Nestled among the Great Dividing Range flanks, Mudgee feels like its own protected utopia where wine flows free of the clock, highland cows stir in the distance and traffic lights are positively non-existent. Life in this charming region is delightfully slow. Well, almost every day. Come September the region bursts into a lively spectacle during a month-long celebration of our most prized goods: food and wine.
The Mudgee Wine and Food Month began as a one-week affair in 1979 to honour the region’s wine industry, renowned for its deeply-coloured robust reds and buttery chardonnays. Over time, vineyards, restaurants and epicurean connoisseurs have sprung up across the region like wildflowers in spring, attracting an ever-growing amount of gourmands eager to graze and gulp Mudgee’s culinary delicacies.
The Mudgee Wine and Food Month has since evolved, infusing the municipality’s down-to-earth charisma (expect warm welcomes and friendly yarns), into a diverse line-up of hearty tastings, cheerful trivia nights and grand banquets over one entire month.
Among the month’s long-standing signature events is a brand-new edition of the Meet the Makers experience. On 21 September, guests will sit beneath Blue Wren Farm’s twinkling lights and lofty ceilings for an intimate dinner. The experience welcomes like-minded connections, casual attire and an easy-going atmosphere. But the entertainment is set to extend far beyond the chit-chat of fellow guests or the dishes served to the rustic wooden tables. Among the ticketed attendees, the guest list encompasses a collection of local winemakers ready to answer a raft of fruity questions. If you’ve got wine mysteries on your mind, keep them brewing for this dinner.
Of all of the month’s events, Go Grazing, held on 16 September at Mudgee’s oldest vineyard, Craigmoor Estate, is perhaps the most enthralling. Designed and hosted by Sharon Winsor, local Ngemba Weilwan woman and owner of Indigiearth, Go Grazing invites guests to experience the unique flavours of Indigenous dishes paired with locally produced wines.
Sharon says, “People can expect to enjoy lots of different flavours and ingredients from right across the country, from the outback to the ocean and everything in between. Like crocodile and emu meat, quandong fruit, fried saltbush, crispy saltbush leaves and native seaweed”.
The carefully curated degustation menu pays homage to Sharon’s Aboriginal culture and heritage while showcasing the region’s sustainably-harvested ingredients.
“I’m a director of Black Duck Foods and I work closely with Bruce Pascoe, so I’m using a lot of the native grains and we’ll be showcasing the kangaroo grass flour in this menu, as well as sharing the native grains damper with bush tomato butter to go with it”.
For those who prefer the focal point to remain simply on the wine, you’ll want to tear yourself away from whichever fireplace you’ve slumped next to for the evening. Missing the delicate, fruity aromas of Mudgee’s Go Tasting wine collection would be regretful. Scheduled for Saturday 2 September, Go Tasting is Mudgee’s answer to a wine warehouse sale – with style. It’ll take you a while to get around the stands displaying more than 100 local wines, so leave plenty of time for the buttery chardonnay, smooth port and wonderfully complex sparkling. Did we mention the heavily discounted prices? Little wonder this was dubbed Mudgee’s favourite tasting event.
On a smaller scale, Twilight Tastings brings exquisite wines to St. John’s Anglican Church’s green bed of turf, home to the monthly Church Markets. Pick up your tumbler and meander around a network of local cellar doors and producer stalls. While you’re talking and tasting, you’ll detect a deep sense of local pride and passion. Of course, that’s what this event is all about. The community spirit is palpable in every corner of the region; from the 30-plus cellar doors hosting signature events or in-house bespoke experiences to the countless local businesses transforming their storefronts into wine-themed windows. Walking down Market Street, a sea of flags and posters embellish the town’s 19th-century sandstone buildings.
Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Mudgee Wine and Food Month and according to the Mudgee Wine Association, event spaces are selling rapidly. Given the anticipated flurry of travellers over September, guests are advised to get organised with tickets, accommodation and general cellar door tastings as soon as possible.
When asked what she loves about the Mudgee region, Sharon Winsor says, “It’s living in that nest in the hills, the connection to country and the connection to the hills and the energy. It’s very healing for me”.
Roll on September, and Mudgee’s magic.
Tickets: Event prices start at $25 and can be purchased at Mudgee Wine and Food Month’s website.
Where to stay: Discover Mudgee’s range of accommodation, including boutique back-to-nature glamping stays, charming B&B and guesthouses, pubs and hotels.
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