This year's grape harvest has brought a smile to Jacob Stein's face.
"We'll end up doing between 300 to 400 tons this year and the quality has been excellent despite the challenging conditions with higher rainfall," he said.
Mr Stein is a third generation winemaker, who took over the winemaking role at Robert Stein Winery in 2009.
As a winemaker, he has faced more challenges in the past two years than many have in an entire career, but those challenges brought Mudgee wineries closer together, according to Mr Stein.
"We all banded together stronger than ever last year because of the smoke, drought and COVID issues. The Mudgee Wine Association is going really strong and we all work together really well," he said.
Mudgee Wine Association president, Jess Chrcek said tourists are often surprised to hear competing wineries support each other.
"It's a very collaborative region and it makes me proud to be a part of it," she said.
Mudgee winemakers have supported and learnt from each other as they adapted their practices for 2021, according to Mr Stein.
"There's seated tastings now and we're finding customers are getting a really good experience. We've signed them up to wine clubs, newsletters and we're finding a lot of them are already rebooking," Mr Stein said.
"Everyone in the Mudgee Region has had to adapt and I think it's worked out in a big positive way."
Many long-held traditions have been challenged, like fruit-picking, which is usually done by international backpackers.
"There was a real shortage of pickers, so it took four times as long to hand pick our riesling. But it's good to be able to give Australians a go, and there's plenty of Aussies working all in different regions in Australia this year. It was great because we got our cellar door and winery staff out there and treated it as team-building days," Mr Stein said.
The lack of fruit-pickers is a concern the Mudgee Wine Association is looking at, according to Ms Chrcek.
"In Mudgee, there's always a mix of both machine harvesting and hand harvesting, so when we needed the international visitors to assist with harvesting, it was a bit of a struggle," she said.
"We're going to have to do something to combat that issue coming into the pruning season, because it's another time when we do rely on travellers."
But the travel shake-up also led to a large number of local tourists returning to Mudgee, according to Mr Stein.
"There's so many people that tell us they haven't been to Mudgee for 20 years, they always go to the Hunter and now they're revisiting Mudgee and they can't believe they haven't been here for so long," he said.
The region has experienced a 25 per cent increase in overnight visitation, with a 40 per cent increase in new visitors to the region, according to Mudgee Tourism CEO, Cara George.
"This increase in demand is a testament to the outstanding work that local tourism businesses are doing to elevate their experience offerings," she said.
Nearly 95 per cent of visitors have told Mudgee Tourism they are planning a return trip to the Mudgee Region within 12 months.
"With a strong harvest predicted this year, we are delighted to know local wine supply will meet new and increased demand," Ms George said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: