If you’re in Orange in central western New South Wales right now – about 3 1/2 hours drive from Sydney – then you’re getting high. Really high. Orange is Australia’s highest cool climate wine region with an altitude of 1200m. (If you’re in Austria, however, you’re probably laughing at that. But in this big flat land of Straya that’s pretty darned high.) Elegant, tight and decidedly posh wines are what Orange does best. Think Sauvignon Blanc so taut and pure it could be made of baby cheeks. Chardonnays that sing soprano and Shiraz that’s more high cheekbones than high alcohol.
What are the best wineries in Orange?
There are around 40 wineries in the Orange wine region. Far too many for any gal to get through on one weekend – even if you did have your own Rolls and driver. And they’re not all right next to each other either – they’re spread throughout a large region, so you need to plan your visit well. To help you ensure you make the most of your time in this gorgeous part of New South Wales, here are five of our favourite Orange wineries that no wine loving woman should miss. (In no particular order…)
1. Swinging Bridge
Union Bank, 84 Byng Street (cnr Sale Street) Orange NSW 2800 www.swingingbridge.com.au Open 12pm to 5pm 7 days
Even though the Swinging Bridge vineyards are actually about an hour out of Orange near the town of Conowindra (prounounced ‘Ca-noun-dra’. I know, spooky huh?), the proprietors – the totally gorgeous and über hospitable Tom and Georgie Ward – have opened their cellar door right in the heart of Orange. How fabulous is THAT?! Located in the historic building of the old Union Bank, you can pop in seven days a week to sample some of their fantastic wines and then head next door into the Union Bank Restaurant & Wine Bar – which they also own – for lunch, dinner or just an afternoon bite.
‘ The name ‘Swinging Bridge’ comes from the historic wooden pedestrian bridge located at the bottom of the vineyard that traverses the Belubula River. (Try saying that after a few glasses of their Mrs Payten Chardonnay…) Swinging Bridge Wines to try:
- Mrs Payten Chardonnay 2012 – Mrs Payten is Tom’s 90+ old grandmother, who according to him “Drinks more of it than anyone else!” and this has gone straight to the top of the charts as our current fave Chardonnay of the year. Get it in you.
- Swinging Bridge Reserve Shiraz 2011 – It was meant to be a difficult vintage 2011. But you wouldn’t know it from the intense blackberry flavours and gentle tannins in this sexy Shiraz. More body than Beyonce and just as much honey voiced soul.
The Old Bluestone Stables, Cnr Park & Victoria Streets Millthorpe NSW 2800 www.angullong.com.au Open 11am to 5pm Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays (closed Christmas Day & Good Friday) How can one tiny little winery have so many varietals on offer? The answer lies in having one very experimental Dad at the helm. Bill Crossing decided to plant grapes on his considerably large 4,500 acre grazing and cropping property back in 1998. He wasn’t entirely sure what would thrive, so he hedged his bets and planted a whole bunch of stuff.
No less than 13 grape varieties are planted in the Angullong vineyard. Including:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Gris
- Sauvignon Blanc
It’s a veritable A – Z of wines! So make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get through everything on offer when planning a visit to the Angullong Vineyard cellar door, which is located in a picturesque blue stone building next to the Millthorpe pub – it was originally the old stables. You’ll undoubtedly find it’s a member of the Crossing family (or two!) who are there ready to take you through your tasting. Bill and wife Hattie are still running the show, and now sons Ben and James Crossing are in the business too.
Millthorpe is only 15 minutes from Orange and is a pretty-as-a-picture town, perfect for browsing around in after your tasting. Don’t miss:
- The peachy, herbaceous Savagnin, the elegant Tempranillo and the Shiraz Viognier
489 Yuranigh Road, Molong, NSW 2866. www.printhiewines.com.au Open Monday through Saturday from 10am – 4pm. Closed Public Holidays
Monsieur Eyebrows (a.k.a James Halliday) has controversially said that “Printhie can fairly claim to the premier winery of the Orange region.” That’s some accolade. And after a few swigs of those Chardonnays on offer, you quickly begin to find yourself nodding in agreement.
The gorgeous Swift brothers, David and Ed, head up this winery that has their namesake – a Swift – as the logo. While the affable Drew Tuckwell creates their range of award winning wines. The cellar door is about a 40 minute drive from Orange, but the drive takes you through some very pretty countryside. The name Printhie is taken from a now extinct goanna-like lizard that was quite common in the local area.
