MUDGEE: canes, cars and just a little bit of kitsch

ONCE we got the vocals of Traudl the Audi Audio Travel guide sorted (aka, the Sat Nav) it was Mudgee, here we come.

A contingent from the Oatley family (of wine and Hamilton Island fame) and a few ‘ friends of ‘ headed to the annual Burning of the Canes Feast – it’s the Oatley’s way of saying ‘see ya’ to the current grape vines, before new vines start growing for the picking next year. And a very cute way for 250 people to have a weekend in the wine precinct.

A few media types (including this one) were invited by Audi to test-drive some wheels, mine being the mighty powerful A8, which will, no doubt, be showcased at the Sydney Audi Lighthouse opening on Thursday night in Sydney where the Murdochs, Diningans, Blanchetts, et al, are on the guest list.
Our first port of call (after an obligatory, mid-morning McDonald’s pit stop) was a barbie at Bob Oatley’s Chardonnay Park Vineyard, hosted by Sandy Oatley (pictured above) and wife, Carol.

After we zoomed up the hill, leaving a dust storm in our wake, it seemed like the Oatley’s just about own all of the ‘Mudge‘, as we looked out over the valley and various pockets of Oatley land were pointed out to us.

Hugo’s Pete Evans (also pictured) whipped up a bbq of pork and fennel sausages, lamb cutlets, steak and prawns before we were given a tour of the Robert Oatley Vineyards (ROV) winery, hosted by Sandy Oatley. I have never seen a more pristine looking winery. Not a skin of a grape to be seen.

A quick costume change and it was onto the Burning of the Canes at the Craigmoor vineyard where ‘celebrity’ chef and ‘friend of the Oatley family’, Mr Evans continued showing his culinary skills – lamb shanks, cous-cous and homemade marshmallows toasted over the fire, matched, natch, with Robert Oatley, Wild Oats and Montrose wines.

Pete was also playing tv head, shooting a pilot for a potential new tv series that takes viewers behind the A-team events he whips up around the country. Reminds me of the series, The Party, that Mushroom Pictures and I workshopped, many moons ago.

Mingling in Mudgee were Sami Lukis, Steve Burling, Sandra Sully, Helen McCombie, Evan Hansimikali and Amanda Flanagan, Darren Jahn, Dave Evans, Vogue’s divine Damien Woolnough, Mark Hughes, ModelCo’s Sophie Baker and Sally Burleigh.

The next day, we checked out the Butcher Shop Cafe, Elton’s (a truly fantastic dining experience thanks to a recommendation from 702′s Richard Glover) before I was pleased to spy a whole lot of beautifully kitsch Golly’s (pictured) at the town’s major souvenir store. The proprietor telling me they are her number one seller. Yep, a kinda obscure thing to bring home from the magical ‘Mudge’, but hey, sure beats another snow dome.