Merely 4 hours’ drive from Sydney on the scenic route, Mudgee is a pleasant country town, with a real community feel and a passion for good food and wine. My husband and I have been spending weekends in Mudgee for years now. It’s an annual ritual although we recently went to Orange, NSW. We tried it in all seasons but we especially like it in winter, when it’s cold, and we can cosy up in front of the fire. Here are 6 reasons to escape to the Mudgee wineries.
Take a Drive, Take your Time:
A trip to Mudgee is a great road trip, not too short, not too long, just enough to enjoy some sights on good roads. The quickest route is via the Blue Mountains, with a sightseeing stop at Katoomba. It’s a nice idea if you are taking overseas visitors and want to visit the Three Sisters on the way. We usually return to Sydney that way.
A great alternative is to travel via the Bells Line of Road. It’s not a straight road, be sure to be comfortable with bends and turns, but the view is beautiful. You can stop at Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens on the way.
When you’re almost at Bathurst, take the road towards Sofala and Hill End. It’s a bit of a detour, but definitely worth it. Sofala and Hill End are former mining towns and regain some of their history. It’s a nice drive through the bush, and the road is sealed.
Mudgee developed as a town around 1850 and nowadays has a population of around 10,000 people. It is the birthplace of Australian poet Henry Lawson and offers some excellent wines. The town has a strong community feel, lots of heritage buildings and some good restaurants. After many visits over the years, it seems to me that Mudgee is growing into a reasonably important regional centre. It is worth spending a little time wandering around the centre of town, especially if it’s market day!
The Mudgee Wineries
The Mudgee wineries offer a perfect excuse for a relaxing getaway and provide lovely scenery around the countryside. Mudgee has been a wine country since 1850 and produces some great wines. Every year, there are a few newcomers so it’s great to see who’s new in town. We have been visiting them for years and here are our favourites:
Located on a hill, Lowe Wines is housed in a large shed and offers some great views. The food offering is simple and designed to accompany the wines. Try their wine tasting platters and enjoy a great relaxing lunch. Lowe is a winery and a working farm and is one of the few wineries where the winemaker is usually around. They’ve also opened a restaurant: The Zin House.
The Blue Wren:
The Blue Wren is one of the long-standing Mudgee wineries. When we first came to Sydney, it was also the best restaurant in town, with the convenient service of a shuttle pick-up and drop-off… The restaurant changed management a couple of times and wasn’t as good as we remembered it. However, things are different now. There is a new chef and the food offering is much more innovative. The large shed is still there but it is now divided between a wedding venue and a smaller restaurant. We went for dinner and the food was excellent and sometimes unusual.
There is a soft communal mood, with a large table in the middle. Even more interesting is the wine tasting function. Unlike most Mudgee wineries, the Blue Wren puts a cover price of $10 on the tasting. However, it is a sit-down and more educational experience than most, with a selection of 6 wines. So, the Blue Wren is back to its former glory and even better!
Bunnamagoo Estate Wines:
Bunnamagoo is a relatively recent discovery in our many weekends exploring Mudgee wineries. The cellar door is airy and overlooks the vineyards. More importantly, they have a selection of high-quality wines, ranging from sparkling to white, red and dessert wines. I don’t think I’ve tasted a Bunnamagoo I didn’t like!
Gilbert Family Wines:
This is a relative newcomer in the circle of the Mudgee wineries. Now established at the High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co, Gilbert Family Wines offer a good selection of wines, ready to be matched with the cheese platters available for lunch in the courtyard.
Di Lusso wines have a unique and rich collection of Italian varietals: Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, Adagio, Sangiovese, Barbara, Nebbiolo, Moscato…
Some really good wines there, and you can enjoy a plate of olives by the lake…
We discovered Petersons on our first visit to Mudgee wineries. The wines are consistently excellent and we always go back. The cellar door is modest and small, and it gets pretty crowded at times but I highly recommend paying them a visit.
Vinifera specialises in Spanish varietals, such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Gran Tinto… These varietals do really well in the Australian climate. Their fortified wine is excellent and they have some really good specials. Also, the cellar door has a selection of local foods such as olives, chutneys and preserves.
We discovered Rosby Wines on our last trip to the Mudgee wineries and it was a lovely experience. They’re a little isolated and not the easiest to find but their rosé is worth a visit… There is a collection of sculptures on the estate and we had a nice conversation with the owner. The winery has been there for a long time but they only opened the cellar door recently, so give them a go!
Robert Stein Winery & Vineyard:
Robert Stein is a very welcoming cellar door with a great range of wines. It does get crowded as the wines are really popular and we had to skip it last time. However, the wines are excellent and there is a very wide selection of varietals. For something different, they also have a motorcycle museum. Their restaurant Pipeclay Pumphouse serves a very good 3-course meal.
