A guide to visiting wineries with kids

As a parent, there are seminal moments when you know you have graduated to the next level.

The first time your progeny does a "poop" in the "toot" instead of the nappy; the morning they make their own sandwiches for school lunch boxes; or the weekend they leave you alone to sample fine wine.

I'm delighted to announce we're celebrating the trifecta with a family trip to the Hunter Valley.

Over the past three decades, this has been the scene of adult adventures, including – but not confined to – nudie runs through the vineyards.

In recent years, we've eschewed such pleasures for the drudgery of child rearing, where most of the naked bolts are performed by those aged under 10.

Now, as the children embrace their independence, we seem to be regaining ours.

It's like rediscovering a dusty goblet and saying, "I'd forgotten how sweet this tastes."

Our trip down (loss of) memory lane begins with a formal tasting at Scarborough Wine Co., which produces my favourite chardonnay in the country.

The founder, Ian Scarborough, sits down to have a yarn, while we sip (and occasionally swill) our way through his award-winning range.


Outside, the kids play on a vast grassy area with hula hoops and quoits, kindly provided as part of a "play centre". Inside, younger children are given colouring packs and pencils.

A similarly warm experience can be found at one of the newer wineries, Glandore Estate.

The owner and winemaker, Duane Roy, has two "tween-aged" children. He takes Taj and Grace on a tour, explaining how the wine is picked, crushed and fermented.

We're even allowed to taste a rosé – from a huge stainless steel barrel – ready to be bottled.

"Can I have some?" Taj asks. "Kids are allowed to have alcohol in Italy. Remember when that guy tried to give me whiskey when I was, like, 8?"

Jason and I glare at him, in the hope he may turn to stone. Duane directs the kids to a big box filled with sports equipment, so they spend the next hour playing footy.

In-between visiting cellar doors, littlies will love the Hunter Valley Gardens, with its sculptures of storybook characters, and fairground attractions during the school holidays.

Being a bit older, our kids love the guided Segway tour through the McGuigan vineyards, and Hunter Valley Horse Riding in the craggy Molly Morgan Range.

The following day, we head to James Estate – yet another family-friendly property, overlooking a sparkling dam – for lunch. The hand-thrown wood-fired pizzas and seasonal salads at its outdoor restaurant, Bistro on Hermitage, are out of this world.

But the most striking cellar door is the ultra-modern Tempus Two, in the heart of the Hunter. You could spend all day in this precinct, grazing at the aptly named Smelly Cheese Shop, Oishii Japanese Cuisine, and Goldfish Cocktail Lounge.

And it's only a 20-minute walk to our accommodation, Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, with its large two-bedroom villas, three pools, golf course and tennis courts. What more could a family want?

So, consider this your handy guide to wine tasting, without the whine.

In any case, if they become too annoying you could suggest a game of hide-and-seek inside the barrels.

Tracey Spicer and family were hosted by Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.