If you’re looking to widen your exposure to impressive Australian food and wine regions, there’s one boutique country town that’s overwhelmingly deserving of the title…
A mere four-hour drive north-west of Sydney’s CBD is the idyllic country town of Mudgee. With an increasingly boutique offering, it’s certainly making big strides in the food and wine stakes and is becoming as highly regarded as the Hunter Valley by many adventurous Sydney foodies.
So, what is it about this place that makes it so special? Besides the country landscape filled with row upon row of beautiful vines – made into even more beautiful wine – the region has become synonymous with incredible food, thanks in large part to its local produce.
Here’s what a long weekend in New South Wales’ soaring food and wine destination should look like.
Find the right digs
Travelling in a group of 12, finding a place to rest our heads at night was a task, until we stumbled across a quaint Airbnb offering that satisfied our thirst for country-style digs. It even a pet llama to call our own.
If it’s more of a bed and breakfast-style accommodation you seek, you can’t go past the charm of Ellington Manor. The early 1900s Federation home is an adults-only option, perfectly suited to group stays or couples’ retreats. The rustic charm and open-plan living areas make it a place unlike anywhere else you’ve ever stayed.
Seek the cheese
When you set off to a place as laden with vineyards as Mudgee – and there are over 35 to explore – you can be pretty certain that cheese will be a big part of the equation. High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co does cheese tastings for those who stop by – offering up handcrafted specialty cheeses and flavoured fetas to sample.
High Valley uses local milk from the region to create its small-batch artisan cheeses, and after sampling some local blue cheese – which I previously thought I detested – I’m convinced that small-batch cheeses are well worth exploring whenever possible.
Find the great wine
No long weekend in Mudgee is complete without checking in to some of the region’s best cellar doors. First Ridge Wines was one of our very first stops on our self-planned tour, and its shipping container cellar door allowed us to view sweeping vineyard-lined hills. It was almost as spectacular as the lemon-tinted Fiora I tasted and then swiftly bought – summer here I come!
Another must-visit is Vinifera Wines, which is situated on a beautiful estate and complemented by Mudgee Gourmet; a storefront that showcases delectable honey, chocolate and savoury treats from local grocers, and a selection of Mudgee hampers. The outlook from the cellar door onto the vineyards, which also features an area for croquet, badminton and Jenga – is almost as delightful as its organic graciano.
Play in nature
The stunning landscapes of Mudgee are not just for picking the fruit from the, eh… fruitful vines, but also for exploring. Finding an outdoors activity is the perfect way to diversify the food and wine experiences, which – if you’re not careful – could easily fill an entire long weekend.
Kayak tours and paddle board hire at Dunns Swamp is an ideal option for the adventurous among you, just don’t be put off by the word ‘swamp’ – as the pristine waters are not swampy at all. It features some of the most breathtaking rock faces and greenery the region has to offer, thanks to its position in Wollemi National Park.
The relaunch of The Cellar by Gilbert’s Food Over Fire long lunch experience is certainly a unique option for visitors to the region, set to be held every Saturday during the winter months (19 May – 29 September).
The first course of the four-course meal is served around the fire-pit, so that diners can get to know head chef Pip Sumbak and learn about the local produce they’re eating and the primeval way it’s being prepared, before settling down around a communal table.