Slowfox Cellar Door:
Slowfox was a new find for us. The cellar door has an interesting mid-century decor and wasn’t too busy. They have some good reds.
Burundulla is one on the last Mudgee wineries before heading back. They had some really good bulk deals so we stocked up. There was a vintage car meetup passing through…
Skimstone is located in a small shed on the road leading back to Sydney and offers a small range of Italian varietals.
Logan Wines is a great place to stop before heading out of town, for one last tipple (or coffee) in a calm and chic environment. The cellar door is quite swish, which is unusual for Mudgee. I always feel like I’m in the wealthier Hunter Valley wineries but the wines are good.
Mudgee is a great place to sample creative cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. There is a broad range of places to try, from cafe dining in town to country indulgence at the cellar door. Here are some of my favourites:
The Zin House:
The Zin House opened a few years ago and is located on the Lowe Wines estate. The focus is on home-grown, seasonal food in a homely setting. You’ll need generous room for the tasting menu but it is well worth it. The restaurant is housed in what was a private home, therefore it feels incredibly homely. Groups can easily have their own dining room. As a couple, we were seated at the large communal table, just off the open kitchen, and it felt just like home! Apart from this slightly unusual setup, the food is delicious and inventive.
Located at Robert Stein Wines, the Pipeclay Pumphouse offers a great two or three-course meal in a cosy environment.
High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co:
The High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co is a Mudgee institution, and offers great options for lunch, in between wineries. Here, you can combine lunch (or dinner), wine tasting and cheese shopping. I always stock up on a few favourites before heading out. Lunch is a relaxed, casual affair in the courtyard. The big change there is the arrival of Gilbert Family Wines who now run the cellar door. It’s a nicely refreshed offering and we had a great casual lunch.
The Wine Glass:
The Wine Glass is an ideal option for in-town dining, in a nicely sheltered courtyard.
Elton’s is another Mudgee institution. Known as Elton’s Brasserie for many years, it offers quality food. I have yet to try the newly refreshed version but it seems fit for a casual meal such as a burger or a pizza. It is conveniently located in the centre of town.
There are many choices of accommodation in Mudgee, from B&B to boutique hotels or caravan parks. I only know three places and I have a clear favourite.
Wombadah Guest House:
We discovered Wombadah Guesthouse on our third visit to Mudgee and have been back everytime since. Located on a hill, overlooking the valley, it is a haven of tranquillity with beautiful views. The rooms are really comfortable and private and have direct access to the verandah. Ray and Kaye are perfect hosts, with a lot of knowledge of the area.
The Mudgee Homestead:
We stayed at the Mudgee Homestead on our first visit to Mudgee, over 10 years ago. It was a grand old home with very nicely appointed rooms and fabulous views. It’s been so long since we stayed that my opinion is certainly dated, but it’s worth considering a true vintage experience.
Cobb & Co Court:
Cobb & Co Court is a more urban option for accommodation, in the centre of town. The rooms are small but very cosy.
For something different in Mudgee
Mudgee is quite a diverse destination, so there is plenty to do when you need a break from all the wineries. Here are some other reasons to escape to Mudgee:
The Olive Nest:
Mudgee’s climate lends itself very well to the cultivation of olives, there are groves all over the place. The Olive Nest offers olive oil tastings and a little tour of their operation. You can also taste their wines (1838 wines) and stock up on olive oil and olives.
Mudgee Honey Haven:
If you like honey or want to sample honey in its many forms, Mudgee Honey Haven is the place for you! From flavoured honey to various honey products, including cosmetics and mead liqueur, Mudgee Honey Haven has everything! The place has been renovated so it’s a bit more welcoming now.
Baker Williams Distillery:
Established in Mudgee by a young couple, passionate about distilling whisky, and creating yummy liqueurs, the Baker Williams Distillery is a great place to learn about the distilling business. Hot tip: their Schnapps liqueur is absolutely delicious! Try it on vanilla ice cream, you won’t regret it! These days, Baker Williams is getting very popular, it can get crowded and there is a cover charge on the tastings. Their tasting room is just behind the Vinifera cellar door and they have expanded their selection of liqueurs, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
To wrap it up
With 6 reasons to escape to the Mudgee wineries, you can be sure to have a lovely experience, for a long weekend, passing through, or for a longer holiday. You will love its combination of good food, good wine, and good spirit. You’ll want to go back, I promise! And don’t forget to stop at Katoomba on the way back!
Have you been to Mudgee? Do you have any experiences to share?