Published in the City Hub, Bondi View and City News.
With the fast pace of work, sometimes it’s not possible to get away for a decent holiday. Lately I’ve had to suffice with a weekend in wine country. Luckily NSW has a whole lot to offer in this regard…
It took about three and a half hours to get to Orange, taking a meandering route along the Bell’s Line Of Road. Arriving in town, my first port of call was A Slice of Orange, a nice looking gourmet food store offering a wide selection of the region’s products. You can also pick up a bargain on the outskirts of town at Totally Local, where the locals shop. They stock some great Trunkey Pork products (the bacon is amazing), and push the 100-mile diet.
Hankering for a spot of lunch, I then headed straight for Union Bank Wine Bar, who dished up the best meal I had in the region. My duck and mushroom cannelloni with béchamel sauce, and tasty pulled pork roll with coleslaw and apple cider BBQ sauce, were accompanied by a great selection of local wines by the glass and bottle. Savvy locals advise that you avoid their bottle shop mark-ups in favour of the cheaper Kelly’s Hotel a few blocks away.
Of course, you are in wine country for a reason, so do take the time to visit a few vineyards and buy direct! My pick of the bunch is De Salis Wines for their 2010 De Salis Wild Chardonnay - the best Australian chardonnay I’ve tasted all year. It’s allowed to ferment using indigenous micro-flora, and then transferred into French barriques, resulting in a seamless wine with hazelnut and lime notes.
I also stopped at Bloodwood Wines who are not generally open for tastings. Despite this Rhonda Doyle kindly made time to see me (and a table full of blow-ins) in her lounge room overlooking the Riesling block. I was lured there by a lovely 2008 Bloodwood Shiraz, only to find it was sold out; so ended up leaving with their late harvest Riesling – the 2011 Silk Purse. It’s had very little botrytis, and thus keeps a refreshing acidity with grapefruit and honey as the dominant notes.
While I was in wine country, I stayed in a nicely appointed two-storey loft at the Millthorpe Motel, which is perfectly placed for a boozy night of regional wines and cuisine at Millthorpe’s once-hatted Tonic Restaurant. Even better than their dinner, is their recovery brunch of fluffy corn cakes and coffee, perfect to fuel your drive home.
Upcoming Wine Country Events:
Port Macquarie’s regional food and wine celebration, Tastings on Hastings, celebrates ten years on the 6-27th October. Make sure you’re there on Sunday 14th October for their food and wine fair featuring more than 100 regional chefs, farmers and producers.
Mudgee’s Wine and Food Festival kicks off from the 7th-24th September. They’ve loaded up three sensory weekends of events with highlights like Go Tasting (Sat. 8th Sept.) featuring 300 Mudgee wines all in one place; and Flavours of Mudgee (Sat. 22nd Sept.) a street festival with a night market of Mudgee chefs.
The Southern Highlands is certainly coming onto my radar as a wine and produce region worth visiting. Not only is it the home of that intriguing Li-Sun Mushroom Tunnel, they’ve also thrown some great looking Gourmet Food Trail Packages into the mix, which include accommodation at Peppers Manor House or Peppers Craigieburn. The inaugural Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival is also coming up on the 15-16th September.
Okay, this wine region isn’t located in our fair state, but I’m hoping this upcoming book, Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley & The Dandenongs [RRP $34.99], will inspire you to visit wine country soon! It’s chock full of the sorts of adventures you will find on your weekend in wine country, including stories from vineyards, and regional chefs cooking up a storm with local produce.