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November 13, 2017

Unearthing Mudgee



Anything but a rural backwater, the agricultural region of Mudgee in NSW is coming alive through quality produce, gorgeous scenery, innovative tourism and some highly unusual characters.  As Roderick Eime discovers


She gives me that double-dare stare as she holds the flagon, poised in anticipation, over the vintage vegemite glass, already primed with terrified ice cubes. The glass vessel contains a proprietary cocktail called 10/80 and patrons are limited to just two in any single visit.

"10/80 is fox poison isn't it?" I meekly enquire.

"Yes it is," she replies, her eyes widening for theatrical effect. "It's a secret recipe known only to the owner of Roth's Wine Bar. It has some white wine, a fortified wine and … maybe something else." The dim lighting and speakeasy-style décor adds considerably to the beverage's mystique.

Historic Roth's Wine Bar in centrally located Market Street has been a part of Mudgee's playful underbelly since 1923. The once nefarious establishment still holds what is possibly the last Governor's Liquor licence, an anachronistic certification at the pleasure of the Crown. Founding proprietor, Bob Roth, quickly found a niche market and expanded his offering to include rooms by the hour.

Nowadays heritage-listed Roth's is a quaint novelty, yet great fun and a perfect place to wind down with live music and a cocktail after dinner before you catch a cab back to your hotel or walk.

Mudgee fairly bustles on the weekend with an almost carnival atmosphere. There are two farmers' and artisans' markets smack in the middle of town where delicious pickles, pestos and pastes congregate on festooned trestles while minstrels strum tunes and wide-eyed children attack lollypops.

If time is your friend, make Mudgee a mid-week mission and enjoy the quieter times and some special deals from the airline, Fly Pelican, as well as numerous

Surrounding the markets are a bevy of satellite businesses serving the resurgent community with lively and creative offerings like the hip and offbeat Butcher Shop Café, Aaron Cole's epicurean Market Street Café or Juliet Horsley's recycled timber lamps and leather goods.

But let's not ignore the real reason we're here. The Mudgee region has some of the of the best cellar doors in the country. That's a big call for sure, but after jostling for a berth at the tasting benches of Robert Oatley, Bunnamagoo, Optimiste, David Lowe, Skimstone and Robert Stein it's clear we're going to need another weekend to tick all the boxes on the Mudgee District wine circuit.

If you're lucky enough to catch David Lowe at his winery at 327 Tinja Lane, ask him about his hilarious wine tasting adventures with his Japanese clients. When you've finished rolling on the floor, take home one of his 500ml hangover-free, organic varieties or stay for gourmet dinner at Kim Currie's The Zin House on the same property.

The region's unique climatic conditions allow an enormous variety of grapes to be grown. Unusual names such as barbera, viognier and sangiovese sit beside the more familiar shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Even so, the common reds exhibit their own 'inland' character which award-winning Bunnamagoo winemaker, Robert Black, attributes to "slippery tannins". A term I'm still getting used to.

Standout performers from the weekend's rigorous auditions include Skimstone's Tre-Onde (blend), Oatley's Reserve cabernet sauvignon shiraz, Elephant Mountain shiraz, Bunnamagoo 1827 cabernet sauvignon and the Optimiste semillon. And, if you're like so many visitors and driving to Mudgee, learn to spit.

Another of Mudgee's foodie trump cards is the organic produce, which is significant in the winemaking as well as the mouthwatering cheeses, honey and pesto fetta from the High Valley Wine & Cheese Co's at Cellar by Gilbert, the former High Valley cellar door. .

Just down the road, Nathan and Helen Williams (more tree-changers) could have regaled us all afternoon with hilarious tales on the set-up of their micro-distillery, Baker Williams. Yet, if the sumptuous butterscotch schnapps and delicate wheat grain vodka are any indication, it was worth every agonising effort.

Mudgee's own brewery creates tantalising flavours with the dark ale my choice. Available in most restaurants and hotels in town, or you can stop by their premises for a trestle full of tasty roasted treats washed down by the finest ales and lagers.

The lasting impression one gets from any visit to Mudgee is wholesome and healthy community environment, free from the pressures of 'big business'. It's the hub of 'home grown', 'family-owned' and embraces organic agriculture like nowhere else.

The clever tourism tagline, 'reset your senses' rings true on so many levels, it will leave you refreshed, invigorated and recharged.

Take a midweek break to Mudgee region by 3.5 hour drive or 50 minute flight via FlyPelican. To book, visit www.visitmudgeeregion.com.au

TIP: for savings and special offers, visiting mid-week is a great idea. Mid-week deals (http://www.visitmudgeeregion.com.au/reset ) are available for the following participating members:

Lowe Wines http://winestore.lowewine.com.au/

FlyPelican (Fly + Stay deals) http://www.flypelican.com.au/

Mudgee Golf Club https://mudgeegolfclub.com.au/

For more information: https://www.visitmudgeeregion.com.au/

Stay: Peppertree Hill 939 Henry Lawson Drive, Mudgee http://www.peppertreehill.com.au/

Dine: The Zin House (at Lowe's Wines) 327 Tinja Lane, Mudgee http://zinhouse.com.au/

#MudgeeRegion #ResetYourSenses

Pick up sweet honey, freshly pressed olive oil, farmhouse cheeses and nuts, and tie in your visit with one of many events that fill the calendar year such as the monthly farmers markets or special winery celebrations.

Fun Fact:

There are no traffic lights in Mudgee's town centre. Locals are proud to point out the number of roundabouts in lieu of traffic lights, which makes for a much more relaxing journey when travelling throughout the region!

