One day in Mudgee: Wine, dine, and stargaze
Packed with wineries, passionate local artisans, and wide, open countryside – Mudgee is an idyllic weekend escape. Here’s how to make the most of one day in and around the vineyards.
The first few things you’ll notice about Mudgee are its gentle golden light, wide plains and rolling hills, and rows and rows of grapes in every direction.
The second is its passionate, friendly inhabitants – the local wine and cheese makers, honey producers, stargazing astronomers, cooks, and artists that’ll likely make this quick stay in the valley the first of many.
Mudgee is a place to wind down – a real country escape. Pockets of the region are out of range for mobile reception, so you can drink in the serenity and the Shiraz without wondering about Monday’s emails. Here's how to spend 24 hours in Mudgee: wining, dining, and taking it all in.
9:00 AM: Coffee and breakfast at The Butcher Shop Cafe
Set within a former butcher's shop dating back to 1875, The Butcher Shop Cafe is now a local coffee hotspot. The cafe roasts its own beans and serves hearty breakfast staples all day long, including fresh juices, eggs your way, french toast, and a breakfast burger. And on the walls are artworks by local artists available to purchase. Find it, here.
10:30 AM: Wine tasting
Let's cut to the chase. Aside from being picturesque, Mudgee’s key attraction is its delicious regional wine. There are over 35 cellar doors in Mudgee, with most to the north of the town centre, dotted along Ulan Road. While Mudgee is mostly known for its Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes, you will find a full library of styles to try, from sparkling wines to rosé, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.
Drop into Peterson's Mudgee outpost to sample their famed Back Block Shiraz and a surprisingly tasty chilled sparkling Shiraz (perfect on Christmas morning, we're told).
Rosby is an unmissable stop on the Mudgee map. The breathtaking property is home to winemakers Kay and Gerry Norton-Knight, who will warmly welcome you into their front garden to taste their minimal intervention boutique Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and rosé. Artist and curator Kay hosts art workshops at the property throughout the year (think watercolours, welding, and woodfire cooking), as well as a sprawling two-day outdoor sculpture exhibition in October titled Sculptures in the Garden.
12:30 PM: Tasting and long lunch at Burnbrae Wines
Burnbrae is another family-owned estate, run by husband and wife Andy and Trine Gray. The couple took over the property from Trine's father in 2014 with a simple philosophy in mind: enjoy great wine with friends. More than just a cellar door, Burnbrae serves wood-fired pizzas on their deck and sunny lawn, with live music every third Sunday.
They've also just revealed wine flights. Try generous samplings of their suite of wines served with unexpected food pairings: Sauvignon Blanc with locally-made blue cheese and honeycomb, or rosé with chilli and coriander trout. Grab a bottle of Burnbrae's Twinkle Toes Cuvée or one of their 548 lagers, lay out on the lawn with Bonnie the dog and stay a while.
3:00 PM: The Drip
If you've taken it easy on the bubbles and beer at lunch and feel like a little fresh air, why not walk off the wine haze along one of Mudgee's short scenic tracks. Best experienced after a spell of rain, The Drip is short 2.8km round trip, which travels along a sandstone wall that drips with clear spring water to form pools below. Pack comfortable walking shoes. Find out more, here.
As you peer through one of his powerful telescopes, John will talk you through brilliantly coloured nebulae, sparkling star clusters, faraway galaxies, Jupiter's giant storms, and the beaming rings of Saturn. Book a tour with John, here.
6:00 PM: Dinner at Alby & Esther's
You'll find Alby & Esther's charming courtyard tucked away down an inviting little alleyway off Market Street. Beneath a canopy of fairy lights and grape vines, you can sip cocktails and local wines, while enjoying owner Lara Brett's seasonal, regionally-inspired menu.
8:00 PM: Stargaze at Mudgee Observatory
Far away from the city lights, Mudgee is a perfect place to discover the night sky. Astronomer and former NRMA mechanic John Vetter realised this in the early 90s and built Mudgee Observatory into a dark, secluded hillside just 15 minutes from the centre of town.
Stay: A wine maker’s cottage, a sprawling guesthouse, or luxury eco glamping
Sleep amongst the vines at Burnbrae’s charming two-bedroom wine maker’s cottage, which is perched beside the cellar door, and a stone’s throw from rows of Shiraz grapes. Light the fire and enjoy sunset across the vineyard.
If you’re a party larger than four, Rosby’s stunning guest house sleeps eight with four large double bedrooms, each with their own ensuite. An adjoining studio sleeps two; there’s a vegetable garden bursting with produce, chooks, and sweeping views across the Mudgee valley and the Norton-Knight family’s grazing Angus cattle.
For something a little different, Sierra Escape has three different luxury tents on offer, set in the hills of a property just 20-minutes from the centre of town. It may be the ultimate glamping experience, with tents equipped with a fully-fledged designer kitchen, huge king bed, fireplace, shower, indoor and outdoor freestanding bathtubs, and firepit.
This piece was published for Lifestyle, on 18 May, 2018.
Image by my partner, Joshua Pritchard.