WELCOME to the Hunter Valley, where the countryside boasts rolling hills and luscious greenery and the locals are as lovely as the wine they produce.
Two hours from the bustle of Sydney, you'll find the history-rich villages of Wollombi, Lovedale and Pokolbin.
From eccentric cafes to corner store-looking art galleries, these towns are inspiring.
But what the region is known best for is its wines, in particular its shiraz and semillon.
With vineyards on almost every corner, the wine industry is rich, innovative and, among all else, friendly and co-operative.
Those behind the boutique wineries are humble and welcoming, and their knowledge and products are backed up by some of the nation's top awards.
STONEHURST CEDAR CREEK
For the family behind Stonehurst Cedar Creek, a great wine begins in the vineyard.
You can stay at the five-generation Heslop family property at one of their seven small, vintage cottages.
At this boutique winery, the only passers-by to keep an eye out for are the vineyard's two horses, two dogs or resident kangaroos.
Proud of its organic approach to winemaking, Stonehurst's mantra is "if it's not on the grape, it won't be in the wine".
At the heart of every drop is an unmistakable passion and drive to produce beautiful wines and support the nearby village of Wollombi.
"There is an infectious passion within the wine industry," Stonehurst's Laura Heslop says.
"Nothing is a secret, if something works for you, you tell your neighbour, because we know we do best with a sharing economy."
Stonehurst specialises in semillon and shiraz, but new arrivals like the French-inspired red chambourcin have garnered attention of late.
Laura says the advantage of making chambourcin is the vines have strong pest and disease resistance.
More at cedarcreekcottages.com.au
PEPPER TREE WINES
Wandering through the luscious greenery up to the barn doors of Pepper Tree Wines' cellar door, it's obvious why people like Leonne McDonald struggle to leave.
Leonne, the cellar door manager, started working as a casual at the Pokolbin winery 11years ago when she was ready to retire.
While tasting the red, white and rose varieties at Pepper Tree, watch a video tour of the vineyards and interviews with the head winemaker, Gwyn Olsen.
More at peppertreewines.com.au
TAMBURLAINE ORGANIC WINES
"We're winemakers first, tree huggers second."
That is what the staff are told at Tamburlaine Organic Wines, the winery that can proudly claim the first national award won by a preservative-free wine.
Its 2017 preservative-free cabernet merlot received a gold medal in the young reds category at the 2017 Pier One NSW Wine Awards in September.
The winery, now Australia's largest organic wine producer and completely self-sufficient in energy, converted to organic winemaking in 2002 and it took three years to gain official certification.
More at tamburlaine.com.au
Winemaker Bryan Currie is confident the 2017 grapes at Hungerford Hill's four vineyards are among the best seen since 1965.
To really indulge, sit back and enjoy the Ultimate Tasting Experience at the winery's Muse Restaurant, while overlooking its Hunter Valley vines. One of the knowledgeable staff from the cellar door or the restaurant will guide you on wine choices while you feast on local produce of Murray Gold cod, chicken pate and duck ham.
More at hungerfordhill.com.au
Whether travelling by bike or car, taking the quiet dirt road to Undercliff Winery reveals a special spot.
Rolling hills surround the boutique Wollombi winery, owned by couple Peter and Jane Hamshere. It's hard not to have a smile on your face while Peter and Jane share their passion for wine during a tasting.
This winery also offers cottages to stay in. Their sparkling, made using the traditional champagne method champenoise, combines their current vintage and an aged shiraz to produce an Australian-style wine.
Their property is one of three boutique vineyards that transforms for the annual Sculpture in the Vineyards.
More at undercliff.com.au.
The writer was a guest of Stonehurst Cedar Creek and the tourism operators.