In which tasty things are made from cheese, as tasty things so often are.
Right. Now that all that frivolous model stuff is over, let’s get back to the truly important, serious things in life. CHEESE.
Leaving Bathurst was difficult, but our sadness was mitigated by the insane beauty of the scenery on the way to Mudgee. This is classic country – corrugated iron sheds, the standard smattering of livestock (I still haven’t grown out of the habit of making animal noises every time I see one), winding roads, and long slow hills that force you to shout “Wheeeee!” during descent.
I started playing a game with road signs, which Charlotte either found highly amusing, or pretended to find highly amusing, knowing she still had three days in the car with me. “Careful”, I would say, spotting a sign with black and white stripes on it. “There are liquorice allsorts up ahead”.
Charlotte herself has a special skill that I’m sure many people don’t know about – that woman can spot roadkill from three kilometres away. We briefly marvelled at the fact that the local wildlife are courteous enough to take themselves off to the side of the road when they meet their early and unfortunate demise, but we were soon distracted by Amelie, our French GPS, who refused to give us any accurate directions once we hit the Mudgee outskirts. I can only guess that, being French, she’s just jealous of any place that makes spectacular wine.
Eventually we had to stop in at the Mudgee tourist information centre to ask for directions to the High Valley Wine & Cheese Co. – we just couldn’t bring ourselves to keep cheese waiting, and my navigation skills leave a lot to be desired. A single clue about navigating, for starters. Charlotte kept the motor running while I popped inside, and I was halfway through the sentence “We’re trying to find High Valley Cheese and Wine, but our stupid GPS...” when Ross, the unbelievably friendly man behind the counter, said “You must be Jo”. Goddamn, I love the country. The stunningly lush green grass is really just a red carpet wherever you go.
|That noise you hear is angels singing.|
Once we’d finally located the place that shall be henceforth known as Thank You Sir, May I Have Another, we were warmly greeted by owner and passionate cheese guy Grosvenor, who seemed to instantly develop a minor crush on Ms Dawson, as so many people who are alive do. He noted the deep love in our own eyes once we’d spotted the cheese cabinet, and became an instant enabler, offering us generous samples of Persian-style marinated feta, brie, Caerphilly (a farmhouse white mold cheese that has to be devoured to be believed), aged cheddar and a truly spectacular blue.
|That noise you hear is angels salivating.|
Grosvenor then offered us a tour of the cheese making plant, which was very attractive to us, and regulation white gumboots and hairnets, which, well, not so much.
|That noise you hear is angels pointing and giggling.|
We were shown shiny vats, friendly cheesemakers, cool vaults where delectable discs matured and teased with their sexy lactose wiles, and the table at which we would be served our first wine of the day and a complimentary cheese platter. If I’m ever on death row and have to decide what my last meal would be, this exact same deal would make up courses one through eight.
|Too cool for drool. Almost.|
While we sipped and supped, Grosvenor told us a bit about Mudgee and the unofficial policy amongst locals to keep the town as it is – with locals producing incredible food and wine and resisting any kind of influx of big business or touristy cheapisms, and it was easy to see why this is so important. Mudgee feels like a properly-established regional settlement without being besmirched by logos, corner-cutting or gaudy materialism, and as a result everywhere seems friendly, relaxed and delicious. Oh. So delicious. We souvenired ourselves some jars and bottles of delicious from the well-stocked shop on our way out.
Finally, a tip – if you like life hilarious and a little bit mean, don’t tell your travelling companion that she’s forgotten to remove her hairnet until you’ve walked through a busy room, across a carpark, and driven well across town.
Unless, of course, you want to be called a mole.