Mudgee is a well-known wine region in the Central Ranges wine zone in the Australian state of NSW. Its named for the town of Mudgee that is known for its warm summer days and cool evenings. With elevations from 430m to over 1100m above sea level, Mudgee offers a rich and varied range of grape varieties. From the well-loved classics of Chardonnay, Semillion, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz to those increasing in popularity such as Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Tempranillo, Barbera, Sangiovese and more. The elevation allows for a slower ripening period which makes the area ideal for producing wines with great intensity of colour and flavour. This is why Michael and I decided to spend our second anniversary in wine lovers paradise-beautiful Mudgee.
Our day started with a lovely breakfast at Alby & Esthers, in a hidden courtyard made cosy with vines covering the sky. This was an experience of its own and I strongly recommend a visit! I will be writing more about this next week. Breakfast was followed by an awesome unplanned visit to LOWE cellar door-recently named Mudgee Star Cellar Door in the Gourmet Travel Wine Magazine top cellar door awards.
LOWE wines is a certified organic facility specializing in small batch winemaking using innovative techniques. Their Mudgee vineyards are untrellised, unirrigated and certified organic. They produce lower yields of distinctively individual grapes; one of four flag ship varieties being Zinfandel. They are leading the field with practical sustainable management in their vineyards and on the farm. Distribution concentrates mainly on restaurants and independent bottle shops.
Not having booked a tour, I doubted if we would even be able to have a tasting. We were greeted by Mick-one of their very professional staff and invited to join a wine tasting with a tour group. We were taken through all the wines by tasting and hearing the stories behind them. The wine tasting experience culminated with a behind the scenes tour where the process of making wine was explained and we were lucky enough to taste some wine straight from a big barrel, where it was maturing.
I really loved their easy drinking LOWE Tinja Verdelho from the whites (also the cheapest for $18 a bottle) and their flagship-LOWE Organic Zinfandel from the reds ($75 a bottle). Not a fan of red wines, this smooth drinking red wine changed my mind and comes with a price tag of $35 a glass in restaurants in Circular Quay in Sydney. This wine was the reason our guide took a job in LOWE. For $35 they also serve up a mean plate of antipasti for two and with the surrounding beautiful vineyards, LOWE is a must-visit cellar door when in Mudgee.
Our second stop was in Robert Oatleys and this was the cellar door I was the most excited about. Having worked in several food and beverage establishments in Australia, most sell some kinds of wine coming from them. Wild Oats and Craigmoor are other popular ones from the brand. With no expectations about LOWE and being pleasantly surprised, I find myself thinking I shouldn’t have had any before visiting Robert Oatley either. I was disappointed for not getting a similar “tour” through all the wines, rather than picking what I would like to try with no explanation or stories behind the wine and most of which I had already tasted anyway. That is such a shame, as many of their wines have amazing stories to tell.
The place got crowded pretty quick and I felt like we were shuffled around to make room for everyone one too many times with not enough attention from the two staff members. They did have a special on a Pocketwatch Sauvignon Blanc for $10 a bottle (bargain!) and Michael quite enjoyed their NV Craigmoor Australia Rummy fortified wine, but as the card machine was down and we didn’t carry any cash, we ended up leaving empty-handed with a disappointed feeling. Still I wouldn’t miss it, it you want to taste great wines from all over Australia without leaving the Mudgee Region.
Our third stop to Peter Van Gent winery came recommended by the visitor information centre for great port, also known as the home of the original white port. I am not a fan of fortified wine, but they had some great white wines I had the pleasure to try while Michael was in port paradise. The cellar door was lit dim and packed with massive wine casks imported early last century for use in the Penfold Cellars in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. For the ones wanting to rest their feet, a row of church pews was waiting to help take in the atmosphere. The outdoor area looked gorgeous too with a patio covered in vines. Michael bought a bottle of PipeclayTawny-one of Mudgees finest products made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes. The smooth and rich on the palate port with a firm finish was a huge hit on our New Year’s camping trip to Black Rocks.
Our last stop came in di Lusso Estate for some more wine for me (god I must have been drunk by then from all the free samples) and a nice lunch in a serene setting. Without a booking we were lucky to get a seat in the Italian restaurant as most were finishing their meals. We were informed that most of the menu was unavailable and the wood fired pizzas we ordered took over 40 minutes to be prepared. Forty minutes might not be the longest time if they made the dough from scratch, but it was way too long for our hungry mouths considering most people had already finished eating and not many waited for food.
The wait was made up by the beauty of the estate and a cheapish glass of their vermentino (that ended up being a tad bit too sweet for me). The tables were under mist sprinklers and that was definitely a welcome feature as it was nearly 40C (104F) outside. We didn’t sample any of the other 16 Italian varietals and blends available as Michael was driving and I was drunk enough as it is, but the cellar door looked beautiful with fairy lights and wine barrels on display. They also allow you to sample some of their farm grown, house made produce like extra virgin olive oil, fig pastes and vinaigrettes along with vin cotto and mosto cotto complimented by fresh figs during late summer or autumn. I am sure if you go at a time when the school holidays aren’t on, you will end up having a peaceful time with all the food available on the menu beautifully paired with the Italian style wines.
I would love to go back to Mudgee region for the 40+ independently owned cellar doors and discover all the beautiful wine this rich wine region has to offer. I did want to prepare a video for you as well, but I need to buy a new computer before. Saving all my money for travels doesn't help ha! Have you ever been to the cellar doors or wineries in Mudgee? Which one would you recommend or which would you love to visit? What did you think of my selection? Let’s talk in the comments!
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