Mudgee magic

Stand­out wines, stun­ning scenery and warm hospi­tal­ity con­verge in Mudgee, mak­ing it one of the shin­ing stars of re­gional New South Wales.

Halliday - - Inside - By DAVE BROOKES

From wine to great din­ing, there’s so much to dis­cover in Mudgee, New South Wales.

IT HAD BEEN A LONG TIME be­tween drinks for Mudgee and me. It was around 1990, maybe ear­lier. The mem­ory is foggy be­cause I was work­ing in the mu­sic industry at the time – far from the wine-ob­sessed geek at the key­board that I am to­day. Back then, the base of my food pyra­mid con­sisted of Jack Daniel’s and my strong­est mem­o­ries of that visit were noisy gigs at the Sol­diers Club, greasy ham­burg­ers and milky truck­stop cof­fee.

It seems a bit silly for some­one who was in­volved in all sorts of du­bi­ous life choices to have lamented the lack of cul­ture in a ru­ral town; it is, af­ter all, where Henry Law­son lived for some time. But af­ter my most re­cent Mudgee visit to judge at the NSW Wine Awards, I can re­port that the cof­fee and food of­fer­ings have im­proved ex­po­nen­tially. It is a beau­ti­ful place to spend some time, and the wine has never been bet­ter.

The town’s name is de­rived from the Wi­rad­juri term Moothi mean­ing ‘Nest in the Hills’ and it be­came an im­por­tant fo­cal point dur­ing the gold rush, pros­per­ing from the money flow­ing in from those seek­ing their for­tune. Wool and farm­ing was a big thing and the wine­mak­ing lineage stretches back to the mid-1800s. You could say it’s got a rich his­tory.

It’s a town of ma­jes­tic coun­try av­enues, wide-ve­ran­da­hed coun­try pubs and a lovely war me­mo­rial clock tower in the mid­dle of the main round­about, which serves as a handy way­point for the di­rec­tion­ally chal­lenged. I pre­sume that its prox­im­ity to Syd­ney – a four-hour drive for me, tak­ing in a pie stop at Hominy Bak­ery in Ka­toomba – has seen tree-chang­ers move to town, in turn adding to the di­ver­sity of hospi­tal­ity of­fer­ings the re­gion sees to­day.

For those plan­ning a visit, there are fes­ti­vals and events through­out the year, with Septem­ber a prime time with the month-long Mudgee Wine and Food Fes­ti­val a high­light. This cul­mi­nates in the Flavours of Mudgee street fes­ti­val, with the re­gion’s wine­grow­ers, pro­duc­ers, bak­ers, cooks, dis­tillers and brew­ers com­ing to­gether for a heav­ing street party with a won­der­ful friendly at­mos­phere.

There are plenty of dif­fer­ent grape va­ri­eties planted in the re­gion, from the clas­sics to the alternatives, but the rev­e­la­tion for me was the re­gion’s ries­ling. We know it is a va­ri­ety that is se­ri­ously un­der­val­ued – de­li­cious when young and blos­som­ing into some­thing re­ally spe­cial with care­ful cel­lar­ing – but the pu­rity, drive and in­her­ent drink­a­bil­ity of the top ries­lings from here were a real eye-opener for me.

Hunt­ing­ton Es­tate pro­duces clas­sic grape va­ri­eties with a strong sense of tra­di­tion.

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