Bearing the name of the man who created Australia’s first chardonnay, this winery and cellar door is a Mudgee institution not to be missed.
Stepping into the cellar door at Pieter van Gent Winery is like stepping into another world. As the heavy barn door closes behind us we are met eagerly by the friendly winery cat encircling our legs, a focal point while our eyes adjust to the startling darkness.
And then the drama of the room hits us: the blackened hall is lined with 20 enormous German oak casks – circa 1850 – creating an avenue of welcome as we follow the light to the tasting space at the hall’s rear.
The casks were originally used to store Penfolds wine in the basement of Sydney’s iconic Queen Victoria Building and their imposing beauty speak of the grandeur of the industry the founder of this very winery helped refine.
Pieter van Gent’s decorated career on the Mudgee wine scene began in 1970 when he took up the position of wine maker at Craigmoor Wines, now Robert Oatley Vineyards. By 1971 he had created Australia’s first chardonnay, and by 1979 he had helped establish Craigmoor as one of Australia’s leading wineries, putting Mudgee on the map as a serious wine region.
He went out on his own in 1979, creating Pieter van Gent Winery, bringing with him chardonnay cuttings from Craigmoor. Having won every major wine award in Australia, Pieter is now retired but the business is still proudly family owned and run, managed by his son Philip.
We reach the tasting bar at the rear of the hall where a friendly and dry humoured employee describes the nuances of the winery’s trademark variety, the delectable Pipeclay White Port. Perfect in summer over ice with a squeeze of fresh lime, she says, so we add a bottle to our cart.
Several varieties later we leave, giggling, with our arms full of bottles of chardonnay, rosé and shiraz. The cat follows us into the car park where the backdrop of vines against the rolling Mudgee countryside glistens in the late afternoon sunshine. Pieter van Gent offers several self-contained accommodation options nestled amongst the vines, including the adorable Bushman’s Cottage at the top of the drive.
Enchanted by the experience, the wine and the light, we all concur we will be back to stay for longer on our next visit to Mudgee.