winter in #OrangeNSW = fireside cellar doors

The sky has turned a silvery-grey, there’s frost on the ground. There’s nothing more for it, it’s time to search out the best local cellar doors with roaring fires(and great wine!).

My first vineyard stop in Orange is always Mayfield Vineyard – summer, spring, autumn or winter, it’s just beautiful. The 100-hectare estate and Georgian homestead are placed on the Icely Road, just outside of Orange and not far from the original Ophir goldfields where gold was first discovered in Australia in the 1850s. The cellar door is in the property’s original schoolhouse, and when it gets a little chilly they start blazing the open fire. It’s the perfect accompaniment to their highly thought of wines.

 From the Icely Road, it’s only a hop and a skip over to Millthorpe, one of the most charming of the surrounding villages in the Orange region. Being a heritage village, it’s awash with original buildings starring open fireplaces. Start with a coffee and a pastry at The Old Mill Café and then work your way over to the nearby Angullong cellar door. Originally the stables for the next door hotel, this bluestone cellar door not only has one of the coziest fireplaces but we think it also some of the best wines in the region. The marvellous thing about buying wine direct from cellar doors is that you get to taste the entire range before making a choice, it really beats grabbing an unknown bottle from a bottleshop and you get to chat with the producers as well.

Speaking of the next door hotel, after you’ve experienced the Angullong hospitality it’s a great idea to drop into Gerry’s Commercial Hotel. Best village pub ever! A stellar local wine list, Guinness on tap served up by the Irish publican and award-winning pub food (Gerry’s scored the 2014 ‘Best Lamb Burger’ and 2013 ‘Best Steak’ awards from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Pub Food Guide) – and all by the crackling fireside.

If you manage to drag yourself away from the pub, on the other side of Orange you can take a little tour through the rolling hills of Borenore and stop off at Small Acres Cyder for a cheeky cider tasting by the cheerful potbelly stove.

Not too far away, Cargo Road Wines also boasts a merry cornerside potbelly stove warming up the cellar door. Go straight for the Zinfandel to keep you even toastier inside, the wines here are amazing and have become a firm favourite. Slow-cooked goat curry and venison pies are served up in the picturesque café overlooking the vineyard, and the cellar door also doubles up as an art gallery.

When you’re finally ready to make your way back into town, head straight to the Union Bank Wine Bar for a final sample of local wines and a welcoming fire. Owned by local winemaker Tom Ward, this is also the location of his Swinging Bridge handcrafted wines cellar door. With live courtyard music and a glass of award-winning Pinot Noir in your hands, you won’t want to leave.

Enjoy! Kelly

A version of this article first appeared in The Localist online travel and culture magazine in May 2014

magical mystery tour

This wasn’t a mystery tour at all, but it was totally magical. An inner-city friend recently returned from Dubai made the trek over the Blue Mountains to spend the weekend with us, and he was completely blown away by what’s on offer here in #OrangeNSW.

We created a special boutique-style tour for him, to introduce him to the marvels of the region. Starting off with a home-cooked meal using local produce when he arrived after a surprisingly quick 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. On the menu was pork belly from Trunkey Creek Bacon with polenta, followed by rhubarb + apple hazelnut crumble inspired by the Local is Lovely cookbook.

Stopping first for a coffee at The Lakehouse kiosk at Lake Canobolas, admiring the view over the lake and soaking in the crisp fresh air, our dedicated day for the vineyards started at Brangayne, where our friend went crazy for the buttery unwooded 2011 Chardonnay, the 2012 Pinot Noir and the 2011 Late Harvest Riesling.

This was his first experience of an Australian cellar door experience outside of the Hunter Valley, and he was stunned by the views of the Orange countryside. He thought it looked like he’d very much just arrived in Italy, and The Italian confirmed he’d saved himself a long haul trip by venturing out here to savour the spectacular local wine and gourmet experience.

Our next stop was Ross Hill Wines across the road, where we were served by local winemaker Phil Kerney who has been nominated as one of Gourmet Traveller‘s 2014 winemakers of the year along with his wife Rochelle.

 

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Then it was time for lunch at Racine Restaurant in La Colline Vineyard. Our inner-city friend peaked at this gourmet experience, declaring it the best meal he’d had since arriving back in Australia. We dined on a winter menu of venison, quail and smoked trout but it was the desserts that completely blew us away. Can’t even begin to describe them.

