NESTLED in the Central Ranges on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range is the spectacular Mudgee wine region, about three-and-a-half-hours northwest of Sydney.
With a viticultural history dating back to 1858, Mudgee is noted for producing robust and deeply coloured red wines, especially shiraz. In addition it’s reputedly home to a particularly good clone of chardonnay, thought to have been a descendant of the chardonnay introduced to Australia by James Busby in 1832.
The name “Mudgee” comes from the Aboriginal word “moothi” meaning “nest in the hills”. Its vineyards range from between 450m-1100m above sea level, the days are warm with plenty of sunshine and, importantly, its cold nights are conducive to its grapes having a long, cool ripening period – up to four weeks later than the Hunter Valley. The brownish coloured soils are typical of those found through many of the wine regions of eastern Australia – well-drained sandy loam on top of clay subsoils.
Home to over 50 vineyards and some 35 cellar doors, including the likes of Robert Oatley Wines, Di Lusso Estate, David Lowe’s famed organic Lowe Wines and Botobolar Vineyard, Australia’s oldest certified organic vineyard, there’s more to Mudgee than first meets the eye.
WINE, WAGYU AND THOROUGHBREDS – AN IRRESISTIBLE COMBINATION
Aside from its crystalline chardonnay and traditional red varietals like shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, Mudgee is home to an equestrian and vinous paradise called Gooree Park, one of Australia’s premier horse studs and home to some equally fine thoroughbred wines.
The sprawling, bucolic property was established in 1978 by noted Filipino businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, a long-time and leading owner/breeder and patron of racing in Australia.
Cojuangco’s links with Australian racing date back to 1959 when he purchased his first horse and eventually acquired his Australian base, Gooree Park Stud on Castlereagh Highway west of Mudgee. Today some 300 horses reside at Gooree, including mares, foals, yearlings and thoroughbreds.
He has since developed and expanded it to over 6,500 breathtakingly beautiful hectares incorporating a magnificent horse stud, a wagyu cattle breeding farm and 445ha of vines planted to red varietals, including shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and supplemented by whites such as chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc and verdelho.
Cojuangco’s distinctive red and black striped racing colours have been famous throughout Australia for over four decades, having been carried by Group 1 winners such as Desert War, Hallowed Crown, Smart Missile, Prized Icon and Northern Meteor. In tribute to his former thoroughbred champions, Cojuangco’s premium Gooree Park wines are invariably named after notable Gooree champions such as his Desert War Shiraz, Don Eduardo Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, and Crowned Glory Shiraz and Crowned Glory Chardonnay.
And, much to my surprise, thoroughbred horses and fine wine blend beautifully and are a compelling attraction to the many who attend the annual Melbourne Cup at Gooree Park extravaganza, now in its 7th year and hosted by the likes of TV personality and Mudgee local, Ken Sutcliffe.
This key gala is often sold-out well in advance and has proven so popular that there’s now like events planned for Derby Day and Oaks Day, featuring a thoroughbred horse parade of past and present Gooree champions and future hopefuls from the stud’s stunning stables.
Just visit apps like Trip Advisor and you will see what I mean, it’s chock full of unrestrained praise – Gooree Park has added a whole new dimension to Mudgee tourism and is now a must-visit and fun-filled experience cum destination pretty much all year round.
Regular stud tours rounded off by a wagyu beef lunch and fine wine tasting are now a feature of life at Gooree Park as are the unique cellar door experiences to be had at the original cellar door on the stud property and at the newly opened second Gooree Park cellar door Gooree + Pantry at 48 Market St in the heart of Mudgee town.
A young wine is like a horse, it is extremely vibrant. It needs taming. It has lots of life, the edges need bevelling and we need to reduce the tannins.
– Georg Riedel.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FINE THOROUGHBRED WINES AND EQUINES
And Gooree Park wines are every bit as well-bred as its champion horses, there are no sweaty-saddle reds, just succulent, black pepper, rich, spicy shiraz, classic, multi-layered cabernets and mellow, medium-bodied merlots. There’s even an alluring 2015 Sparking Shiraz which pairs beautifully with the wagyu beef burgers.
It’s often said in equestrian circles that “horses are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole” – the same could be said of fine wine.
What makes Gooree Park so alluring is a heady combination of the property’s rustic, idyllic beauty, the warmth and hospitality of its staff and the sheer buzz one gets from being around horses, in part exhilarating, or conversely calming, among lovers of all that’s equestrian and vinous.
As Gooree Park’s Jackie Conroy says: “making a fine horse is like making fine wine; it takes time, knowledge, experience and an absolute dedication to your craft.”
And if anyone should know, it’s the folks at Gooree Park. There is something magic, ethereal and compelling about the place and the people that compel you to keep coming back. You know you are on a short-odds winner with Gooree Park, so saddle up, head for Mudgee’s hills and make sure you treat yourself to an unforgettable experience.
GOOREE PARK article by HUGO McNEILL