Destination Mudgee


Botobolar – Australia’s oldest organic vineyards



Logan Wines

Stunning views from Logan Wines

Logan Wines

Tasting at Logan Wines

Over the Christmas break we headed to Mudgee for a few days, figuring the coast in either direction from Sydney would be too crowded. Heading west of the city over the Blue Mountains and beyond, we reached Mudgee and discovered few other tourists around – I’m sure most were at the beach! It meant the wineries were blissfully uncrowded (some empty), the hotel deals abundant, and the vibe very relaxed. The downsides were that a few eateries were closed, and the weather was super hot. Regardless, it was a great three day stay, filled with much eating and drinking, beautiful views and animal spotting for the kids. After experiencing much of what Mudgee has to offer, here’s an edit of the must-dos:

The Wineries

Wineries are Mudgee’s main drawcard, and there are so, so many to visit. Some are clustered together on the main road past the racecourse, but many are sprawled out on the outskirts of town in every direction, with several worth seeking out. Our favourites were:

+ Logan Wines for stunning views from a glass box perched high above the vineyards.

+ Robert Stein for the beautiful setting, the best Shiraz and the most amazing restaurant of our trip, the few months old Pipeclay Pumphouse.

+ Short Sheep Micro-winery for the personal touch provided by the owner couple proud to show us around and explain their wine-making process, as well as the cute breed of short sheep you can feed (especially fun if you have kids in tow).

+ Botobolar for beautiful wine (including some that are preservative-free) at Mudgee’s oldest organic vineyard. We particularly liked this winery’s reds, after first discovering them at Newtown’s Bloodwood.

+ Lowe Wines for the family-friendly feel, with beautifully organised grounds ripe for exploration, complete with farm animals and fruit plantations (the wine was great too!).

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Salmon carpaccio at Pipeclay Pumphouse

 fig mille feuille

Caramelised fig mille feuille with honey marshmallow at Pipeclay Pumphouse

Food + Drink

Like anywhere, there were hits and misses. In a few days we managed to sample quite a lot of Mudgee’s eateries, from cafes to pubs to winery restaurants. We were there just after New Year so a few places that looked and sounded great were closed, like Roth’s Wine Bar, though there were still plenty of places open to choose from. Here’s our pick of the bunch:

Favourite café:

Market Street Café was our favourite breakfast/brunch venue, with nearly everything on the menu sourced in and around Mudgee, from the preserves to the locally raised meat. The ingredients here are of the highest quality and they serve great coffee by Bill’s Beans from nearby Orange.

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Pipeclay Pumphouse at Robert Stein

Entering Pipeclay Pumphouse

Entering Pipeclay Pumphouse

Favourite restaurant:

The afore-mentioned Pipeclay Pumphouse at Robert Stein is the new Mudgee hotspot and by far our favourite experience of the trip. If you venture to Mudgee you MUST eat here! The setting is amazing (another glass box-like structure making the most of the stunning views) perched over a dam, backed by vineyards, backed by rolling green hills. The food is beautifully executed fine dining, with a 3 course menu at $60 and a seven course degustation at $85. It has it all, from genuine, professional service, beautiful Stein’s wines, a stunning setting and decadent, delicious food.

Favourite beer:

There are so, so many pubs in Mudgee, what seems a disproportionate amount for a small town(!), but the best place for beer has to be the Mudgee Brewing Company. The barn-like microbrewery and restaurant is in the middle of town and features a simple menu of typical Oz bar food and live music, along with an extensive array of beers brewed on site. The IPA was a standout, and the Razz Ale my overall pick, a raspberry-infused brew which is not at all sweet or sickly, just oddly refreshing.

The family factor

We travelled to Mudgee with our kids and they managed to find much to enjoy, though the hotel pool was right up there with their favourite things about the trip. Several of the wineries double as farms, so kids can see alpacas, pat sheep or goats or even explore a chicken coop (visit Lowe Wines for that!). Most have extensive grounds so there’s lots of room to run around outside. Many of the wineries also have some kind of ‘kids’ corner’ with colouring books and chalkboards to keep kids entertained. In town, one of the most kid-friendly cafes is Outside the Square, where there are highchairs, kid-sized tables and even colourful crafts for sale similar to what you’d find in an Oxfam or other NGO-run shop. It felt like Mudgee was really welcoming of kids, despite it’s food and wine-focussed adult appeal.

Where to stay

We stayed at Parklands Resort & Conference Centre, which I highly recommend. We got a great last minute deal so stayed for less than half the usual rate – so do that if you can! It’s located across from the racecourse on sprawling grounds on the edge of town, and is just at the start of the main road to the wineries. It has an oversized indoor pool (which was a godsend on one 42 degree day!) along with a Jacuzzi and sauna, and the rooms are really spacious. Ours had a double bed, a single bed and a foldout couch that could sleep two, so it was great for our family of four but could have really comfortably slept five! For a boutique hotel option if sans-kids, De Russie Suites looks gorgeous.

