Emma's Cottage, Hunter Valley review: In the garden of earthly delights

Read our writer's views on this property below

With a cellar door next to the pool, this cottage and vineyard has it all, writes Rachel Browne.

A holiday with small children is an oxymoron. The word "holiday" implies peace and quiet. Travelling with children involves neither. We set off for the Hunter Valley with diversions to keep our children, aged two and five, occupied - colouring books, felt pens, toys, snacks and enough DVDs to fill a library. We thought it would keep the girls happy for two hours. Then again, maybe we were wrong.

We hear the first "Are we there yet?" before we reach the F3 Freeway. This is closely followed by refrains of "I'm bored-hungry-thirsty-tired-sick" until we arrive at our destination, Emma's Cottage Vineyard, in Lovedale.

The girls' woes are quickly forgotten as soon as they clap eyes on the swimming pool, conveniently next to the winery's cellar door. A win-win situation for both children and adults, I think.

As co-owner Megan Barrass directs us towards our cottage, she empathises about the trials of travelling with children. She should know. She and her husband, Alec, took their children, then aged seven and nine, on a 14-week road trip from Sydney to Broome.

Just as I think she's an inspiration to families everywhere, she mentions that the trip itself was an inspiration for her. She points out proof of this in the form of a large three-panelled painting dominating the wall of the cottage's living area.

On the right side, it depicts Sydney Harbour. On the left, Broome. In between are images of the Red Centre and a convoy of cars traversing the country.

As well as running Emma's Cottage with her husband, Megan is an artist and her bold and colourful works hang on almost every available space. It adds a strong, personal touch to the place, one of two cottages overlooking the vines.

There is ample space for a family in our cottage, with two bedrooms and an open-plan living area and kitchen. The spotlessly clean kitchen has all mod-cons, including a dishwasher, microwave and fridge packed with gourmet goodies from Mojo's Deli up the road.

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Tea and coffee - real, not instant - are supplied and a complimentary bottle of the vineyard's shiraz sits invitingly on the bench. While it's tempting to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, we continue to explore the cottage, which comes complete with television, DVD and CD player.

Not that you'd really want to spend too much time indoors - the living area leads to a shady veranda with a barbecue, perfect for self-catering while admiring the ripening grapes in the vineyard.

While the property occupies 12 hectares, only 2.83 hectares are devoted to grape cultivation, putting it on the smaller scale when it comes to wineries.

Emma's Cottage still manages to produce a variety of drops, though, with sparkling, semillion, shiraz, chardonnay, rose, verdelho, merlot and even a dessert wine on offer. Megan and Alec set up a tasting at the cellar door while the children frolic by the pool, which is surrounded by a lush garden of rose bushes and agapanthus. Nearby are picnic tables, a small wooden bridge and a pergola, perfect for sitting back and literally smelling the roses.

Having expended their pent-up energy in the water, the girls' mood is transformed.

And, having settled in to this charming cottage and tasted a selection of wines, so has ours. Perhaps holidays with children can be relaxing after all.

The writer was a guest of Emma's Cottage and Tourism NSW.

TRIP NOTES

Address Emma's Cottage, 438 Wilderness Road, Lovedale, Hunter Valley. Lovedale is just north of Cessnock.

Bookings Phone (02) 4998 7734, see emmascottage.com.au.

Rates From $195 a night in the loft (at weekends) to $465 a night in the three-bedroom cottage. Midweek rates are from $135 a night in the loft to $375 a night in the cottage.

VERDICT

Charming, relaxing stay among lush gardens and grapes. Excellent for couples or families.

Why you'd go You're interested in art, history and viticulture - especially the cellar door.

Why you wouldn't You've just started a detox diet.

FIND TIME TO

* Check out the art gallery, tucked away behind the cellar door.

* Take a wander through St Paul's Church Cemetery, a short stroll from the cellar door. Some of Australia's biggest wine names are buried here.

* Go wine tasting. Sandalyn Estate, Wandin Valley Estate and Warraroong Estate are nearby. You can do a self-guided tour or book with Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Tours (0419 419 931).

* Eat at Mojo's on Wilderness for a laid-back vibe. Amanda's on the Edge in nearby Pokolbin has a beautiful view and great food. Book now for the Lovedale Long Lunch, May 16-17. Visitors wine and dine their way around seven wineries. See lovedalelonglunch.com.au.