So far, we have visited multiple Australian wine regions so far in multiple states
Mudgee Wine Region
As we made our way into New South Wales Australia, of course we needed to check out the wine regions there. Our first wine region was around the town of Mudgee, an area that has been producing wines from the mid-19th century. Mudgee, which is oriented around the Clock Tower, is a mixture of old and new. The old consists of buildings from the 1860s (such as the Post Office and the Anglican Church), the 1870s (like Saint Mary’s Catholic Church) and the 1880s (including the Town Hall and the 70 Market Street building). While newer buildings are scattered through the downtown area, the most architecturally noteworthy is the 1935-era Art Deco Regent Theater.
Although the town, in which we ate lunch (see below) is charming, our primary focus was on the wine country. Since we had time for only two wineries, we visited what, at least from our sources, were two of the most highly regarded, where we left our tastings in the capable hands of the Cellar Door managers:
- Lowe Wines, where we began with a sparking, sampled several of their Tinja (at the winery) and Nullo Mountain (a cooler, higher-altitude site) whites and reds, followed by own dessert wine and one port. Our favorites among these were the full-bodied, 2013 Nullo Mountain Riesling, the light, but very pleasant 2012 Block 5 Organic Shiraz and the surprisingly full-fruited (but low alcohol-13.1 percent) 2012 Zinfandel—the first of this varietal that we ran into in Australia. And then, of course, there was the apricot- and honey-like (300 grams of sugar per liter) 2012 Botrytis semillon.
- Robert Stein Winery & Vineyard, where we tasted so many exceptional wines that we had trouble selecting a few favorites. On the white front, we certainly enjoyed the complex, but restrained oak and ML of the 2015 Reserve chardonnay. We, however, fell in love with the trio of Rieslings, and especially the refined, dry, old oak-treated 2015 Reserve riesling and the sweetest of the three, the 2015 half-dry (about 12 grams residual sugar per liter) riesling. Amazingly, we even enjoyed the amazingly dark, fruit-laden, moderately spiced 2016 shiraz-based Saignee Rose—amazing for two people who virtually never enjoy rose wines. We were just as pleased with three of the reds—the straight-forward, red-fruit-based 2015 Merlot, more complex 2012 Reserve shiraz, and especially the dark fruit, chocolate and cedar of the 2012 Reserve cabernet sauvignon. And let’s not even talk about the 2013 Harvest Gold botrytis semmillon—no talk; just inhale the aroma and sip! And let’s not forget the sculpture gardens there too.
- Elton’s where it is best to forget about the cheeseburger and just remember the juicy, tasty, herb-crusted chicken breast fillet with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and capiscon aioli on sourdough bread. Lunch also gave us a chance to taste two additional local wines; an acceptable 2014 Manners tempranillo (from Hill Tops) and a nice 2015 Wild Oats pinot gris.
- Pipeclay Pumphouse, at Robert Stein Winery, where we each had two-course dinners. They began with a nice amuse of chilled tomato essence with olive oil and dill, and then a very good venison tartar entrée with sliced pear, hazelnuts and rosemary. Our main courses were also very good: pan-roasted rainbow trout with prawns, cauliflower, radish and Brussels sprouts; and pork loin with pork and ham terrine wrapped in prosciutto, sliced and pureed celeriac, leeks and grilled onions with pork jus. We finished by splitting a cheese plate with three not especially memorable local cheeses (brie, cheddar and blue), quince paste, fig and cracker. And while we seldom take pictures of our food, the presentation was too pretty to pass up
Gulgong and its Hotel
We stayed the night in this small gold rush town. Currently with about 10 percent of the 20,000 people that packed the town in the 1870s remaining, historic Mayne Street still retains some of its original buildings such as the still popular Prince of Wales Hotel, the Prince of Wales Opera House (still in use as a theater), the American Tobacco Warehouse (now part of a museum portraying the town’s gold rush history) and the iron-lace balconied Commercial Hotel.
We overnighted at the Prince of Wales. This is basically a motel with a bar/restaurant. We were a little nervous when we saw the check in are, but were pleasantly surprised at the room. It was quite comfortable. Beds are firm, linens are fairly good (and are especially good for the price). The room has a queen bed and a single bed. Since the beds are against the wall, it would be uncomfortable for 2 people to be in the queen bed as you would have to climb over someone to get out of bed. The kitchen “bar” has a microwave, hot pot and coffee/tea etc. The wifi was not working in the room (which seemed to be a pattern in a lot of the places we stayed at) but got a good night’s sleep.