CHEESE and chocolate may sound like a strange pairing.
But, these gourmet delicacies - and many more - will be showcased at the annual Hunter Valley Cheese and Chocolate Festival, which returns to Hope Estate over two days on Saturday and Sunday, July 6 and 7.
After a successful inaugural event in 2018, with more than 6000 people enjoying the delights of the Hunter Valley, an extra day has been added to this year's extravaganza.
"We already know that large concerts, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, bring in thousands of visitors for the weekend," said Michael Hope, owner of Hope Estate.
"What we are learning is that there's also an appetite for lifestyle events.
"People are travelling to the Hunter Valley for more reasons than just filling their car boot up with wine.
"In creating the cheese and chocolate experience within Wine Country, we are exposing the Hunter to a broader market.
"I am a big believer that we need to evolve to survive."
Mr Hope said lifestyle events enabled many local businesses to showcase their products to not only Hunter residents but also those travelling from Sydney and regional NSW.
"Cheese and Chocolate 2018 was an incredible event," said Jason Chesworth, from Hunter Belle Dairy.
"Never have we seen crowds in such large numbers that were all seeking gourmet artisan products.
"We sold out of cheese twice and, after two quick trips back to restock, we were left amazed by the level of expectation among consumers with our premium products, our best sellers."
This year, attendees will find more vendors and lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy.
And, 2019 will also showcase the talents of many local and national cheese makers, bakers and chocolatiers, including Hunter Belle Dairy Co, Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, Binnorie Dairy and Donarch Fine Chocolate, just to name a few.
"We had one of the biggest single day's trade from any event we have attended in 20 years," said Sheryl Machain, from Hunter Valley Cookies.
"We were thrilled not only with the sales but with the people we served who were patient, pleasant and jovial."
As well as the sweet and savoury vendors, attendees will be able to watch demonstrations from guest chefs, chocolatiers and cheesemongers.
Adults can experience a guided tasting of Hope Estate beer and wine and relax on the amphitheatre with entertainment.
They'll be able to enjoy a chocolate-making demonstration in the Great Cask Hall or enhance their experience further by treating themselves to the three-course VIP lunch overlooking the vineyards, too.