It is well worth travelling west to discover the emerging wine region of Orange, travel editor Winsor Dobbin discovers.
It is one of the funkiest small towns in Australia. Think top-notch restaurants, a thriving coffee culture, vibrant arts and crafts, and a slow-paced way of life.
Orange, in the Central West of New South Wales, a three-and-half-hour drive west of Sydney, is booming as a weekend playground for big city refugees seeking a slice of sophistication with lashings of country charm.
Much of the boom in Orange (new hotels, bars and eateries) has been driven first by the success of the region as a food bowl and over the past 20 years by the immense success of the region’s makers of cool-climate wines and ciders.
And Orange has a major event coming up: F.O.O.D Week 2017, Australia’s longest-running regional food festival, now in its 26th year.
The festival incorporates a number of signature events designed to appeal to both residents and visitors, as well as over 80 satellite events held by local restaurants, cafes and wineries.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of official recognition for Orange as a wine region but family vineyards have been planted in the region since the first European settlers in the 1840s.
The Orange region now has over 80 vineyards, with around 40 cellar doors, and is regarded as one of the finest cool regions in Australia.
“Orange is currently gaining significant traction with its reputation as the cool climate region of New South Wales, with a distinct and elevated terroir producing elegant and sophisticated wines,” says David Crawley, president of the Orange Region Vignerons Association (ORVA).
If you are looking to taste a selection of local wines by the glass, there are two very good options; the Union Bank (with a delightful courtyard) and Ferment: The Orange Wine Centre, which acts as a cellar door for 11 small producers.
There are a lot of very good cool-climate wines being made in and around Orange, but I doubt if any of them can match Heifer Station for either value for money or cellar- door ambience.
The bulk of Heifer Station wines (my favourites included the 2016 rosé and 2015 chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot) sell for $30 or under and the tasting venue is the epitome of rustic chic.
Founders Phillip and Michelle Stivens, who purchased the property in 2009, have surrounded themselves with a top-notch team, including consultant winemakers Daniel Shaw (son of Philip) and Charlie Svenson from de Salis.
The cellar door and tasting rooms are set in a historic old woolshed and surrounds, all beautifully restored. Take any overseas visitor here for an instant slice of Australiana.
The land and some of the buildings was once part of a much larger property which was used by Cobb & Co as a change station for their horse teams.
In addition the lovely tasting rooms and outdoor settings, Heifer Station is also home to a petting zoo to keep young ones busy while parents sample the vinous wares. The menagerie includes a Shetland pony, goats, sheep and other animals.
Platters can be provided for hungry patrons and with 48 hours’ notice guests can enjoy a romantic picnic in the vines with their wines and food delivered to them via the winery’s golf cart. Well-behaved visiting pets are welcome.
It is all very country; and very stylish.
Other good cellar doors include de Salis Wines and Printhie (both of which have impressive ranges of sparkling wines), Patina, Brangayne, Philip Shaw Wines, Colmar Estate, Angullong, Ross Hill and Small Acres Cyder.
For several years now, the de Russie Boutique Hotel has been the best place to stay in the centre of Orange.
On a tree-lined street within walking distance of Orange’s best bars and eateries, including Ferment, Lolli Redini, the Union Bank, Pan Asian newcomer Mr Lin, the revived Lord Anson Hotel and the Union Bank Wine Bar, de Russie offers a range of accommodation options from studios to family suites.
This upmarket all-suite hotel is set in a low-rise property just a five-minute walk from Cook Park.
The upscale, beautifully decorated suites number 25 in all; some with balconies, have free wifi, flat-screen TVs and kitchenettes. Several units have separate sitting rooms and/or whirlpool tubs and one has a four-poster bed. Impressive touches include a friendly, helpful front desk, bathrobes and slippers and ultra-comfy beds.
The latest addition to the de Russie accommodation offerings is The White Room, which is at the back of the building and entered via a private courtyard. A separate dining/lounge room and full kitchen are ideal for those planning longer stays and the vibe is simple luxury. The bathroom has a free-standing tub, twin basins and rain shower.
Facilities include air-conditioning, alarm clock, bathrobes, cable/satellite TV, dishwasher, clock radio, DVD Player, full fridge, hairdryer, iron/ironing board, king bed, microwave, mini bar, wireless internet and free bottled water.
Despite being close to the centre of town, de Russie is blissfully quiet and highly recommended. The only problem might be getting a booking. It is frequently sold out.
March 30-April 9
Orange F.O.O.D Week Night Market
March 31, Robertson Park
Daily from 11am -12.30pm
at The Agrestic Grocer
Sunday Producer’s Market
April 9, Cook Park
1034 The Escort Way, Orange, NSW 2800.
De Russie Boutique Hotel
72 Hill Street, Orange, NSW 2800.
(02) 6360 0973