The fireplace is lit and music is softly sounding in the background as I walk into my room, escaping the winter chill of the country air. There’s a bottle of local Hunter Valley wine, a Tyrrell’s sparkling, on ice with two glasses sitting prominently on the coffee table, surrounded by thick books, a wooden set of noughts and crosses and earthy and apple-coloured furnishings scattered with chunky throw rugs.
I decide to run a bath in the large tub, dropping Appelles bath caviar (that has been left out for me) into the running water. An Ivory House fig candle is filling the large bathroom, my bedroom and separate lounge room with a heavenly scent. Afterwards, slipping into my robe as I stand on the heated underfloor tiles, I’m thinking about a cup of T2 tea when there’s a knock on the door.
A smiling staff member is standing at the door with a drink on a tray. “Would you care for our evening cocktail, a French Martini?”
This is quite the way, I decide, to kick-start my stay at the rural and refined Spicers Vineyard Estate in the heart of Hunter Valley wine country on Hermitage Road.
Spicers Retreats, with six Queensland properties, two New South Wales properties (and two more in the making) position itself as offering “Australian relaxed luxury”. There’s a strong focus on quality cuisine across the group. In recent months, Spicers Peak Lodge in South East Queensland was entered into the prestigious and epicurean-focussed stable of exclusive Relais & Chateaux properties around the world.
Spicers Vineyard Estate in the Hunter Valley is just a two-hour drive from Sydney. The guesthouse on the eight-acre property has 12 luxurious guest rooms with views of the Brokeback mountain range and vineyards.
An outdoor pool is surrounded by trees, and at times, the odd Kangaroo. If a treatment tempts, the property’s own Spa Anise, an onsite day spa, can be utilised for massages, treatments and body wraps.
Run by hospitality professionals, husband and wife team Mark and Belinda Stapleton, the property has a streamlined level of luxury without the pretence.
A highlight of your visit, as it was mine, may well be the award-winning restaurant on the property overlooking Spicer’s own vineyards, Botanica Restaurant.
Settling in for the evening, I’m aglow under the theatrical and stunning David Trubridge designer lights that cast moody shadows of shapes around the dining area. Don’t leave without trying the signature house-made sourdough. I couldn’t help but sprinkle some of their own sea salt infused with Hunter Valley shiraz over my lashing of burnt honey butter… heavenly.
Managing director Belinda Stapleton talks me through the wine list, where all of the Hunter Valley trophy-winning wines are highlighted as such on the wine list. “A lot of our diners really want the detail about our local wines,” says Belinda.
Spicers has strong connections with local wineries which is even more reason to stay here during your next Hunter Valley sojourn. Belinda and Mark can organise for their guests any number of private and premium wine tasting experiences and cellar door visits with such local producers as Tyrrell’s Wines, Thomas Wines, Brokenwood and Margan Estate, which also has its own restaurant well worth visiting while you’re in the area.
Just days before my visit, an extremely well-known British singer had stayed at the property for one night. Being keen to taste some local wines but without wanting to leave the comfort of Spicers, Belinda had organised for a local winemaker to come to the property and talk him and his group through the finer points of Hunter semillon, chardonnay and shiraz. The night apparently ended in selfies and song. While I was curious, the name of said musician was not revealed to me because Spicers values the discretion of all its guests.
That’s fair, I think to myself, as I return to my own rock-star room with deep bathtub and that crackling fire still waiting for me.
Rates start from A$459 per night, per room.