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