Nina Karnikowski finds the spaces wide open, inside and out, near MUDGEE.
To begin with a terrible travel writing cliche, Horizon Mudgee is nestled in the hills. But consider that Mudgee is flanked on three sides by the Great Dividing Range, that its name means "nest in the hills" in the Wiradjuri Aboriginal language and maybe the cliche becomes acceptable. Either way, this geometrically designed house clad in dark cedar is surrounded by undulating hills upholstered with vineyards and pastures, eight kilometres from Mudgee town.
Horizon's interiors are sleek and minimal. There are two large living spaces with super high ceilings, one encompassing a lounge and open kitchen, and the other a more casual entertaining space. The glass doors in both areas flood the house with natural light and open onto Horizon's well-manicured lawns and hilltop infinity pool, which would be a sublime spot to spend a summer afternoon. The single-digit temperatures this winter weekend, however, call for the central heating to be cranked up, both fires to be lit, the beanbags to be fluffed and the sparkling merlot to be cracked.
Horizon is big enough that my husband and I, inner-city apartment dwellers, at first rattle around like a pair of M&Ms in a tin, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves. We poke through each of the four bedrooms, admiring the brightly coloured artworks and spectacular views of the hills they each have, before deciding to indulge in a bath in one of the three bathrooms. Once we gather the cosy blankets strewn about the place and stoke the fire, the chilly concrete floor in the lounge areas becomes much more forgiving (the bedrooms are carpeted). We decide to pass on the huge flatscreen stashed behind the wooden panelling in the main lounge room in favour of some tunes on the stereo.
Horizon has a well-appointed kitchen and three enormous dining tables to choose from, but Mudgee's fabulous food scene sees us ignore them completely. We commence our food safari at Roth's Wine Bar, tasting local wines and munching thin-crust pizzas while bopping away to live music. Roth's has one of Australia's oldest wine bar licenses, and some of Australia's most hilarious bar staff. The next morning it's breakfast at Alby & Esthers, a cute hole-in-the-wall coffee shop by day, wine bar by night, which serves up spicy house-made chai tea and locally roasted Yarrabin Rd Roasters coffee. Saturday night sees us at Pipeclay Pumphouse at Robert Stein's vineyard, where chef Andy Crestani works his magic on a delectable three-course dinner. By the time Sunday brunch rolls around at the Butcher Shop Cafe - an ex-butchers shop that serves up old-school breakfasts - we have to undo our flies in order to sit down.
Mudgee is one of Australia's oldest wine regions and the birthplace of Australian chardonnay, so it's worth the pilgrimage just to fill up your cellar. Logan is a perfect starting point. Sit yourself on the couch in the glass-walled tasting room with uninterrupted views over the vineyard, grab a cheese plate (Logan's has honeycomb on it, phwoar) and a glass of pinot and you won't want to leave. Well, maybe only to head to Skimstone across the road, which has quite possibly the cutest cellar door in the country. Stroll Mudgee's quaint main streets (Church and Market) to check out the art deco glasswork on the shopfronts and gems including Juliet Horsley and Loft homewares, before heading out the other side of town to Lowe organic vineyard. Owner David Lowe has set out a "wine walk and cycle trail" that guides visitors - glass of preservative-free pinot in hand - past the winery, the pigeon house, the nut orchard and more. If you have time, take the hour drive out to historic Rylstone, where Chinese-born artist Na Lan draws visitors from across the state to her yum cha and tea house 29 Nine 99, with what might be Australia's most delectable dumplings.
HOW TO GET THERE
Mudgee is 260 kilometres (about 3½ hours' drive) west of Sydney. Take the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains, following the signs to Mudgee.
A sleek, modern hideaway in the hills, with ample room for the whole family.
The writer stayed as a guest of Mudgee Region Tourism.