Trip Start Mar 15, 2011
35Trip End Jun 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
Protea Farm Cottages Mudgee
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
It still wasn't too late when we got on our way with the little Colt taking us up over the Great Dividing Range and into the very dry countryside in the centre of the state. Jo had expertly arranged a wine tour for a couple of us that afternoon, and we pulled up at our farm accommodation in time to jump into Sally's car and head into the town centre and meet up with Bruce, our guide for the afternoon! We were all absolutely starving, so he directed us first to a great little cafe (with a wonderful name - Fish in the Bush) for what was a rather delicious meal!
A rather nice touch, Bruce took us on our own mini tour of Mudgee, which
is quite the pretty country town. One of the many country towns that
boomed during the Gold Rush, it's full of beautiful old buildings and a
pretty park and was rather a cute location for our weekend away. After
giving us a historical lowdown, it was out to the countryside to wander
through a couple of wineries. The tour guide forgot to bring her camera
to this, so apologies for the lack of photos!
The first place we went to - Blacklea vinyards - was decidedly strange. Bruce had given us a heads up to the wonderfully eccentric character we'd meet there, and he was pretty spot on. They'd specialised in making quite different versions of usual classics, but moreso, the winemaker gives you a bit of a tutorial on tasting wine, making you hold onto a mouthful for a rather extended period - until you feel the tastes change (or just start bubbling inside your mouth). It was all pretty interesting, and he whipped out his array of olive oils and sauces he also makes on the property. All pretty delicious.
Next we went to Thistle Hill - one of the award-winners of the area and we could quickly see why. This is where we collected our haul for the weekend and beyond, grabbing a heavily discounted case of rather excellent cabernet sauvignon. We wrapped up the mini-tour at Burnbrae before returning to the farm to welcome the others!
Nicola and Jo had led the Mudgee expedition from the start, and organised the most brilliant accommodation for us - three houses on the one farm, with huge loungerooms and fire places, and all in all, an excellent place for a group weekend away! Nicola and Stephen had done the much appreciated duty of collecting food for the evening and whipped up a delicious pasta meal as the post-work arrivals filtered in.
Saturday Jo had organised another excellent wine tour for the afternoon, and Nicola and Stephen had found a walk for the morning. Justyn joined the walking party while Erin, Jo and Matt went into town to check out the market and collect our produce for the roast dinner we planned to cook that evening. We were all on a fairly tight deadline for the tour collection, and the walk turned out to be a bit longer than expected! Justyn and the bunch heading back to the house for the tour had to curtail the venture some, and returned a little earlier than the rest. Not before, however, glimpsing a view of a great rocky vista, although he was fairly surprised to see a distinct lack of birdlife that was meant to be on offer - and seems to be everywhere else you go!
The market experience was pretty hilarious. We were expecting big local farmers markets... what we got was more akin to a school fair! There was an odd collection of tables selling odd stuff - from local beeswax products to dodgy t-shirts and weird statues. Nevertheless we found a couple of fruit and veg stalls and bought a huge amount of local veges to cook up for the roast. Next we hit the local butcher who gave us a beautiful leg of lamb and a great chunk of beef. Luckily, we had just enough time to prepare our meat at the house, massaging some garlic, rosemary and olive oil, before jumping on the mini bus of fun for our afternoon tour.
About ten of us headed off with 'Chappie' to visit Lowe winery. Typically, as wine tours do, the joviality increased as the afternoon went on! We were starving by the time we reached Di Lusso for lunch, and more than a few of us started snacking on the water crackers laid out for tasting chutneys and sauces, as soon as we walked in. We had a rather rollicking pizza lunch, kept going back and forth to the counter for more tastings (they had about 25 different varieties to taste!) and by the time we reached our next destination, we were a fairly loud and exuberant gaggle.
We wound up our tour back at Thistle Hill so those who couldn't make it the day before could sample their wares, then it was back to the house to start chef's duties. Erin and Jo recruited the masses for vegetable chopping duties, and had some excellent help in monitoring and ferrying the dishes in and out of the three kitchens we were using for the task! The result was awesome - the cuts of meat we'd been given were amazing, especially the local lamb. We weren't exactly sure if we'd bought too much in the meat department, but it all disappeared on the night. Then it was on to cleaning up some of the stocks purchased on the neighbouring vineyards and getting down to the serious business of board games!
Sunday morning the boys all departed for golf (after sampling Justyn's delicious french toast!), while the girls headed out to the farm tennis court for a super hit in the sun. With a few feeling peckish, the girls (and Matt, being the non-golfer and poor bloke out with eight girls!) headed into Mudgee to grab some rather excellent coffee and a few other delicious items from the fairtrade cafe. Justyn was wrapped to see that all the crazy birds he expected to see on the walk yesterday were indeed hanging out on the golf course, and so it was crammed with white and black cockatoos, and the rather nutty but pretty grey-and-pink galahs.
Having a world of leftover roast vegetables, salad, cheese, plus a huge stock of bacon and eggs remaining from breakfast, we all tucked into a makeshift feast for lunch - something that seemed to go down particularly well with all the hungry golfers!
By mid afternoon, everyone was saying their goodbyes and making their way back to Sydney. We were taking a slightly different tack and driving half the four-hour distance. Given that it was directly en route and something that was on the agenda for our time in Sydney, we decided to stop over in the Blue Mountains for a couple of days, and so were afforded a slightly more leisurely journey back. Nevertheless, we were hoping to make our way fairly rapidly in the hope of getting to the mining town of Lithgow before it's bizarre annual festival, Ironfest, had come to a close at the end of the day. Alas, we failed!
Jo, Matt, Sally and Laura had left an hour or so earlier and managed to reach it, reporting back that it was one of the funniest things they'd seen - it's full of blacksmiths and medieval enthusiasts, and so includes jousting competitions among other odd stuff, like running steam tractors. We pulled in just to see people in bizarre costumes packing up... so maybe another time! Just after sunset we reached our destination of Katoomba, the biggest town in the Blue Mountains, ready for another few days of adventure...