Live Like a Local

The Hunter Valley like you've never seen it before

A brand new, gourmet-inspired, multi-day tour has landed in the Hunter Valley, unlike anything the region has seen before.

Live Like a Local gives guests the opportunity to do exactly as the name suggests – immerse themselves in all that the Hunter Valley has to offer, and live like a local for five incredible days.

This multi-day tour is full of unbookable experiences that a day trip to the region simply can’t cover, and most of which you can’t access without host Jo Bowskill’s established connections.

live like a local tour hunter valley
Live Like a Local Host Jo Bowskill

Hunter Valley locals know that there’s so much more to showcase in the region than just wine, so Jo (a chef and vigneron) has curated a selection of the area’s best hidden gems. 

However, the wine is world class and flowing, so don’t fret – you’ll get to taste plenty of it on the tour.

I was lucky enough to join Live Like a Local’s first tour for a day – here’s a taste of what you can expect.

Breakfast at Maitland Street Collective

The day kicked off with a private alfresco breakfast at Maitland Street Collective, a laidback cafe in the heart of Branxton. Located in what was once The Commercial Hotel, Maitland Street Collective not only serves up breakfast, lunch, sweet treats, and coffee, but it often holds events like markets and yoga classes, and the basement has been transformed into an art gallery and community hub.

Make sure you have a peek at the latest exhibition in the gallery. Chances are you’ll discover a local artist you wouldn’t have otherwise! 

live like a local tour hunter valley

Charcuterie tasting at Hungerford Meat Co.

Right next door to Maitland Street Collective sits Hungerford Meat Co., a butchery renowned for its house-made charcuterie and ‘whole carcass’ approach. 

The shop itself doesn’t look like any old butchery – checkered floor tiles lend the space an old-school feel, but dark timber panelling and marble benchtops give Hungerford Meat Co. its modern edge.

We headed in for an exclusive tasting. Despite having only just finished breakfast, the whole group got right into sampling butcher Michael’s charcuterie creations like wagyu bresaola, duck terrine, and lonza – except for me, the sole vegetarian on the tour. I couldn’t help but think I was missing out as the group went quiet, rolling their eyes and nodding their heads as they savoured the morsels of flavoursome, meaty goodness.

live like a local tour hunter valley

Wine Tasting at Vamp by Lisa McGuigan

A change of plans replaced hand disgorging of Methode Traditionelle at Pierre’s Wines (which the group enjoyed another day) with a private visit to Lisa McGuigan’s medieval-meets-modern cellar door in Pokolbin.

Vamp is unlike any other cellar door in the Hunter Valley, which is saying a lot, considering there’s more than 100 to choose from. We got chatting with Vamp’s knowledgeable staff as we tasted Lisa’s range of wines, admired the funky, monochrome fitout, and even grabbed a few bottles to take home.

live like a local tour hunter valley

Mozzarella making with Classes in the Kitchen

One of the best parts of Live Like a Local is that it’s not all tasting and observing – there’s so many hands-on activities to get stuck into, too.

As a cheese-lover, getting to make my own ball of mozzarella (under the guidance of Jenny, the owner of Classes in the Kitchen) was a highlight of the day. Jenny also put on a delicious lunch spread, complete with her own preserves, freshly-made mozzarella, and homemade panna cotta.

Tasting wine from the barrel at Hunter Wine Lab 

My last stop of the day was Hunter Wine Lab, just down the road from Classes in the Kitchen, where winemaker Nathan led us through an entertaining tasting of Hunter Wine Lab drops, including a selection straight from the barrel. 

The cellar door itself is a relaxed space with views over Nathan’s vineyards – a lovely spot to unwind for the afternoon. 

This was just one day of Live Like a Local’s four-night, five-day tour. The remaining days involved a helicopter ride and three course lunch atop Sentry Rock at Kawal Rock Distillery, a wine blending workshop, an Italian pasta-making class, a degustation dinner, and stacks more.

live like a local tour hunter valley

Priced at $2,500 (inclusive of transport, four nights’ accommodation, all meals, wine with lunch and dinner, all tasting, workshop, entry, and class fees, and barista coffee), Live Like a Local is a cost-effective, yet premium way to experience the very best of the Hunter Valley and make some like minded foodie friends along the way.

Live Like a Local’s next tour kicks off in February – time for a getaway, anyone?

*Note: The writer was gifted a spot on Live Like a Local’s four night tour for one day.