Magnificent Mudgee – where do I begin?
The Mudgee Region is a pleasant 3½-hour drive northwest of Australia’s first city, Sydney. It may have been named after the Wiradjuri word ‘Moothi’ meaning ‘nest in the hills’ or ‘mougee’ meaning ‘contented’.
After the Wiradjuri lived contentedly for tens of thousands of years in this fertile region, the first white settlers arrived in 1821. First, it was ‘Gold!’ then wool and until recently, the abattoir was one of the main employers in town. Today, it’s tourism with a very healthy wine industry that has got the town booming again.
The renaissance of Mudgee and its surrounds has seen award-winning wineries, offbeat cafes and restaurants and a wide range of accommodation options attracting tourists every weekend. Australia’s first Chardonnay was grown and bottled at Craigmoor Vineyards in the early ’70s from stock that came to Australia in 1832.
Overlooking the vines, Logan Wines is one of the most romantic vineyards in Australia. The cantilevered cellar door/tasting room is striking in its design and was judged as Gourmet Traveller’s Best Australian Cellar Door Experience 2012. Your official greeter is Sophie – the grinning Dalmatian.
Peter Logan has produced some outstanding wines over the years, but he is particularly proud of his Weemala 2014 Riesling that has just won gold at the Australian Cool Climate Wine Show. He actually has four labels at different price points: Apple Tree Flat, Logan, Weemala and Ridge of Tears. His light and elegant reds are a triumph.
When Peter Logan won the Winestate 2008 Best Sauvignon Blanc in Australia and New Zealand, he was ecstatic, “This is a huge honour – beating the All Blacks has nothing on beating the Kiwis at Sauvignon Blanc”.
If Peter is at the cellar door to shepherd you through the wines, you’ll meet a knowledgeable but approachable winemaker who is passionate about his product and his patch of Mudgee. The must-tries (and must-buys) are the Vintage M Cuvee, an elegant, salmon-hued drop made from ⅔ red wines, the Weemala Riesling and if you like your wine with a little romance behind it, the 2014 Logan Hannah Rose. Peter created the first vintage for his bride-to-be Hannah, and it was first drunk at their wedding!
The Moore family established Moothi Estate in 1995 and have been winning awards since 2002 – their first vintage. Today they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Viognier and two blends labelled ‘Moothi Rocks.
Jason and Jessica (nee Moore) Chrcek are warm and welcoming to every visitor at their cellar door. They offer amazing platters to snack or lunch on that showcase Mudgee’s very best including High Valley feta, Pipeclay Produce prosciutto and Rylstone Olive Press Olive Oil. Each platter comes with a glass of wine for each diner.
Make sure to taste their 2012 Rose: it’s all sunny afternoons and barbecues and their ground breaking 2014 Viognier also comes highly recommended.
Escaping Sydney, as many in Mudgee have done, Jessica and Jason enjoy the local community and the camaraderie they share with the mostly family-run wineries. The tightly knit group of winemakers each refer their tasters to other wineries to sample the wide variety of styles created in Mudgee.
Rebecca Sutton is an agronomist turned winemaker (and wine judge) turned caterer. (She likes to keep busy). She started Olive.A.Twist which showcases the best of Mudgee produce.
We started the night with the most off-beat entrée imaginable: Brown paper bags filled with Popcorn, local Putta Bucca Bacon with butter house made with Little Big Dairy Co-Op milk and Mudgee Honey. Yep, that’s right, popcorn, bacon and honey – my 3 favourite food groups.
Then it was Gooree Wagyu sliders with house-made sauerkraut, chips, salted vine leaves and chilli mayo. These unbelievable little burgers were washed down with the very drinkable Moothi Estate Rose whilst watching the best of the annual Mudgee Mudfest under the stars.
Mudgee is an Australian country town that is thriving. A combination of local families and ex-pat Sydneysiders has thrust the tourism spotlight on this bush gem. It shows what can happen when you combine the best of big-city ways and small-town charm. Contented indeed.
Coming soon – part 2 of TML’s adventures in magnificent Mudgee.