What to try: Printhie have an extensive list of wines (found in five different ranges and price points), most of which focus on variations of their wonderful Chardonnay and Shiraz, but the Sauvignon Blanc is worth a try too. As is their rather fabulous Swift Sparkling NV. They’ve also just released an ultra premium range of their Shiraz and Chardonnay they’re calling ‘Super-Duper’. I know, fabulous right?
4. Patina Wines
109 Summerhill Lane, Orange NSW 2800. www.patinawines.com.au Open Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm
Opening your home to strangers wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of…ahem…wine, but that’s exactly what winemaker Gerald Naef and his family have done at Patina Wines, in the rural outskirts of Orange. On weekends their glorious Boston style country home, complete with immaculately tended gardens and sweeping rural vistas, operates as the tasting room for visitors keen to try their wines. You don’t need to trample over the heirloom rug by the fireplace to do it though. The back area is well set up for tasting, and provides very elegant surroundings in which to sample their equally elegant Rieslings, Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Art lovers take note: Gerald’s wife Angie Naef is an accomplished artist and her latest works are often on display. Exceptional wines include: Their premium Pinot Noir, and a gorgeous little skin contact (amber) dessert wine invention called ‘Sticky Tea Riesling’.
5. Monument Vineyard
Currently available for tastings and purchase at the Borenore Store which is (funnily enough) located at 595 Borenore Road, Borenore NSW 2800. Open 7 days www.monumentvineyard.com.au Now, they don’t strictly have their own cellar door, but that shouldn’t stop you from heading out to Borenore – only a 15 minute drive from the centre of Orange – to discover the wines of Monument Vineyard at the Borenore Store (you can get a nice bite to eat and some local produce there too.). The lovely Jones family produce just a small (but increasing) selection of wines including a luscious and fruity Verdelho, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Shiraz and – rather excitingly – a Nebbiolo. Bargain hunters take note. What I love about Monument Vineyard is that they offer really good Orange region wines at a great price. Wines produced in the Orange region tend to be pricey – which is perfectly understandable given the small, boutique nature of the players involved. But not everyone can afford to sip $25+ wines all week long. Monument Vineyard’s wines are all $10 – $16 a bottle, and give you some serious bang for your buck. Don’t miss: The Verdelho and the Nebbiolo. Stock up here so you can enjoy Orange wines every day of the week.
A Side Note about Fabulous Orange Wineries
Those of you who already love Orange region wines are probably screaming “What about Phillip Shaw?!?!” at the screen right now. And you’d be right. He’s definitely another treasure of the region. Head to their website for more details about Philip Shaw Wines and Cellar Door opening times. [divider]
Where to eat and stay in the Orange wine region
There are several excellent restaurants in and around Orange. For some seriously fine dining in the centre of town, try Lolli Redini or if you were clever enough to bring a designated driver with you, then I’d definitely recommend making the trip a few kilometers out to Racine Restaurant where chef Shaun Arantz is famous for doing exciting things with local produce. For good quality but more casual eating, head to Union Bank Wine Bar or Kate Jones @ one nineteen. For coffee or brunch, make a beeline – with the rest of Orange – for Byng Street Store. (But make sure you get there early on a Sunday.) The Orange Farmers Markets are sensationally good, and definitely worth a visit for an hour or two if you happen to be there when they’re on – which is the 2nd Saturday of the month. The location varies depending on the season. Check the Taste Orange website for more details.
If you’re self catering or have a vineyard picnic in mind, then the farmers markets are a smorgasbord of inspiration. Loads of local, freshly picked fruit and veg (it’s hard to beat those crunchy apples and pears in Autumn!) as well as freshly baked breads and pastries (the vanilla slice from Racines Bakery is Out.Of.This.World.) and local gourmet foods and meats. While Orange might be better known for it’s lamb, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the delicious and traditionally smoked piggy products from Trunkey Bacon & Pork. Just follow the long, snaking queue, who’ll be waiting to get their early morning bacon and egg rolls. On a cold morning, seek out Origin Organic Chocolate who serve up some of the best hot chocolate around. While you’re there put a few of their single origin chocolate bars in your bag to keep you going through the day. There’s plenty of accommodation around, from basic but very comfortable motels like the Central Caleula Lodge (which is walking distance to everything within the Orange township) to ultra chic, self contained country style accommodation at Borrodell Vineyard just 10 minutes out of town. For more information about planning your stay, visit Taste Orange.