Q&A with Ben Bowe of Hunter Vineyard Tours

Meet Ben Bowe of Hunter Vineyard Tours, who works hard to show you the best the Hunter Valley has to offer…

What do you love about your current job?

The variety. Each day is different as we change our itineraries daily, so it’s not a set routine. The people we take on tour come from a wide range of countries, nationalities and age groups, so they have very different requests as to what they want to see in Wine Country. If you think variety is the spice of life, this is the job for you!

What is the most unusual request you’ve had from someone on a tour?

Hmmm, I’d have to say the four Americans I took on a tour who didn’t drink wine. All they wanted to do was chase kangaroos, which they spotted through a vineyard while on the bus!

Who is the one person you’d like to take on a tour and why?

It would have to be Neil Diamond. I saw him when he appeared at a concert at Hope Estate and he sang “Red Red Wine”. I’d love to show him some of the exceptional reds we have in the Valley.

Your favourite food and wine match?

I love a big, juicy T-bone steak cooked medium-rare on the barbie, matched with a good Hunter Valley Shiraz – either a McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Rosehill or Tulloch Hector.

What would you have on your Hunter Valley bucket list?

My bucket list would include a joy ride in a fighter jet and a hot-air balloon ride.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I went to school in Cessnock and then Maitland and I was good at technical subjects, so I did a trade course. But after that I spent a lot of time travelling and decided I wanted to get into travel and tourism – and here it was at my own front door. So I started the first mini-bus wine tour service in the Hunter Valley in 1991.

Most amazing sight in Wine Country?

Driving along McDonalds Road, going towards Lindeman’s. As you go over the hill with Lindeman’s on your right, looking towards the mountains… it’s real postcard material.

What do you like most about Hunter Valley wine?

I might be biased, but I think they are equal to wines from any other country – they represent value for money, whether red or white.

Your favourite thirst-quencher after a hard day’s work?

An ice-cold schooner of Tooheys New at Cessnock Leagues Club, or a stubby of beer at home while putting my feet up.

Favourite cellar door and why?

Audrey Wilkinson for their stunning views, good selection of wines, and also the way in which their staff present the wines. Our groups are taken separate to the general public, and a staff member will show our customers a selection of wines, usually adding a bit of humour, making it a fun experience.

The Hunter Valley’s best-kept secret?

That’s a hard question, but I think it’s the combination of the people, the things to see and do, the wines, the restaurants and the lifestyle – basically everything that makes the Hunter Valley what it is today. The first-time visitor usually comes back again and again.

How would you sum up the Hunter Valley in 10 words or less?

Relaxing, stunning views, challenging golf courses, arts, crafts, wine, food.

If money was no object, you would…

I would go on a cruise down the Rhine River in Germany, stopping off at the different towns, meeting the locals, and trying the local food… and wines, of course!