For Duane Roy of Glandore winery, it's all about the staff.
But it was his refurbished cellar door on Broke Road at Pokolbin that gained the accolade this week when it was named Hunter Valley Cellar Door of the Year.
It was also a fitting reward for 16 years of hard work.
"Our first year was 2004, a small, rustic cellar door," Mr Roy said. "It's bigger these days and we refurbished it two years ago, so it's now a cellar door I'm proud of. But the secret for us is the staff, no doubt."
Mr Roy has 12 full time and part time staff, and kept them on right through the COVID-19 lockdown.
"We try to create an experience for people when they come here," he said. "Informal, but informed is what I say to my guys.
"I want people to leave here knowing a bit more about wine, but in a relaxed setting.
"I want them to be comfortable enough to say to us 'I don't like that'. It's not always easy because you have limited time, so you need friendly, engaged staff.
"But you don't go to a bottle shop and buy a wine you don't like, and it's the same here.
"But if we can get people to speak openly about what they like and don't like, we can then work out what they're looking for, and find the wine for them."
Glandore specialises in Mediterranean varieties: their flagship is their tempranillo - they make three - a red wine best known in Spain, and they also produce Italian varieties sangiovese, nebbiolo and fiano.
Despite this their shiraz is still the biggest selling wine.
"Most people are open minded and happy to try the Mediterranean varieties. Occasionally someone might be reluctant but again, we say you don't have to like it - if you don't we'll pour it out and try something else.
"Also we pride ourselves on our wine. We're looking for a premium product that still offers value. That helps too."
The finalists in the cellar door category were strong: they also included Boydell's, Briar Ridge, Brokenwood, Gartelmann Wines, Margan, Saddler's Creek and Thomas.
Each finalist was assessed by an independent mystery shopper based on cellar door presentation, their cellar door team, sales and online presence.
Due to COVID-19 government restrictions, the 14th annual Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards gala event was cancelled this year - but the judging for the Cellar Door of the Year award was conducted just prior to shutdown.
The winners were revealed at a 'live' announcement on Thursday evening (see the Facebook post below).