Words: Roderick Eime

Images: As supplied.

Feature Supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


Captions

1.     FlyPelican

2.     Lowe Platter

3.     Desert War at Gooree Park Wines

4.     Peppertree Hill

5.     Mudgee Brewery

6.     Pipeclay Pumphouse

7.     De Beaurepaire Winery

November 05, 2017

A Seven-Day Dream aboard Seadream


Almost a decade ago, John Newton crossed the Southern Atlantic on SeaDream 1 from Tenerife in the Canary Islands to the Caribbean without seeing land - and not much else for that matter.

It was a re-positioning voyage, with the bonus of three days ashore on Caribbean islands. SeaDream Yacht Club later invited him back aboard the same vessel – but this time on a breathtaking voyage which took him to a different port of call every day on a stunning seven-day Mediterranean cruise.

At just 4300 tonnes, the elegant twin mega-yachts – SeaDream 1 and 11 - are more than 50 times smaller than Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas (over 225,000 tonnes) which is so massive it required the expansion of every port in its outsize wake, including a brand-new terminal – the world's largest - in Fort Lauderdale.

But it's not the size that matters for SeaDream Yacht Club's loyal and repeat customers, many of whom return year after year to cruise the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, - or both - it's the 'family' atmosphere on board, with only a maximum 112 passengers occupying 56 ocean-view staterooms.

Add top-notch service from the award-winning crew of 95 and gastronomic cuisine that could grace some of the fine dining restaurants in Paris – and it's easy to see why the two yachts, as SeaDream Yacht Club prefers them to be known, attract the upper echelon who like to be seen and every whim pampered.

The boarding procedure on SeaDream 1 in Monte Carlo was as good as it gets – a no-fuss operation with no queues and greeted with a glass of chilled bubbly. And if that wasn't enough, there was a bottle of champagne (French, of course), on ice in every stateroom. Not that this surprised the majority of 'SeaDreamers' as many of them, including a family of eight from the Isle of Man, had been on board before and were well acquainted with some of the crew.

The bartender tossed a liqueur bottle high in the air before catching it behind his back, then pointing out that the art of flair bartending has been around since the late 1800's. "It's about putting style and technique into the job, focusing on service and sales first, flair second."

Unlike the mega liners crammed with thousands of passengers, there are no nightly entertainment extravaganzas on board the SeaDream yachts, but who needs them when you can gorge on black Russian caviar (during a Mediterranean season, SeaDreamers consume around a 100 kilograms) and some other tasty morsels over pre-dinner drinks and then choose from an extensive dinner menu that can roll on for at least a couple of hours. And it's simply yachting smart-casual with no need ever for jackets, ties or formal gowns.

During free-seating dinners – either on deck or in the dining room (depending on the weather) - a sommelier serves up a variety of French, Italian or Spanish wines, while waiters fuss  around – almost lurching to place chairs underneath passengers about to sit at a table.

Afterwards, it's off to sing and dance to the music in the piano bar – or the 'Top of the Yacht' bar - where ever attentive staff will show off  his skills making a Singapore sling or two that puts the Raffles version to shame. In fact, you can have a cocktail or French champagne – or anything else alcoholic - for free any time of the day or night almost anywhere on the yacht – apart from the bridge.

Back at your spacious stateroom - with flat screen TV, DVD and CD - the house (sea) maids are not to be outdone by the waiters with their delightful towel arrangements of animals in the form of elephants and turtles – not to mention the bombardment of fresh towels and designer toiletries. And they re-stock the room bar at no cost daily.

Around the pool, crew members pounce in a flash to cool you down with moisture spray or ask if they can clean your sunglasses.

On other decks, there's a golf simulator with 30 international courses to tackle, a gymnasium with state-of-the-art equipment, Asian spa, outdoor massage, beauty salon, a boutique, well-stocked library with internet and casino. In port – depending on the water conditions, you have the use of mountain bikes, kayaks, Zodiacs for water skiing, snorkel gear and a banana boat. For the less energetic, passengers can accompany the executive chef ashore to sample local delicacies.

After leaving Monte Carlo, SeaDream 1 headed for St Tropez, Cassis, Bonifacio in Corsica, Portoferraio on the island of Elba, Portovenere (from where you can visit Cinque Terre – five picturesque villages of pastel-coloured houses and terraced vineyards, which cling to the Ligurian cliffs on the west coast of Italy) and, finally, the stylish resort of Portofino. Apart from Cassis, where the yacht stayed for nine hours, it berthed or moored at every other port for more than 12 hours. You can either take an escorted tour ashore or explore on your own.

On the last morning, it's back to Monte Carlo after seven magical days and 662 nautical miles (1226 kilometres) aboard SeaDream 1.

Official motto: IT'S YACHTING, NOT CRUISING - ENJOY THE DIFFERENCE

For full details see travel agents, or phone SeaDream Yacht Club Australia/Pacific on toll-free  1800 217 902 (open till 11:00am Sydney time), New Zealand: 0800 004028, or send email enquiries to info@seadream.com   or visit www.seadream.com

Prices include all 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars, wines with lunch and dinner, nightly cocktail gatherings, a 30-course golf simulator, and onboard gratuities.

John travelled as a guest of SeaDream.

Words: John Newton
Images: Michael Osborne and SeaDream Yacht Club

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images:

1.     Monte Carlo

2.     At sea

3.     Super-size sun lounges

4.     Light snack

5.     Top of the Yacht dining

6.     Main dining room

7.     Fruit cocktail of the day

8.     Stateroom

9.     Top of the Yacht bar