We went for a quick scenic drive after lunch through the Towac Valley along the bottom of Mount Canobolas and headed straight for Cargo Road Wines. Sitting outside on the terrace watching the sun set over the vineyard, we indulged in a wine tasting of everything on the menu as this is one of our favourite cellar doors in the region. Our friend departed with bottles of the incredible 2013 Zinfandel, 2014 Riesling and the Dessert Zin.

We finished off our very fine day at the Union Bank Wine Bar, which stars a plethora of local vintages and an awesome sunset-view wine garden. After an action-packed day we had a relatively early night, and recovered at Bill’s Beans East Orange the next morning, with freshly-ground coffee and quite possibly “the best BLT we’ve ever eaten in our lives”.

Our inner-city friend packed himself off for the return trip to Darlinghurst, stunned by the news that we’d only managed to visit three of the over 40 local vineyards. He’ll be back.

 

foraging for food at festivals: Orange F.O.O.D Week

I love a good food festival, it throws a little adventure and spice into the mix of life. The highlight of my life in the UAE was the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi, and the only saving graces of Sydney for us were Porteno, Gelato Messina, the Sydney Food Trucks and the Night Noodle Markets at Sydney Good Food Month. So imagine my delight at discovering the Food of Orange District (F.O.O.D) festival in my new home town – somebody hold me back, I’m going to wax lyrical.

My job in Abu Dhabi was to go through the Gourmet Abu Dhabi program and make it appealing to different people from different places. I also got to take groups of industry stakeholders and visiting international journalists along to the events. A shocking, really terrible job I can tell you (just kidding, see ‘highlight of my life’). So when I find myself flicking through the Orange F.O.O.D Week program, I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm. There’s just so much good stuff going on here. With over 120 events being held over a 10 day festival from 4-13 April, the only challenge is cramming it all in.

The absolute first thing I did as soon as the festival officially launched in March, was score me and The Italian tickets to FORAGE. I’d heard through the grapevine that these sell like hotcakes, and sure enough all the tickets were snapped up within hours of them going on sale. This event is the true pinnacle of the festival, and probably sums up its ethos and spirit quite nicely. Around 800 people (in small groups of 250 at a time) tramp through three local world-class vineyards (and a cattle farm), stopping at food and wine stations along the way during a gentle 3.6km scenic walk. Allegedly, there is quite a bit of singing and dancing on the way.

If you love markets as much as I love markets, the first two weekends of April are going to be a field day. I’m starting off the affair with my first-ever visit to the much-loved  Millthorpe Markets on Sunday 6 April. Held only twice a year, this market sees local artists, artisans and handicrafters flocking to flaunt their wares, apparently it’s a virtual treasure trove. The following weekend is the monthly  Orange Region Farmers Market, and I’ll be stocking the larder with my personal favourites Trunkey Creek Bacon, Fourjay Hazelnut Farms and Nanima Farm Lamb. Finishing the festival on a high note, the Friday Night Food Market in Robertson Park stars all the main players on Orange’s vineyard and restaurant scene (note that this event has moved to Friday 11 April, it usually opens the festival but this Friday we are in for a downpour).

Right, back to the food. I’m planning to spend the entire day of Saturday 5 April at nearby village Borenore, as they are really pulling out all the stops for this festival. The Borenore Store is hosting a big bubbly breakfast to kick off the proceedings, then it’s onto a big brunch at the Borenore School Country Fair, a French pique-nique at Hedberg Hill vineyard and cellar door, over at Faisan Estate Wines cellar door they’ll be serving up pheasant and pork terrine to go with their latest release wines, and Small Acres Cyder are dishing up Normandy chicken pies with cider sauce to wash down with your locally-made cider. Umm…yep that’s all on one day…

The other event that’s got me interested is The Moveable Feast (also on Saturday 5 April, see what I mean about challenges…), which provides an adventure through the local countryside, starting at The Agrestic Grocer for canapés and then out to Mandagery Creek Venison Farm for entree and mains. The progressive dinner finishes with a wander through The Farm Gate’s Nashdale Orchard so you can help pick dessert.

I seriously could go on and on and on – there’s over 40 vineyards in the Orange region, and they’re all coming to the party. Take a look at the Orange F.O.O.D Week website for a full program. Orange also has a blossoming cosmopolitan café culture, and they’re all getting into the swing of the festival festivities with Sunday brunches on both weekends – my top picks are Anything Grows, Byng St Local Store, The Old Mill Café, The Lakehouse and Union Bank Wine Bar.

