Nestled in the Central West Region of New South Wales is the picturesque town of Orange. Surrounded by rolling hillsides and the most beautiful flora and fauna, Orange is a painter and photographer’s dream. I was lucky enough to visit in Autumn when the town was showing off its colours in full glory. Every shade of red, orange, and brown you could imagine.
My main reason for visiting Orange was to tour the local vineyards with Orange Wine Tours. Run by local Orange resident Chase Johnson, you can choose either a half day, full day, custom or lunch tour that is designed to show visitors some of the region’s best viticulturists. Of course being the massive foodie and wine lover that I am, I chose the lunch wine tour.
The terroir (that’s the wine growing environment to us laymen) in the Orange Region is very unique. It is the only wine growing region in Australia to be defined by its altitude. In order to be classed as a wine of the region, the grapes must be grown at an altitude of 600m or above sea level. The cool climate from this high altitude means that grapes can be left on the vines longer and mature slower, which produces a better balance of flavours. There are over 20 grape varieties in the Orange Region so everyone is guaranteed to find a tipple or two that they like whether you are first-time wine drinker or a bit of a lush/wine aficionado from way back.
After picking up everyone from their accommodation, our day with Orange Wine Tours started with Chase giving us an introduction to the area and the wineries we were going to be visiting that day. Our first quick stop was at the Lake Canobolas Reserve which is a large tranquil lake at the foot of Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano and the highest peak in the area. With year round activities, it’s a beautiful location to hang out at whatever the season.
Our first winery for the day was Borrodell Vineyard on the slopes of Mount Canobolas. As well as the cellar door, Borrodell has a restaurant serving contemporary modern cuisine and boutique accommodation on site so you can settle in for a romantic weekend and not have to worry about leaving the estate. They make a selection of wines at Borrodell including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling. There is also an abundance of cherry and apple trees scattered around the estate and the fruit is turned into a very delicious cherry liquor and crisp apple cider. The sun was shining so after the tasting we adjourned outside to look at the uninterrupted views across the Towac Valley from the deck of the tasting room. It was a fabulous way to start the day.
Our second stop for the day was for lunch at The Agrestic Grocer. I can literally only come up with one word for place, and that is EPIC. The café and food store is a food lovers paradise. Our lunch started with a smorgasbord of delicious meats, cheeses, and pickles to share. For the second course, I tucked into a beautifully cooked beef with roasted vegetables. All of this was washed down with some beautiful wine. Thank god there wasn’t dessert as we were rolling out of there by then. The store part of The Agrestic Grocer is equally amazing. Full of all kinds of yummy treats. It was hard not to buy up the whole shop everything was so tempting. I was very restrained though and left with some sesame salad dressing and quince and chardonnay jelly. Despite feeling like I needed a glamour nap to offset the impending food coma that was about to hit, we all bundled back into the Orange Wine Tours comfy van to head off to our next winery.
What I really loved about the Orange Wine Region is that the wineries are smaller, more intimate and personal. I love that you invariably end up talking to the owner or winemaker themselves and at Hedberg Hill Wines, this was indeed the case. The tasting was private with just our tour group. We were all seated around a table and the owner, Peter, talked us through the history of the winery and each of the wines we tasted. I love the passion and pride you only get when talking to those that have built a business, watched it grow, and put in the hard work to get where they are. The wines at Hedberg Hill are named after Peter’s family. Even the dogs, Beau and Oscar, get a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon named after them. I picked up a rather nice Tempranillo (named after Peter’s wife Lee) and a Sauvignon Blanc (named after Peter’s nephew Guy).
Our final winery for the day was Orange Mountain Wines. Again Terry the owner took us through the tasting of the various wines, including his Ice Viognier, which was definitely my favourite wine of the day. Afterwards, he gave us a tour around the winery. The winery uses traditional process and makes use of old basket presses and open fermenters to create the balance and flavour of the wines. The wines are then matured in french oak barrels, and the bottled wine is stored at specific temperatures to retain the quality. I took home a bottle of the Ice Viognier, Rosé, Pinot Noir and also a bottle of the Verjus too.
The countryside around all of the wineries we visited was just stunning. I got some great photos especially as the sun started to set over the vineyards. We had an amazing day with Orange Wine Tours. It was one of the best wine tours I have been on. Chase, our tour guide, is charismatic and friendly and really knowledgeable about the area and the various wineries and wines that are grown there. We also had a great group of people on the day too, really friendly and chatty (helped by the wine I think too) and everyone really enjoyed themselves. We were all a little “merry” by the time Chase dropped us back at our accommodation. You could say I’m slightly biased as I had previously met Chase and his wife Natasha in New Zealand one Christmas before they moved to Orange, but they are a great couple and so friendly and hospitable. I definitely would not have stayed in touch or gone on a wine tour if they had not been. Anyone visiting the area should definitely hop onto one of the tours. You not only get a wealth of local knowledge, and insider tips, but also access to some amazing wineries.