Just three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Sydney is a gorgeous wine region, Mudgee. It boasts over 40 cellar doors, many of them run by locals with great tales to tell about visiting, quickly falling in love with the town and setting up shop there soon after.
The name Mudgee is derived from the Wiradjuri term Moothi which means ‘nest in the hills’. A visit to the region will almost surely see you return with a trunk bursting with wine and gourmet food treats to share with your friends upon your return home. Here’s a guide to Mudgee’s best cellar doors.
No one ever regrets treating themselves to a long weekend, so we suggest you do exactly that. After the drive, our first destination was Logan Wines where the order of the day was the award-winning Weemala 2014 Riesling, enjoyed with a spread of crackers, cheese and honey. Logan’s 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was a fruity treat too. I could instantly see why this place was a popular stop. Kicking back on the balcony overlooking the vineyard was the first step of many on our path to total relaxation.
Another amazing nearby grazing spot is the Italian-inspired Skimstone with its rustic tasting shed. As we watched the clouds glide by, we sampled the delectable Shiraz Cabernet and 2012 Tre-Onde. It’s a terrific view sitting there beside the Cudgegong River, and you can get a fun photo with the friendly scarecrow guarding over the crops.
Moothi Estate was the ideal place to watch the sunset. We shared some wines and were treated to a special menu from local food expert Olive.A.Twist. We had Gooree Wagyu burgers, plus homemade kraut featuring Linda’s special Chilli Relish Mayo and salted vine leaves. Burger and chips have never tasted this good before. There was even bacon, honey and buttered popcorn to share, along with some ‘Hello Lovelies’ homemade fizzy cordial.
The freshness of the local produce is evident, as is the love and care that Mudgee locals put into everything they do. It’s a real departure from city life, and that alone is incredibly refreshing.
There are stacks of handmade foods and knickknacks waiting to be discovered at Lawson Park Markets. We saw homemade ice cream, honey, bakery treats, soaps, sweets, breads, olive oils and much more. There’s also lots of unique arts, crafts and pre-loved goods. We explored the local shops, and were amused to find a store which sold all manner of gifts called ‘Whatever’.
One of Mudgee‘s star cellar doors was our port-of-call for a long-table lunch – accompanied by bubbles, naturally. Lowe Wines is a popular location for weddings, especially in springtime, and the award-winning organic wine isn’t bad either. You can spend all afternoon there eating the various courses, matched with the perfect Reisling, Chardonnay, Shiraz or Pinot Noir.
Huntington Estate was our next stop where a variety of wines were laid out for us to enjoy, many seeming very under-priced for the amount of accolades they’ve received. The sparkling chardonnay was a favourite from the many styles of wine on display, which also included their prestigious 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and their very distinctively spicy 2012 Basket Dried Shiraz.
When we visited, the Sculptures in the Garden art show was being hosted by Rosby Wines (try their shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon). All the proceeds go to the guide dog fund, and I was most impressed by the proud carved wooden dog which greeted us near the gate.
Roth’s Wine Bar is a place where anyone will feel welcome. Licensed since 1923, it’s steeped in Mudgee history and regularly hosts live music events. Their delicious food includes pork belly, crispy chicken and a range of wood-fired pizzas. There’s also a wide selection of the finest local vino, so you can discover some more of the region’s delights.
Breakfast (well, OK, it was actually brunch time) was spent at the Pipeclay Pumphouse. You know you’re there when you can spot the amazing corrugated iron artworks twisted into a variety of fun characters. They do a great farmers breakfast plate which includes bacon, homemade baked beans, tomato Leemore mushrooms, sausage, tomato relish and your choice of eggs. It’s a calming place to spend some time, with the menu constantly changing depending on the seasonal produce around Mudgee.
Our last destination was a stop into Rylstone Olive Press, purveyors of first-class olive oil, which taught me how average some of my local supermarket ones are by comparison. We learned what ‘extra virgin’ olive oil actually means (a particularly fine grade of olive oil made from the first pressing of the olives), and found out that this little olive press is actually the envy of the world’s oil producers due to the high quality fruits that grow in the region.
Before heading home, we called into one of the region’s best kept secrets – the charming 39 Nine 99 yum cha and tea house in Rylstone. There’s nothing like a few dumplings to clear up that heavy head from a weekend of wine indulgence.
(Matt Akersten was a guest of Mudgee Region Tourism. All photos are author’s own.)