Is Mudgee the new Hunter?
Fancy a wine soaked weekend away? Lastminute lovely Louise escapes the city and discovers the new must-do wine region in NSW.
A weekend getaway is a monthly necessity. Sydney cabin fever strikes and I have to escape the city in search of cleaner air and new adventures. After four years in the city, I have visited a whole heap of destinations (multiple times) including the Hunter Valley.
Wine connoisseur friends recently enjoyed a trip to Central NSW and on tasting their cellar door-bought Cab Savs I realised a new NSW wine region contender was going to try and steal my affections away from the Hunter. “Next getaway, I am going to Mudgee,” I declared.
On the road
We take an early mark on a Friday afternoon and hit the road. It feels good not to be rushing through the airport, nor worrying about the size of my carry-on. It takes us about four hours to get to Mudgee including a few stops for photos. We are seriously impressed by the countryside – why hadn’t we ever been told that the drive past the Blue Mountains is stunning?? Some seriously beautiful vistas.
Boutique chic in rural NSW?
A former Mechanics Institute, the de Russie Suites has been transformed into a beautiful boutique hotel in Mudgee’s town centre. At just seven weeks young, we’re welcomed as one of their very first guests.
Lovingly modernised with high spec European fittings and fixtures, the original architecture is heroed through exposed brickwork, high ceilings and sash windows.
The hotel really has everything you want in a boutique stay; from the homemade gingerbread man on our pillow, to the extra fluffy towels, to the cute breakfast packs and helpful concierge. It’s impressive and I don’t want to leave. Ever.
Having explored every nook and cranny of our heavenly spa suite, we venture into town in search of something tasty. Manana Tapas is located in the town centre. It’s a bit of a bizarre setting as the restaurant shares the building with a real estate agent but we’ll get over that.
We order a selection of tapas dishes to share – the lamb, tomato and pea empanadas; the croquettes with potato, bacon and chilli jam; and the pan fried chorizo, squid, tomato and paprika oil – all delicious.
And to wash it down, we choose the house special Sangria – red wine sparkles with fresh strawberries, mint and oranges, it’s summer yumminess in a glass. Ooh and the churros – don’t leave without the deep fried, yet light churros with rich chocolate sauce – mmmm.
Wine tasting – all in the name of research…
Every good weekend getaway should start with champers at 10am. We kick off our wine tour with a briefing from our guide Warren and get a bit of history on wine growing in the area. There are 42 cellar doors in the region; we make a fair dent and visit seven wineries.
Being an ABC type of gal (Anything But Chardonnay), I am not particularly enamoured to learn that Mudgee is the original home of Chardonnay in Australia but the new crisper style is surprisingly tasty; plus they have awesome Viogniers and Semillons. The region has fabulous red varieties too including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Our pick of the cellar doors:
The Willow Lane: An intimate family run cellar door. Be welcomed by the property’s two sweet poodles and let winemaker Peter walk you through his delicious drops.
Logan: A chic, contemporary winery with wines from both the Mudgee and Orange regions. Get a bottle of the Logan Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc and sit back with their infamous 100 mile cheese plate to enjoy the fabulous view.
Robert Stein: Nestled in a beautiful setting, Robert Stein winery has the archetypal Central NSW cellar door experience – personal, friendly and the Cab Sauv is to die for.
Lowe Wines: David Lowe’s organic wines are delicious – particularly the award-winning Zinfandel and yummy Shiraz. Check their website for winemakers table and wine school events.
We’re really impressed with Mudgee’s friendly cellar door atmosphere and tasty drops. The winemakers stop to chat and are interested in getting a proper understanding of your palate. There aren’t the truck loads of tourists that you find in the Hunter, and the result is a more intimate, personalised experience. But one word of warning – you’ll need to book your wine tour in advance as they do get booked up early. Trust me – you’ll need to do a wine tour with so much to try.
Dining in the vines
Blue Wren Winery is our dinner destination for the evening. Situated in the lush vines you can choose to dine al fresco on the terrace or inside the restaurant.
We take our dinner recommendations from our friendly waitress and ask for matching wines. Highlights include the lamb rump with mint pesto, green beans and roasted vegetables and the cheese plate with the Blue Wren Verdelho ‘sticky beak’. Full, and well and truly pickled (ahem), we are driven back to our hotel by the restaurant’s free chauffeur service.
Mudgee has that laid-back country town thing going on
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and with bleary heads we wander the streets in search of rehydrating vitamin goodness. The cute boutiques, side-walk cafes, pretty churches and striking art deco buildings make it a very attractive township. We could happily spend the day mooching around and visiting some more wineries, but sadly, home time beckons.
We decide to break up our journey back to Sydney with a stretch of the legs around Windermere Lake (enjoying the last of that fresh country air) and then stop off at Brown’s Siding Store & Café, Medlow Bath, for a late lunch.
The whole store get-up is totes cute – jars of sticky sweet treats, beautiful homewares and a cafe serving organic tasty fare. We go for a round of ginger beers and the Reuben sandwich (corned beef and melted cheese on sourdough with sauce, pickles and ‘slaw). Yum.
And heck, because we’re on holiday we decide a final indulgent treat is in order. We drive onto Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to Lilianfels.
Lilianfels is five-star country classic hotel – elegant yet unpretentious. We head straight to the spa for some pampering to wash away the last remnants of our hangovers. In true romantic getaway style we get a couples room. I get the hydrating facial and hubby gets the full body massage. The 60 minute experience is heavenly; only interrupted by Cman’s snoring. Bless.
For your next city getaway venture to Central NSW – avoid the crowds and commercialism of the Hunter and get a more intimate cellar door experience in Mudgee. The wine is better (in my opinion) and the country town, with new eateries and city-quality boutique accommodation, is a hidden gem.
Mudgee – you were awesome, we’ll be back very soon.
When in Mudgee:
Caffeine fix: Alleycats -the local’s fave for good coffee.
Hangover curing breakfasts: Butcher Shop Café – if this joint was in Sydney the Eastern Suburb hipsters would be all over it.
Township boozers: Mudgee Brewing Company or The Woolpack.
Creamy-diary deliciousness: High Valley Wine & Cheese – awesome cheeses and super friendly staff.
Dinner joints: Market St Café – daily changing menu with fresh organic ingredients & Sajo’s Lounge Bar and Restaurant – go between 5-7pm on a Friday for cocktail happy hour (just sayin’).