We all love a dreamy weekend escape—and NSW has no shortage of stunning road trips, picturesque country regions, rainforests and retreats to pack out any mini-break you’re scheming.
If you want to up the ante on all of that countryside bliss, why not throw in a full-blown wine festival, set in and around the rolling vineyards of one of the State’s most exciting, most charming wine regions?
Enter the Orange Wine Festival.
While we’re all for a natural vino, and there’ll likely be a few natural drops on offer at this festival, this time we’re actually talking about the town just beyond Bathurst: Orange. The cruisy three-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney will send you up over the Blue Mountains and out into wide open plains dotted with cattle, before you’re swept up again towards Mount Canobolas—an ancient volcano that watches over Orange from about 1,395 metres above sea level (and no doubt, has created some lush soil for grapevines to thrive in).
As for the region’s impressive wine festival, it’s a charged up 10-day affair that showcases just how epic Orange’s cool climate wine truly is with tastings, feasts, classes and markets.
Naturally, you’ll need to cellar door hop to soak it all up. Participating vineyards have been neatly divided into six trails: The Borenore Trail, Cargo Road Trail, The Mountain Run, Eastern Heritage Trail and Orange Town Trail. Whichever hitlist you choose (though if you have the time, why not cover off all six), make sure you drop into Nashdale Lane Wines. The vineyard has built a stunning, breezy cellar door with a wood fire and enormous windows that pour out over the surrounding green hills. Their tasting program features cheese and charcuterie bites that have been perfectly matched to each Nashdale wine. Our top pick has to be the 2019 Colour Series Riesling.
And, if you're after a place to stay—Nashdale Lane Wines offer on-site luxury glamping cabins so you can snooze and stargaze alongside the vines.
Not too far from Nashdale is Cargo Road Wines. It’s one of the oldest vineyards in the region, set on the slopes of Canobolas with (yet another) jaw-dropping view. Winemaker James Sweetapple takes a holistic, sustainable approach to grape-growing and his dedication to the soil, the grapes and the natural way of the land results in some damn fine wine. His Zinfandel might be one of the tastiest reds we’ve ever had, just quietly.
Lastly, Heifer Station has all the bells and whistles: a stunning cellar door and courtyard drenched in sun, a petting zoo complete with an extra happy white alpaca called Snowy, and a super tasty chardonnay that should absolutely be on your booze bucket list.
To sample a whole lot of Orange wine in the one spot, hit the festival's sprawling night market (with over 50 stalls to try) or the Orange Wine Show Tasting, where you'll sip winning wines and graze from platters of local produce.
When you’ve worked up a solid appetite (or need something substantial in your stomach), Orange Wine Fest features a tonne of feasting activities to sort you out. For the vegans among us, Sydney's own champions of the plant-based life Paperbark will be dishing out a six-course verdure luncheon among the vines at De Salis Wines. Eugenio Maiale from A Tavola will pop up in the kitchen at Philip Shaw Wines for a one-night-only dinner with matching wines, and a four-course lunch with RIKKARD winemaker Will Rikard-Bell (Top 50 Young Gun of Wine 2019) is set to be pretty unmissable.
Known for their extra-special sparkling wine, Printhie Wines will be hosting a sparkling and oyster picnic in a heritage-listed orchard just outside of Orange. You'll sip sparkling among the trees and sample freshly shucked Signature Oysters. This special spot will also be home to Printhie's pop-up cellar door for the duration of the festival.
The festival also boasts a heap of masterclasses to skill-up on all things wine. Reckon you know the difference between sparkling wine and "proper" champagne? Colmar Estate's sit-down sparkling tasting will cover the basics on white and pink bubbles, and suss out how they measure up compared to their French cousins. Also on the bubble front, a hands-on class on the ins and outs of sparkling cider at Small Acres Cider will cover where bubbles come from, and why the best French ciders smell like Camembert.
Swinging Bridge makes a very delicious unfiltered orange wine (the #003 Amber). At this masterclass, you'll scope out the vineyard with winemaker Tom Ward, before skilling up on the (very important) art of matching wine to food.
The full program for the Orange Wine Festival is available right here.
Staying in Sydney? Here are all the best things to do in Sydney this weekend.
Image credit: Nashdale Lane Wines