It’s going to be an action-packed ten days, I’ve had to knock off two Master degree assignments well in advance to clear the diary. You will henceforth now find me ensconced at festival bars and tramping through paddocks feasting and thoroughly enjoying.

Cheers! Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rocking Horse Lounge: it’s love

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We’d driven past this charmingly converted cornerstore a few times, and gazed into the windows to the inviting white tablecloth-draped tables, wooden floors and art nouveau stained glass centre counter. Around the corner, this place also has the best preserved ‘Billy Tea’ painted ad splashed across its walls I’ve so far seen in the region, so it’s had me intrigued from the get-go.

So I decided it was finally time to rock up to The Rocking Horse Lounge with The Italian to celebrate our anniversary, and as part of my official ‘research’ into how to #livelikealocal.

While #OrangeNSW is justifiably proud of its Chef Hat restaurants – Racine, Lolli Redini and Tonic – there are some real local gems hidden away that you only have to search a little bit to find. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you The Rocking Horse Lounge.

I’m not quite sure what I loved the most, it’s all kind of Parisian dark wood art nouveau/1910s with tables in nooks & crannies in there.  We were given the best seats in the house in the old store window, which meant we could gaze out watching the sunset drop dramatically while sipping the house sparkling Printhie Swift Cuvee from local vineyard Printhie Wines (“forget the French stuff, drink this” says The Italian).

The menu is $50 for two courses or $60 for three. We had pork belly with figs and sauerkraut, finished with a creme caramel and the best shortbread either of us has ever eaten in our lives, and polished the evening off with a Printhie Reisling. Fairly safe to say, it was an evening of being in love at, and with, The Rocking Horse Lounge.

Rocking Horse rocks! Don’t just take my word for it, read the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor and Australian Good Food & Travel Guide 

Enjoy! Kelly

Find The Rocking Horse Lounge 211 Byng Street, Orange. For bookings call 02 6369 1483. It’s Casual Dining and they’re open for lunch Tues-Fri and dinner Tues-Sat. 

revel in the altitude: a visit to Printhie Wines

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Not to cut too fine a point on it, this is a destination vineyard. And most definitely one of #OrangeNSW’s top five. Printhie Wines serves up spectacular wine with spectacular scenery at its cellar door, and it’s worth the adventure to get there.

In fact, the journey is part of the destination, and driving up Yuranigh Road towards the vineyard you’ll pass a fascinating slice of Australian Indigenous history. Just past the Alpaca farm (yes, Alpacas. yes yes Alpacas), on the left you’ll see a sign to Yuranigh’s grave. It’s a 700m drive through a cow paddock (please shut the gate behind you) which will take you to the burial site of the Wiradjuri tracker Yuranigh, who guided Major Thomas Mitchell‘s exploration of the Central West of New South Wales in 1845.

After you’ve taken snaps of the Alpacas and visited the heritage site, continue along the dirt road to the impressive Printhie vineyard – which has existed as a farming property for well over 100 years. In 1978, the Swift family became the third owners of the property and turned to viticulture in the mid-1990’s. And what an impressive turn it’s been, heralding a new era as a premium Australian wine producer with a five red star rating from James Halliday’s Wine Companion.

We have three sparkling words to share with you all – Swift 2010 Vintage – you can read the reviews here. The Italian was very much “why would you bother with big name global brands” when you can take a scenic drive out to a vineyard like this and get something of this quality over the counter. And probably ask for a taster while you’re at it (you know, just to double-check that your memory sustains you..).

I could go into more detail on the marvellous Cabernet Shiraz we fell in love with, and we didn’t even get to the whites as it was a rainy Autumn day just begging for awesome reds to be drunk in its honour. But it’s way better if you just go there and taste for yourself. We took two newbies to town who had never been to a vineyard or a wine tasting before, and they were blown away. It’s always a good idea to start from the top, I say.

