A luxurious retreat for couples in search of a special getaway destination.
Broke/Fordwich is the oft-ignored offspring of the Hunter wine region. The wizened Brokenback and Hunter mountains ranges frame this pretty valley, which the mini-bus wine tasting crowds seem to have overlooked. Broke is a blink or you'll miss it town (unless you're there on village fair day) referred to by locals as the "Pokolbin of old". It is surrounded by a host of wineries, restaurants, olive groves and alpaca farms all worthy of an explore.
Mio Monte, (my mountain in Italian), looks out across the vine-filled valley to Mt Broke; think modern Australian architecture with a Tuscan style vista. It was built in the 1980s by the former owners of Simon Whitlam wines Andrew Simon and Nick Whitlam, who made wines from the adjoining vineyards. Two separate wings of the house were built for each family, but it has since become a high-end guesthouse. The interior is spartan, with cool concrete floors and tasteful furniture in which to sit and gaze at the stunning view of Poole's Rock vineyard and beyond.
Mio Monte bills itself as a couple's luxury retreat, because its loft bedroom has only a king-sized bed. But the dining room, two barbecue areas, library with telescope, dam, tennis court and children's play equipment suggest fun for a whole family. Its stark white interior is counterbalanced by the rich warm tones which owners Danielle and Kevin Wallis describe as "Melbourne brown". The full-length windows and sliding doors open up onto a long verandah and lounge chairs in which you could wallow all weekend.
The loft bed is huge and inviting, like the comfortable living area, complete with stone log fire (with kindling and wood ready to light on arrival.) Crisp white linen and fluffy bathrobes complete the indulgence. The upstairs library is fascinating, containing two glass cases of Wollombi Brook wines produced by the Simon/Whitlam partnership. There is an Espresso machine and fixings for breakfast. You can cook your own but you may want to head out to the region's many fine restaurants and cellar doors.
At the nearby Margan cellar door and restaurant they pluck the spinach out of the cottage garden and collect the eggs from the chooks before making eggs Florentine. At Nightingale's restaurant try the catch of the day deliciously cooked in butter and citrus. At River Flats Estate, try the scrumptious range of gourmet condiments called Pickled and Pitted; they range from beetroot and chilli relish and dukkah. There are even bath salts. Make sure to taste the olives at Whispering Brook's cellar door.
Mio Monte is swish; a sophisticated wine country getaway.
Whispering Brook's boutique wines and olives is the dream project of Balmain barrister Adam Bell and his partner Susan Frazier. They set up the vineyard in 2000, and now produce premium wines including Portuguese variety Touriga Nacional which they grafted on their shiraz vines. Ascella Estate wines, the Hunter's largest organic winery, is also worthy of a visit to understand Canadian Barb and Geoff Brown's passion for organics.
Mio Monte is swish; a sophisticated wine country getaway . It's a magical place to base yourself to taste the region's wines and produce as well as meet friendly residents. You'll be inspired by stories from locals such as Michael and Meredith McManus at Stomp wines, who made their first wine in their Sydney laundry then threw in their corporate jobs and moved to Broke where they now make their range of Pssst 'n' Broke wines.
HOW TO GET THERE
The quickest route to Mio Monte is a bit over two hours' drive from Sydney via the Pacific Motorway. Take the Peats Ridge/Wollombi Exit off the M1, follow the signs to Wollombi, travel through Wollombi and past its delightful pub; Mio Monte is about 20 minutes from Wollombi along a dirt road through the vineyards.
The rates for Mio Monte are $275 per night per couple for weekends and $250 per night for weekdays. Mio Monte only take bookings for couples and there is a two night minimum stay.
The writer was a guest of the Broke Fordwich Wine & Tourism Association.