Sydney is pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to weekend escapes. We’ve got countless coastal towns, scenic mountains, an impressive sprawl of lakes and– my favourite – some wonderfully verdant vineyards. Eschewing the usual winter Hunter Valley venture, this weekend we decide to journey further west to Orange. Not only is the region known as a food and wine heartland, at 3.5 hours from Sydney, it’s a slightly longer drive. And, this time, for once we want to clock as many kilometres as possible. We are lucky enough to be borrowing a Maserati Ghibli for the weekend, and we can’t wait to get her out onto the open road.
We pick up a very excited Max from school (this Mas is much more impressive than his remove-control one) and hit the road, carving through the Friday afternoon traffic with ease. Although it’s a luxury four-door sedan, it has the performance and handling of a sports car – which will keep my car-mad husband Damien very happy while still fitting two childseats and all our luggage in the boot. Once we get on the road, Damo doesn’t hesitate to switch into Sports Mode to make it feel even more like a racing car (as if the low seats and sleek interior aren’t enough).
It’s the fastest trip to Orange we’ve ever done (not sure if it that was sports mode or the Italian leather lounge-like seats) and we arrive at our Airbnb The White Place in time for dinner. This beautifully-curated three bedroom cottage is in the centre of Orange and is owned and furnished by fabulous homewares store The White Place. In fact – everything in the house is available to purchase. I’m pretty tempted by the lush Belgian linens, artwork and ornaments throughout. We head to The Greenhouse of Orange for dinner to meet family. It’s a great spot for kids with a big play area next to the restaurant. There’s even a rooftop garden where they harvest many of the veg they use in their meals.
It’s a rainy Saturday morning so we head into town to see the Archibald exhibition at The Orange Regional Art Gallery then grab lunch at the adjacent Groundstone Café. Then, to pacify the kids, we head to Orange Tenpin Bowl – which actually turns out to be a lot of fun. I love the retro style of the place – and my sister-in-law Tanya confirms that it probably hasn’t changed since it opened in the seventies!
The weather clears and we decide to squeeze some wine-tasting in – with a trip out to Nashdale Lane Wines. We work our way through an impressive wine list (sadly their award-winning Rosé is sold out) and finally decide on a case of tasty Shiraz. The cellar door has a fireplace and next door they have two very chic tents available for glamping – they were booked out this weekend but we’ve added it to the wishlist. Next up is Philip Shaw where we fall in love with No 17 Cab Franc Merlot.
We come to Orange at least once a year to visit the family, so we’ve been to a few vineyards. Patina is another must-try (in particular their Scandalous Riesling) but our favourite experience thus far was the Truffle Hunt and Dinner at Borrodell Vineyard which happens annually in June. The dress code is black tie with gumboots – and getting outfitted becomes a semi-competitive sport in Orange, with all manner of bejeweled and bedazzled boots on show among guests. The dinner starts with a truffle hunt with the dogs in a woods near the vineyard – when we went we unearthed some pretty impressive nuggets. Then, after some mulled wine on the lawn (with panoramic views over the valley) we sat down to a five-course meal – each dish featuring some delectable form of black truffles and matching Borrodell Wines.
Given that Orange is known as “Australia’s Food Basket” there are – of course – other fantastic restaurants: the hatted Lolli Redini is wonderful as is popular newcomer Charred. Damien loves going to Badlands Brewery and I’m a fan of Korean Mr Lim for something more casual. The next morning we head to Byng Street café for breakfast (Allpress coffee and excellent egg and bacon rolls all round) before piling back in the car for our swift trip back to Sydney. The disappointment of leaving Orange is for once tempered by the knowledge that this trip will be fast and fabulissimo.
Story by Sigourney Cantelo. Photography by Damien Cantelo.