From vineyards with a view to Australia’s only carbon-neutral winery, our pick of the spots not to miss in this boutique, cool-climate wine region.
Stretched out over the mineral-rich contours of extinct volcano Mt Canobolas, Orange is Australia’s highest-altitude wine region and these conditions create world-class cool-climate wines including pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. An independent and artisanal spirit underpins the often family-run operations here, which – when teamed with abundant local produce and idyllic country settings – makes for a NSW winery experience like no other. Here’s our pick of wineries and cellar doors that include Asheville Wine Tours and that you shouldn’t miss.
Set a lofty 1000 metres above sea level on the slopes of extinct volcano Mt Canobolas, Borrodell Estate is one of the most picturesque spots to sip on a sauvignon blanc, pinot noir or heritage apple cider. It’s home to a vineyard, cellar door, restaurant and on-site accommodation, as well as a cherry, plum and heritage apple orchard and trufferie. Don’t miss lunch on the balcony at award-winning Sister’s Rock where you can sample dolmades made from the pinot noir vines growing metres from your table. Borrodell Estate is owned and lovingly cultivated by Borry Gartrell and Gaye Stuart-Nairne; Borry is the fifth generation of the Borrodell Family to live on and around the mountain.
A few minutes’ drive from Borrodell, Rowlee Wines has its roots in the Dalmatian wine country on the Adriatic coast of Croatia – where the family tradition of grape growing and winemaking began. Today, its wine combines European heritage with new-world practices and is showcased in a contemporary cellar door. Enjoy a tasting experience and then buy a bottle of wine and gourmet picnic hamper to enjoy in the property’s grounds in the verdant foothills of Mt Canobolas. You can also opt to stay the night in Rowlee’s private, luxury guesthouse.
A 10-minute drive out of town in the fruit-growing hub of Nashdale, you’ll find Nashdale Lane: a boutique vineyard and winery with on-site glamping run by Nick and Tanya Segger. Their cellar door is based in an old apple-packing shed and, through their preservation of corrugated iron and well-worn concrete floors, the duo have let the history of the region shine through. Warmed with eclectic rugs and furnishings, it’s rustic yet strikes a contemporary tone in harmony with their vibrant collection of award-winning, single-vineyard wines. Sample the whole colour wheel from the crisp and delicate 2018 Colour Series Chardonnay to the 2019 Colour Series Tempranillo with earthy tannins and notes of black cherry and wild strawberries.
Pull up a pew at De Salis Wines for one of the best tasting experiences in the region. This family-operated winery is located at an altitude of 1050 metres on the northern slope of Mt Canobolas, on the appropriately named Lofty Vineyard. Its cellar door has stunning views over the valley and its tasting room in a galvanised tin shed is dressed to eclectic effect with stage scenery. Head to this authentic, down to earth and downright funky spot to get a unique insight into its makers wines and minimalist philosophy.
Located in a spot conducive to producing excellent chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, merlot and shiraz, Heifer Station Wines runs its cellar door out of an old woolshed. A proud family business, it plays a big role in the local community – hosting the annual drought-relief lunch Feast for Farmers and the Orange region’s first iteration of the popular winery concert series A Day on the Green. Heifer Station is set up for parents and children to have fun alike, and includes a petting zoo and farm that’s home to a small herd of alpacas, highland cattle, goats and Tilly the mini Shetland pony.
Orange is a major apple-growing area – it grows more, in fact, than Tasmania – and so it would be remiss not to sample some hand-crafted cider while you’re here. Small Acres Cyder in Nashdale produces traditional orchard-to-bottle varieties, which you can sample at its cellar door, open weekends for tasting and sales. The range includes the signature The Cat’s Pyjamas, a Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling cider and Somerset Still, ‘For the more serious cider drinkers and homesick Poms’. A fridge packed with local produce is available to avail yourself of; create your own local produce board to enjoy on site or at the nearby lake for a picnic.
Pioneers of Orange winemaking, Canobolas-Smith Wines was established by Murray Smith and his family between 1986 and 1988 with the planting of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, pinot noir and shiraz blocks. A proudly artisanal approach is applied to winemaking here: all the vines are unirrigated, hand pruned and hand-picked to produce singular cool-climate wines. With a cellar door open Saturdays or by appointment, ask to try the flagship red blend Alchemy – a combination of the very best barrels of cab sauv, cab franc and shiraz and considered by many the red wine of the Orange district.
Another Orange original, Philip Shaw Wines set the benchmark for the region’s unconventional traditions when it planted its vineyard Koomooloo, one of Australia’s highest and coolest, in 1988-89. Located just outside Orange, the property is based around an old bluestone barn with contemporary architectural additions and landscaped gardens. Today you can tour the winery and vineyard, taste at the cellar door and go a step beyond with a wine and food tasting experience. The Winemakers Pairing combines nine wines from Philip Shaw’s Number series – which represents the best wines from the vineyard and the best years – with carefully matched morsels; meanwhile the Koomooloo Taste & Plate combines four wines from the same series with a grazing plate featuring locally made cheese and accompaniments.
A six-minute drive from Philip Shaw Wines, Ross Hill Wines is Australia’s only carbon-neutral winery and vineyards (NCOS certified) – a sustainable family-run operation that’s been in business since 1994. Set off for this idyllic spot where an expanded cellar door, with its modern take on country style, offers tasting experiences matched with a local tasting plate of olives, hazelnuts, cheese and cured meats. The cellar door also now houses the Barrel & Larder School of Wine and Food – which runs cooking classes of all persuasion: book ahead to learn how to make everything from paella to Sri Lankan curry to smoked meats and Japanese cuisine.
A canopy of flowers adorn the wooden beams above the entrance to the Swinging Bridge Wines petite cellar door. The family-owned estate is the perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down at the end of the day as you enjoy a selection of Orange’s finest light- to medium-bodied wines. Passionate viticulturist and winemaker Tom Ward produces a small but exceptional range of handcrafted cool-climate wines that showcase the premium pinot noir and chardonnay grapes grown on his vineyard.
Standouts in The Winemaker Series (each named after members of Tom Ward’s family) include the 2019 William J Shiraz and the 2018 M.A.W Pinot Noir, while the 2018 #006 Tempinot from the Hashtag Series blends tempranillo and pinot noir grapes into a beautifully balanced drop that showcases the innovation behind the brand. And for a special occasion, purchase the 2017 Hill Park Chardonnay from the Single Vineyard Series.
Ferment the Orange Wine Centre is a bright and characterful wine bar in a heritage building in central Orange that acts as a great introduction to the cool-climate wines of the NSW Central Ranges and beyond. It’s also the official cellar door for 19 wines from the Orange region including Cargo Cult Wines, Cumulus Wines and Tallwood Wines. Settle in for a wine tasting or a glass or two – state-of-the-art Enomatic wine dispensers let you try before you buy – and a cheese board to match.