Since moving up to Sydney from Melbourne in 2009, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never really embraced the entirety of New South Wales. I feel I’m still a Victorian girl at heart, and truth-be-told NSW always seemed a bit big, dry and uninspiring outside of my sunny beachside existence in Sydney.
Keen to challenge to my opinion, I spent last weekend in the foodie haven of Mudgee, in Central West NSW about a 4-hour drive from Sydney. And man, have my eyes (and tastebuds!) been opened to the beauty outside of Sydney’s salty air. I’m talking the kind of beauty that has you sighing with contentment at regular intervals throughout the day – that’s Mudgee, and that was this weekend.
Here are the highlights of our dreamy 24-hours in Mudgee.
Bilpin Stopover: The road through the mountains is a little arduous, so when we saw a big-ol sign for FRESH FIGS & APPLES, we happily pulled over to stretch our legs. Bilpin, home to Bilpin Apple cider is also home to rustic little café called Tutti-Frutti. Here you can stock up on devonshire tea, home cooked country style gourmet pies and fresh figs. We grabbed a bag of crunchy organic apples for the road and set off.
Mudgee Corner Store: Run by the gorgeous Morgan Stevens, this is a corner store with a difference. Along with the usual suspects such as your daily newspaper and milkshake, here you’ll find fresh local produce such as fruit and vegetables, free-range meat and Fish River Roasters freshly ground coffee. For those keen to take a bit of Mudgee home, you can also grab a bottle of hand-made relish, honey or olive oil.
di Lusso Winery: We caught the end of a soft live music set whilst diving into a smorgasbord of fresh figs, cheese and local olives that were some of the best I’d tasted (bowls and bowls were consumed). The outdoor setting was surreal, with a view out over the lake and free oil/relish tastings to satisfy all as the sun went down.
Local Local Local: I was so impressed at the emphasis on sourcing fresh, organic local produce in Mudgee. You really can taste the difference, and speaking to the local farmers and wine makers drove the point home with me. I made a mental note to shop at my local farmers markets in Sydney as much as possible. A great read here about ‘farmer-to-door eating’ in The Age / Sydney Morning Herald recently.
Organic Eats: Our last golden hours in Mudgee were spent at Lowe’s Mudgee vineyards – a breathtaking winery that operates wholly organically. We were able to chat to David Lowe himself, a 6th generate Lowe who has been working with wine since he was 15. We indulged in a range of wines and in-season produce such as fresh tomato and basil, goats cheese, pork, handmade olive bread and fruit. A Mudgee must-visit.
Does it get any better?
Verdict: Get yourself, your man-friend, your girlfriends or anyone who loves to eat, and spend a weekend in Mudgee. There’s plenty of quicky, cute or delux accommodation and a serious plethora of amazing food, wine and scenery. I would go back purely for the olives. Hire a bike and cruise around the different wineries for the day, or head up at the end of April for the Go Grazing festival (Sat 27th April, 2013).
Get outside, eat local food and be goddam happy.