A toast to travel

Pinot Noir

Disclaimer: the wine products featured in this post were generously supplied by online wine distributor Wine Selectors. Despite this, the opinions are totally honest, and of course, 100% my own!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like something is missing when I don’t have a trip to look forward to. So much so, that while on one trip, we usually start talking about and planning the next. If there’s nothing on my travel horizon, I fill the void with daytrips or urban adventures to far-flung suburbs in search of something new and delicious to eat, or to experience a window into another culture. But lately this hasn’t been enough. I need ‘real’ travel!

Enter – real travel plans! This time next week, I’ll be soaring away to India, to explore the Ganges and Hooghly Rivers by boat, with time in Delhi, Varanasi and Calcutta, plus some far-flung villages in between. And a few months later, we’re Southeast Asia-bound, for city fun in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, and some family beach time. Cue – major excitement and cause for consuming bubbles (err, any excuse will do!).

Wine Selectors have released the Chef Series range of wines, with each wine matched with dishes by some well known local chefs. The wines were developed in conjunction with some highly regarded, handpicked wine producers to culminate in a carefully curated wine range. The Alistair Macleod Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV, by Tasmanian producer Josef Chromy, offers the perfect celebratory drink. Think a beautiful light straw colour, sufficiently dry yet with enough of a hint of fruit flavour, and the ideal match for Brisbane-based Alistair’s rock oysters suggestion (his recipes are available on the Wine Selectors site). This is a serious contender for my new favourite local sparkling, and makes me wonder why we sometimes fork out for actual champagne when quality Australian sparkling can be so good?!

We also tried a Tasmanian pinot noir from the range. I’ve had a slight obsession with Tassie pinot this year after an amazing long weekend in Hobart, so drinking it now reminds me of our Hobart restaurant and bar hopping, and a sunny afternoon spent soaking up all things MONA at their adjoining winery and bar. Bliss. The Ian Parmenter Pinot Noir 2011 (also by Josef Chromy) was up there with the best I’ve tasted – smooth, delicate, intricate and highly drinkable. Ian is a cooking show presenter and director of the Tasting Australia festival, and has matched this wine to a dish of roast pork with prune and macadamia stuffing. It also goes wonderfully well with a cheese plate.

Our Hobart sojourn provided a taster of Tasmania’s amazing wine and produce, and I’m loving discovering more Tasmanian wines from afar. I think a return trip might be brewing…something to think about on the plane to India perhaps!

Cafe crush: Kita Coffee House

Kita Coffee House seems to fly under the radar a bit when it comes to Saigon’s western-style cafes. Others like Au Parc, Juice and La Fenetre Soleil are justifiably popular and you always see them mentioned in local mags and guidebooks, but Kita’s – not so much (it is fairly new though). It serves really great, healthy sandwiches and salads (especially yum – the goat cheese and roast red pepper salad on brown baguette), a deli counter for takeaway gourmet goods, and excellent Lavazza coffee at slightly cheaper prices than the norm (30,000 dong for a cappuccino or latte – a bit less than US$2). I really like the decor too – it’s fresh, contemporary, bright (yellow/white/browns) and tiny. I’m obsessed with tiny places at the moment – I guess it’s the cute and cosy factor, which Kita’s has in droves. New favourite!

[Update: as of February 2010, Kita can no longer be described as tiny! It underwent extensive renovations that transformed the decor from contemporary to Parisian, plus the ground floor was expanded and two more floors were added!! While it’s no longer a cosy bolthole, it remains one of my favourites, retaining the same great menu with new additions. And the coffee’s still the best!]

Kita Coffee House, 39 Nguyen Hue, D1, Saigon

Barfly: The Amber Room

The Amber Room is a chic little bar that just opened shop on Saigon’s bustling Dong Du Street, which is home to diverse restaurants, the Sheraton hotel, the Mosque and a Belgian chocolate shop. Over Tet we decided to check it out and have a drink. Needless to say we were the only customers, but it was also daytime so that could explain it! I tried an espresso martini – delicious. The dark moody walls, colour co-ordinated decor (shades of chocolate and of course, amber) and dramatic light feature hanging overhead make for a sophisticated set-up.

The Amber Room is my type of bar – small, intimate and perfect for cocktail imbibing. And unless there are some I haven’t seen yet, I wonder why there aren’t more simple, tiny shophouses converted into cool bars here?

The Amber Room, Level 1, 59 Dong Du Street, D1, Saigon