It’s just a three and a half hour drive from Sydney to Mudgee and its wealth of attractions. The Mudgee region is part of Wiradjuri country and includes the eclectic towns of historic Gulgong, artistic Kandos, foodies delight Rylstone and many other rural villages.
When you drive into town you may be confused in thinking you have just arrived in Whyhope, the fictional town for Channel 9’s great current hit TV Series Doctor Doctor featuring actor Rodger Codrser (Underbelly, Rush, Puberty Blues, A Beautiful Lie) and co-stars Tina Bursill, Steve Bisley, Ryan Johnson, Nicole da Silva and Hayley McElhinney, who have all been spotted during filming in Mudgee’s main streets.
Described by the National Trust as one of the finest groups of townscape in a country area, its a great place to stay, especially when attending the famous Huntington Music Festival, which takes place on the Huntington Wine estate, this year 23 – 27 November, 2016.
Mudgee and its rich pastoral history is the hub of the district. It has a continuous story of wine making since the 1850’s and this combined with delicious local produce has led to a very robust restaurant scene. Add to this sumptuous mix a very creative and cultural community ambience, all the ingredients for a diverse holiday destination that is serviced by every type of accommodation within the locality.
At the top of my list of holiday requirements is a daily walk that connects me with nature. I decided on the river walk where I ambled and meandered on a course that refreshed and soothed.
The ripples of gurgling water, birds squawking and crickets chirping were some of the warbling sounds of nature that caressed the ears and excited the senses. Tree trunk shadows floated on the river and lush green grasses waved gently on the banks.
The Lawson Park Sculpture Walk was an opportunity to wander and view works from the Mid-Western Regional Council’s sculptural component of its public art collection.
The picturesque setting with a backdrop of the Cudgegong River was easily accessed from the main street of Mudgee.
The majority of the sculptures installed were purchased from the annual Sculptures in the Garden and I was fortunate to attend the 2016 event held within the private five acre garden and vineyard at Rosby Winery and Guesthouse.
Two hundred and thirty four sculptures were exhibited in the fragrant gardens and fields to promote an appreciation and celebrate artistic talent.
The communal spirit of pride was palpable and the sculptures memorable.
Families were scattered throughout the Sculptures in the Garden. There was a whole section for children to explore and exhibit. I was drawn to a row boat full of sand just waiting for children to jump in and feel the grains and textural qualities.
Artist Steven Irwin’s grand scale sculpture Taking the Plunge was purchased by the Mid-Western Regional Council Art Advisory Panel. It was breathtaking in size, structure, concept and aesthetic character.
“Life is hard and very rarely the stars all align at the same time. This piece is about doing your best with what you have and taking the plunge” Steven Irwin articulated.
There were artists talks and walks and it was wonderful hearing Steven Irwin speak so honestly and openly about his work and his demons specifically depression.
His work reflected the intensity of his struggles and was diverse in nature.
Steven Irwin explained “this sculpture can be whatever you see, so many times we see an artist painting in a park or garden and say I always wanted to do that” hence the title, I Always Wanted to do That. This whimsical sculpture was the winner of the Moolarben Coal Acquisition Prize.
Sculptures also figured prominently at The Robert Stein Sculptural Walk at my favourite restaurant Pipeclay Pumphouse, set amidst undulating hills overlooking a lake with reeds willowing and billowing in the breeze. A large foot sculpture dominated in the group of quirky and amusing galvanised iron animal sculptures that adorned the bank.
It was a starry starry evening and the colours of the changing night sky silhouetted a wallaby on the bank as a night of culinary delights began. Wildflowers simply arranged in a glass bottle on the wooden table created a mood of restfulness in this rustic setting.
The meal was sensational but the clarified cold tomato consume was the highlight. It was a delectable palette cleanser and a distinctive statement of integrity and flair. The colours of the micro herbs contrasted with the rich red of the tomato.
A scoop of lemon gelato sat on pure white sherbet and tiny drops of orange curd. It was an unforgettable taste sensation that causes my mouth to salivate at the very thought and image of this exquisite culinary experience.
Pipeclay is run by husband and wife team Lara (nee Stein) and Andy Crestani and they delivered a fine dining experience that was matched by the high calibre of the Robert Stein wines.
Lunch and breakfast at Pipeclay were equally impressive. I could not resist the bacon and egg gnocchi with truffle oil and baby herbs. This combination was innovative and the egg the freshest and tastiest egg I have ever eaten.
The Zin House offered a different style of eating with food by Kim Currie and wine by David Lowe. This discerning restaurant is set on the historic Tinja property which is certified organic and bio-dynamic. Much of the produce is grown locally or from friends and neighbouring farms.
Menus are dated daily and the seven course degustation meal was accompanied with a wine flight. I especially savoured the three cheese ravioli with spiced pumpkin, Cowra asparagus and pancetta crumbs. The asparagus was succulent.
This dining experience was akin to eating at Biotta in Bowral where the emphasis is on the freshest seasonal produce available.
Relishing the excellent food fare in the Mudgee region was coupled with tasting the fine wines of the region. With elevations from 430m to over 1100m above sea level a rich and diverse range of grape varieties abound.
From the well-loved classics of Chardonnay, Semilion, Carnet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz to those increasing in popularity such as Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Tempranillo, Barbera, Sangiovese and more but for me the discovery of the pink hue, light fruity character and delicious finish of rose wine was exciting.
The Robert Stein Winery celebrates forty years of success and rewards including Young Winemaker of the Year for Jacob Stein and the winery consistently achieving Red Five Star status by James Halliday. With over twenty wines available to taste at the cellar door and the warmth and knowledge given so generously it was a cherished experience.
Nestled among the Mudgee hills just four kilometres from the Mudgee town centre is Vinifera Wines. Dr Tony McKendry and his wife Debbie offer a range of boutique wines. Tony poured the tasting wines and provided detailed information about the vineyard and the region. The Logan Tasting Room is a modern minimalist glass structure with an architecturally stunning façade. The views across the Mudgee family’s vineyard are breath taking. This location is the perfect setting for sampling the extensive range of Logan wines.
Mudgee is a priority when selecting a rural retreat with all the beauty of a rural setting, arts and culture, abundant local produce including honey and oils, diverse dining options, inspiring wines, history and National Parks. Destination Mudgee, it’s a must!
Rose Niland, NSW Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016