Enjoy! Kelly

How to find the vineyard cellar door: Head out of Orange on the Molong Road. Stop for a coffee / food / fresh produce break at The Agrestic Grocer. We had a Wild Mudgee Rabbit + Trunkey Creak bacon pie before we headed out for the vineyard adventure. Continue towards Molong until you reach a sign to the Yuranigh Gravesite and turn left. Printhie Wines is along the Yuranigh Road (it’s a dirt track) and once you’ve passed the gravesite you’ll need to drive along a little while until you reach it. But you can’t miss it once you find it. It’s big, beautiful, and on the left. And after your cellar door visit, you can always continue onto Molong and check out Jayes Gallery for an art injection.

Can’t help myself, here’s the Alpacas:

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all hail Autumn + the village pub

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The fantastic thing about the arrival of Autumn and the rain and the chilly evenings, is the village pub. As soon as the rain hit we hit the road the Millthorpe to Gerry’s Commercial Hotel to warm up by the fire.

You can’t really ask more from a village pub than a roaring fire and a publican with a broad Irish accent, but the Commercial goes even better than this and offers up award-winning pub food, a stellar wine list (being just next door to the Angullong cellar door), Guinness on tap and craft beer – and Jamesons.

Gerry and his wife have scored the 2014 ‘Best Lamb Burger’ and 2013 ‘Best Steak’ awards from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Pub Food Guide, and the pub has achieved ‘2 Schooner Status’ in 2013 and 2014.

Totally opposed to pokies, televisions and TAB punting, this is a pub for good conversation and conviviality. If you get over-excited by it all you can even stay the night.

Enjoy! Kelly

explore Borenore

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This is soul country for me, the picture is a snap of my great-grandmother’s house in the heart of Borenore where she apparently brought up 13 children – good grief. There’s lots to explore in this rural community, just 15 minutes west of Orange – top class vineyards, orchards, restaurants, a cider house and the old convent where my Great GM went to church every Sunday (which is now a gourmet destination restaurant, wedding venue and B&B).

Driving west out of Orange along the Escort Way towards Borenore, you’ll pass the charming Hedberg Hill Wines and the unparalleled Philip Shaw Wines vineyards. This is just the start of the Borenore Trail and you’ll need to pace yourself – but if you stop off at these two places and sample the entire ranges of both you can always take a break at the nearby and contemporary Black Sheep Inn to sleep it off.

If you make it past the vineyards, you can stop in at the Hillside Orchard to pick your own cherries in season or to grab some fresh stone fruit, apples, pears as well as jams, honey and sauces from their public store. Orange Mountain Wines is just a stone’s throw away, and then you’ll come to the Borenore dilemma: a crossroads offering a multiple choice choose-your-own-adventure.

Follow the Borenore Road option and you’ll come to the Borenore Store, a breakfast and brunch restaurant open Wednesdays to Sundays and with one of the greatest selections of local wines. Check out the abandoned 1885 Borenore Village railway station while you’re in the neighbourhood (it’s just across the road) and then follow the signs to Small Acres Cyder, where they’re making some champion Australian apple cider – read the glowing reviews here.

It’s at this point that you need to chuck a u-turn and come back the way you came, otherwise you’re going to hit the start of the Cargo Road wine trail, and that’s another story entirely…

Coming back through Borenore village (blink, you’ll miss it), now venture down the Amaroo Road to discover the Faisan Estate and Printhie vineyards. Printhie has a five-star rating from James Halliday’s Wine Companion, with its cellar door open weekdays from 10am-4pm, and Saturdays from 12-4pm. Faisan is an upcoming local contender, well worth a visit but you’ll need to book ahead for a wine tasting visit. Just join their Dead Pheasant Society and be done with it.

And now heading back into Orange along the Amaroo Road, onto The Escort Way, you’ll see a left turn onto Convent Road. This is where the charm offensive really commences. The winding lane of Convent Road, a dirt track dripping in Eucalyptus, will take you back a couple of centuries and bring you to The Old Convent. This gourmet destination is a bit of a #localsecret, and it’s only open for breakfast + brunch on Sundays. And you need to book in advance. And when you get there it’s all worth it. There’s also stylish overnight accommodation for 2-4 people in the former nun’s cottage, so you may as well stay.

Instead of heading back to Orange after our visit to the convent, we followed the signs to the old gold town of Forbes instead. This took us past the historic Boree Cabonne homestead, past Escort Rock (the scene of Australia’s most dramatic gold rush era robbery), through Eugowra and the heart of bushranger country, and finally to Forbes which must have been a bustling city centre in the late 1800s and is the final resting spot of infamous bushranger Ben Hall.

Enjoy, Kelly

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