Degen B&B review, Hunter Valley, NSW: Weekend away

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

Sally Webb finds creature comforts among the vines in the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest and most popular wine region. 

THE LOCATION

Situated in the rural Around Hermitage area north of Pokolbin, Degen Wines is the smallest commercial vineyard in the Hunter and less than 10 minutes' drive from the region's oldest and most visited wineries. A long dirt drive skirts past trellised vines tended by viticulturalists Tom and Jean Degen and leads to the Cellar Door and B&B tucked away at the far end of an 11-hectare  gunbarrel block. The closest major landmark is the massive Bimbagden Winery and The Vintage golf course and residential development.  

THE SPACE

This corrugated iron cottage is boutique accommodation par excellence, where tasteful furnishings and attention to detail are paramount. It is ideal for a family of four or two couples sharing. The cosy living area opens onto two bedrooms – a queen with large windows overlooking the vines and its own tiny ensuite, and a king which can convert to twin. The second bathroom boasts a massive spa bath.  

My personal experience in the Hunter has always been long on doilies and short on value for money. Things have clearly changed and Degen B&B reverses that trend. 

THE KIT

Everything about the furniture and furnishings has been thought through with care. Fluffy bathrobes are provided, as are amenities including soap, shampoo and conditioner. The tea and coffee making station has a DeLonghi espresso machine and there's a complimentary cheese platter and a bottle of Degen chardonnay in the bar fridge. 

My personal experience in the Hunter has always been long on doilies and short on value for money. Things have clearly changed and Degen B&B reverses that trend.

COMFORT FACTOR

Waking up to that wonderful country quiet interspersed with birdsong and observing kangaroos foraging amongthe vines is pretty special. The furnishings are contemporary and attractive, but also comfortable, with lovely bedlinen and soft towels, but it's the warmth of the Degen family that really impresses. Our only complaint was that, returning late after a wedding when temperatures had plummeted, we struggled to get the heating to work. 

FOOD

It's a big call to say Degen's serves the Hunter's best breakfast – in the light-filled cellar door during winter and on the shaded verandah in warmer months – but it's an appropriate one. 

The timber farmhouse table is set with small jars of toasted muesli, milk, fruit, yoghurt, orange juice (which is substituted by freshly pressed shiraz or chardonnay grape juice at vintage time), two different loaves of bread, croissants and small jars of jam. Once we're settled, owner Jean brings boiled eggs in blue and white eggcups and platters of smoked salmon, beef chipolatas and bacon. There's no way we can eat it all.

Cheese platters are sold to wine tasters at the cellar door, and B&B guests get complimentary afternoon tea with home-baked biscuits or cake. (Manager Sasha Degen also creates special family-style dinners on request for guests, catering for up to 10 people.)

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While you probably won't need lunch after the Degen brekkie there's some great casual dining nearby, including Muse Kitchen at Keith Tulloch Winery, Muse's more serious big sister Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill, and Roberts Circa 1876 at the former Tower Estate where chef George Francisco is at the helm.

All have fabulous Hunter-heavy wine lists that make the most of the regional drops.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

The wineries of the Hunter Valley are  on your doorstep, including Degen's own cellar door. The Degens age their wines before release, a bonus for Hunter semillon which improves and develops with time.  We grab a few bottles of the 2007 semillon and the 2006 chardonnay-semillon blend to take home. 

Standout, must-visit wineries include Brokenwood, maker of the iconic Graveyard shiraz, and Tyrrell's, a famous family winery which produces the benchmark Hunter Semillon.

THE VERDICT

Super-stylish, and friendly vineyard accommodation with not a doily in sight. And the best breakfast in the Hunter. 

HOW TO GET THERE

The Hunter Valley is an easy two-hour drive from Sydney on the M1. Take the exit for Cessnock then follow the signs to Pokolbin along Wine Country Drive. Turn left onto Broke Road and right onto McDonalds Road, then left at Deasys  Road (after Bimbadgen). 

ESSENTIALS

365 Deasys Road, Pokolbin. See degenwines.com.au, phone 0427 078737. Book through AirBNB: airbnb.com.au/rooms/1647254 

Double room $240 a night ($480 for the whole B&B) including continental breakfast, welcome bottle of wine, cheese platter, afternoon tea with cakes. Cooked breakfast $25 a person extra. Separate rooms are rented only to guests who know each other. B&B guests receive a discount of 10 per cent of wines purchased at the cellar door.

Minimum two-night stay September to March, one-night stay possible April to August. Three-night minimum on long weekends. Long-stay rates available for five days or more. 

 The writer stayed at her own expense.