreaties to his mistresses.

The Hunter estate's owner, Geoff Petty, adds that it also refers to the fruit of their vineyard's chosen method of nocturnal harvesting.

Our three-bedroom cottage, simply named Promise 2, is one of three accommodations on offer on the 10- hectare property. Promise 1 is a two-bedroom cottage and Villa Janji is a Balinese-inspired dwelling for two.

From the outside our cottage looks modest, surrounded by a few native shrubs and framed with miniature lemon trees growing in wine barrels - with enough ripe fruit for several rounds of gin and tonics on the verandah.

Inside Promise 2, we find a generous open space with cathedral-style ceiling; a neatly arranged living area with three lounges and a coffee table. Port in a charming bottle and a couple of glasses are ready, making you feel like you're visiting relatives in the country. It's too early for port but the nice gesture is noted.

There are also several bottles of the local drop on offer, along with a note requesting that anything consumed be replaced with something of comparable value. Presumably that's after guests have gone through the complimentary wine-tasting pack from the estate's big back yard. Should the panoramic vineyard views lose appeal, the cottage has a flat-screen TV, DVD and CD player and stacks of jazz CDs.

Shiny wood floorboards stretch to the dining table on the other side of the room and, beyond, to a large country-style kitchen. First things first, however: we check each bedroom so as to claim the best one. There's no need for that, however, as the cottage's designer has ensured all three bedrooms are spacious, carpeted and airconditioned, with queen-size beds and built-in wardrobes.

Charmingly decorated, each room has views of landscaped gardens and beyond. Forced to make a decision, we opt for the room with an en suite. The other bedrooms share a large bathroom with a shower made for two.

French doors open out to one of two verandahs, offering spectacular views of the Watagan Mountains to the south and the Brokenback Range to the south-west. But it's the perfectly positioned dam, reflecting the sky at sunset when I first see it, that truly sets the tone.To add to our fine supply of Lovedale wines, we decide to check out the nearby Gartelmann Winery. The scene here is inviting but hardly retiring - a band belts out folk music to picnickers on blankets, kids roll around and punters like us can't help but join in, waxing lyrical about the buttery chardonnay.

The Hunter is not short of restaurants and cafes, though it can be hit and miss. So it's handy to ask for tips at the wineries.

We book Mojo's on Wilderness in Lovedale for dinner and Margan's in Broke for a Sunday lunch en-route to another winery, Krinklewood, which has biodynamic and organic wines.

Later, back at the cottage at Midnight's Promise, the fire warming us as we circled our 20th winery on the map in preparation for the next day's adventures, we reflect about how life should always be this indulgent.

The writer was a guest of Midnight's Promise Estate and Tourism NSW.


Trip Notes

Where Midnight's Promise Estate, 300 Talga Road, Lovedale, Hunter Valley. (02) 9235 3947, info@midnightspromise.com.au, midnightspromise.com.au.

Getting there Scenic: Take the Old Northern Road from Dural, north-west of Sydney CBD, through Wisemans Ferry and continue north through Wollombi, taking Wollombi Road to Cessnock. Drive through Cessnock and on to Wine Country Drive. Turn right into Lovedale Road, continue for about 9.5km, then left into Camp Road and left again into Talga Road.

Faster route: Take the F3 Freeway north from Sydney to the Cessnock/Kurri Kurri exit, driving through Cessnock.

How much Weekend (two-night minimum stay) for Promise 2 is $1300.

Style Statement A charming weatherboard among the vines.

Perfect for An indulgent weekend for both the wine savvy and the learners.

Don't forget Runners, for walking through the vineyards.

Shame about The tired-looking lounges that are in need of a makeover; not getting a chance to use the pizza oven.

Kudos Thoughtful considerations throughout, from kitchen labels to plastic champagne glasses by the bath. Plus, the pizza oven.

Take the kids Definitely, there's plenty of space inside and out.