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Visiting the Wineries

Many people start their journey through the Hunter by popping into the Hunter Valley Wine Society, 455 Wine Country Dr., Pokolbin (tel. 1300/303 307 in Australia, or 02/4941 3000). The club basically acts as a Hunter Valley wine clearinghouse, sending bottles and cases to members worldwide. It's also a good place to talk to experts about the area's wines and to taste a few of them. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Also visit the Small Winemakers Centre, 426 McDonalds Rd., Pokolbin (tel. 02/4998 7668), which represents about six of the region's producers.

A nice way to get around is by bicycle -- maybe even on a bicycle made for two! You can hire them from Grapemobile Bicycle Hire, Pokolbin Brothers Wines, 307 Palmers Lane, Pokolbin (tel. 02/4998 7660; www.grapemobile.com.au). Tandem and mountain bikes cost A$20 for a half-day, A$25 for a full day, and A$35 for 2 days. Meanwhile, Hunter Valley Cycling (tel. 0418/281 480 mobile; www.huntervalleycycling.com.au) delivers bicycles to your hotel. Prices are similar, and there are tours, too.

Just as fun is an all-day horse and carriage ride around the wine region with Pokolbin Horse Coaches (tel. 0408/161 133 mobile; http://pokolbinhorsecoaches.com.au). Half-day tours cost A$45 for adults and A$25 for kids, and day tours cost A$60 and A$30.

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Remember a Designated Driver! -- Australia's drunk-driving laws are strict and rigidly enforced. Both easily identifiable and unmarked police cars patrol the vineyard regions. If you are interested in tasting some grapes in the Hunter Valley, choose a designated driver or take a guided tour.

Wine-Tasting the Finest -- Some wineries routinely offer some of their inferior wines for tastings. Make a habit of asking for a list of their premium wines available for tasting. Most wineries usually have a bottle or two of their better wines uncorked for those with a serious interest.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.