Swinging Bridge Wines

Last weekend was the last long weekend in Sydney for a while so, like approximately 80% of the city's population, we decided to make the most of it and escape city life for a few days. This time, the destination was Orange - a high-altitude, cool climate wine region about 3.5 hours' drive west of Sydney.

It had been on our must-visit list for a while, thanks to its award-winning wineries and cellar doors (the places you go for tastings or a good old-fashioned piss up) and gastronomic prowess, renowned for championing local produce and turning it into delicious, innovative dishes.

Wearing: Uniqlo U Trench, COS Dress, Topshop Jeans, Dr. Martens Boots

Orange is a country town and like most that we've come across in Australia, didn't amount to a great deal (sorry, Australia) but it's the town's surrounds that you go for. We stayed in an airbnb about a 15 minute drive from Orange itself (tip: if you're there on a long weekend/bank holiday, make sure you book well in advance) - a small, restored miner's hut from the 1800s, complete with corrugated iron facade.

It was a great little spot - cosy, comfortable and peaceful - and probably best of all, it was about a 5 minute drive to Millthorpe, a small village (and by small I mean it has three streets) that has some great coffee shops (Millthorpe Providore is the best), restaurants (I've heard very good things about Tonic but it's on the expensive side) and cellar doors (go to Slow Wine Co. which also serves unbelievable tapas - probably the best we've had in Aus - on Friday and Saturday nights).

View from Pioneer Lookout 

If you're not a massive drinker, there's plenty of bushwalking in the area, as well as Mount Canobolas (we did plan an early morning hike but...wine), and the landscape really is unspoilt. But let's face it, the real reason you come to Orange is for the wine. We drove around a few that took our fancy rather than doing an organised tour and honestly, they were probably some of the best wineries we've visited. They're laidback, very generous with the portions and most are good value (typically you'll spend $10 for a tasting which is redeemable on a bottle, should you want to make a purchase). Plus, a lot of them come with the option of cheese boards, olives etc. so you can have a wee snack while you're tasting.

Wearing: Uniqlo Sunglasses, & Other Stories Coat, Zara Jumper, Topshop Jeans, Alias Mae Boots (c/o Alias Mae)

We managed to get to five wineries across two days. There are loads more but they're mostly in amazing settings (looking out on rolling hills and vineyards) so we found we were stopping and staying a while rather than rushing from place to place.

Philip Shaw

Philip Shaw Wines - This is quite a famous one in the area and was busy when we were there on Saturday afternoon (note: the cellar doors typically close at 5pm, although they didn't seem to be strict on this). It's an unpretentious sort of place, with our waiter plying us with wine and giving us recommendations, while a fire roared on in the background. Make sure you try their No. 89 Shiraz, even if you're not a red drinker - it's their signature and has an amazing buttery, creamy taste (nicer than it sounds).

Swinging Bridge

Swinging Bridge Wines - We got here at about 4.40pm and although were offered a tasting, just went for a glass of their Shiraz ($7!) instead. This is a small winery but the setting is incredible. You drive down a narrow dirt road and get to a small building sitting atop a hill, the vineyard right next to it. We took a seat outside next to a few fires they had on the go (it's currently winter, so it was pretty cold) and soaked up the sunset while we finished our drinks.

De Salis Wines - This winery sits on the slopes of Mount Canobolas and, as you can imagine, the vistas are pretty impressive. This is essentially a large shed, with all the tastings taking place outside so you make the most of those views. We loved this spot - it's family-run so you got that really personal vibe and they all work there together. Charlie, the owner, served us and was really knowledgeable (without being pretentious) and is happy for you to spend as long or as little time there as you like. The wines were all great too, and it seems to be the only place that does a Pouilly Fume (we came back with a bottle).

Nashdale Lane

Nashdale Lane Wines - This is just across from De Salis and unfortunately, missed the mark for us a bit. It's a stylish place and again, views were amazing, but in comparison to De Salis it lacked that warmth and passion. The wines were nice but we weren't blown away and almost felt rushed through the tasting. It did seem more kid-friendly than the others though, if you're there with children, and if you like Riesling theirs is award-winning.

Angullong - This is tucked in a small cottage-like building in the middle of Millthorpe. The winery itself is about 40km outside of Orange so you don't get the surroundings like you do in the others but you do get some amazing wines. Their wine list is extensive and you can try them all (hic) or choose what you like the look of (you'll also be coerced into trying a few more). Unlike a lot of the wineries in Orange, they have a selection of Italian wines and was probably the best value in terms of price of the bottles (you're looking at around $20 rather than up to $90 in some of the other spots).

In short, Orange is a great getaway if you love food and wine in relaxed settings (if you've been to the Hunter Valley and didn't like how commercial it was, you'll love Orange). I'd go back in a heartbeat.