The cultured Mediterranean wine adventure just three hours’ drive from Sydney.
With more than 35 wineries and 150 years of wine-making history, the Mudgee region is fast becoming a regular weekender for many a Sydney wine lover. Sheltered in the Cudgegong River Valley and surrounded by fertile farm land, it’s the third largest grape-producing area in New South Wales. The warm, temperate climate is ideal for fancy Mediterranean varieties, like tempranillo and garnacha. Much of the variety of the Hunter Valley is on offer, but without the endless hen’s parties and booze buses. Even on a weekend, it’s possible to meet wine makers and get stuck into a sampling session without being hemmed in by rowdy crowds.
Start your day with not only a wine tasting but also an immersive experience, at Lowe Wines (Tinja Lane, Mudgee; (02) 6372 0800). Headed by sixth-generation Mudgeean and intelligent farming advocate David Lowe, it’s home to expansive organic, biodynamic vineyards; rescue donkeys; and a recycled ‘chook palace’. Take it all in on a self-guided walking tour. If you can, time your trip to coincide with a special event, such as a Winemaker’s Table Dinner, held every third Saturday of the month, or one of the Iron Chef-style competitions.
Next, head to one (or more) of several wineries in the area specialising in European varieties. Mudgee’s warm, temperate climate is ideal for them. Vinifera (194 Henry Lawson Drive, Mudgee; (02) 6372 2461) was one of the first wineries in Australia to experiment with tempranillo and is known for its excellent Spanish-inspired drops, which it supplies to several restaurants in Sydney. The interest in the Mediterranean is continued at Di Lusso (Eurunderee Lane, Mudgee; (02) 6373 3125), with its focus on Italian wines and food, and at Mansfield (Eurunderee Lane, Mudgee; (02) 6373 3871), where some unusual Portuguese drops are made.
There are another 30 or so wineries to visit, including slick, big-name operations like Robert Oatley, and on the return drive to Sydney, be sure to drop into Optimiste (Horseflat Lane, Mullamuddy; 0428 640 800), where the tasting happens in a beautiful homestead, complete with a shady, spacious verandah.
Thanks to powerful promotion of local produce, Mudgee specalises in high-quality eateries. Market Street Cafe (Market Street pedestrian crossing, Mudgee; (02) 6372 0052) is one of them. The large, sunny space feels like a French country kitchen and the food follows suit — classic dishes, cooked with premium ingredients. For dinner, there’s the Wineglass Restaurant (97 Market St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 7245), situated inside the nostalgic Cobb & Co Boutique Hotel. The menu, committed to cuisine du terroir, changes according to the seasonal availability of ingredients.
If you’re looking for fine dining, reserve a spot at the Pipeclay Pumphouse (Pipeclay Lane, Mudgee; (02) 6373 3998). It’s part of the Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard, one of Mudgee’s best-known wine makers. Opened in October 2013, it’s a fairly new addition, and presents a range of dining options, including seven- and ten-course degustations.
Meanwhile, good coffee can be found at cute, French-influenced, courtyard cafe Alby + Esthers (61 Market St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 1555), where a local blend is usually on offer, and the bustling Butcher Shop Cafe (49 Church St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 7373), popular with locals.
One of the most beautiful (albeit pricey) options for sleeping is Evanslea By the River (146 Market St, Mudgee; (02) 0414 874 816). It sprawls across 9 acres, on the Cudgegong riverfront yet within walking distance to town. Accommodation takes the form of five-star luxury spa cottages, and there’s a communal pool and a tennis court. Here’s the clincher: private wine tours in a vintage Valiant can be organised on request.
Alternatively, stay in a cottage among vineyards at Farmers Daughter Wines (791 Ulan Rd, Mudgee; (02) 6373 3177). With nightly rates starting at $120, these are great value. Cottages come with two or three bedrooms, are self-contained and afford lovely views. The town centre is just 10 minutes’ drive. Or, for a more historic experience, there’s the Mudgee Bed and Breakfast (2 Barigan St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 7253). Built in the 1800s, it’s a gorgeous country house that once served as accommodation for dairy farm workers. Town is 2 kilometres away, but a complimentary driver is on-hand, so you can come and go as you please (without worrying about your wine intake). Plus, wine tours by both trike and convertible can be sorted. For further places to stay visit the Mudgee Tourism homepage
For a small town, Mudgee has a thriving live music scene. Acoustic gigs are held on weekends at Roth’s (30 Market St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 1222). It’s the oldest wine bar in New South Wales, having set up as an illicit operation in the 1920s. And the 80% local wine list gives you the chance to sample anything you might have missed on your tasting adventures. Just up the road, the Mudgee Brewing Company (4 Church St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 6726) hosts gigs on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
If art’s more your thing, check out both local and touring work in the eclectic rooms of Fairview Artspace (6 Henry Lawson Drive, Mudgee; (02) 6372 2850). And for Aboriginal art, as well as a diverse range of native products and foods, pop into the Indigiearth Showroom (1/55 Market St, Mudgee; (02) 6372 1878).
For those looking for some outdoor adventuring, there’s the western fringe of the Wollemi National Park to explore, including the incredible scenery of Dunns Swamp, which forms the head of the Cudgegong River, and plenty of opportunities for cycling.