I’ve just returned from a truly memorable weekend in Orange. Organised by the Wine & Food Society of NSW, the trip was months in the planning. Fortunately the Society’s Cellar Master is a good friend of Peter Bourne (The Wine Man), who now calls Orange home. Peter generously shared his insights into the best restaurants and wines and organised for us to meet a number of stellar winemakers.

Friday night’s dinner was at Shaun and Willa Arantz’s Racine Restaurant in the beautiful La Colline vineyard. This SMH Good Food Guide one chef hatted restaurant is well loved by Orange locals for its innovative food with a focus on locally sourced produce.

After enjoying La Colline’s NV Sparkling of Orange on the terrace we sat down to an entree of poached fresh water trout with apple jelly, boudin noir crumbs and yoghurt. The entree was matched with a fine selection of wines by Belgravia Wines: Gewürztraminer 2009, Apex Orange Chardonnay 2009, Sangiovese 2009 and Shiraz 2009. Proof, in any was needed, that Orange is about so much more than sauvignon blanc!

The Gewürztraminer was the hit at our table. Deliciously aromatic, it had wonderful flavours of lychee, spice and ginger.

The Belgravia range is made by Phil Kerney, who also serves as winemaker for Ross Hill. Kerney takes a minimalist approach to winemaking in order to bring to the fore the clean fruit flavours and minerality endowed to the wines by Orange’s cool climate and high altitude vineyards on ancient volcanic soils. The elegant and balanced Apex Orange Chardonnay, for example, is whole bunch pressed and wild yeast fermented in new French oak. Incidentally, James Halliday rated the 2010 vintage 96 points, one of the highest ratings he has given to date for a chardonnay from Orange.

A main of whole deboned pressed duck with radish, ginger bread crumbs and beetroot puree was superbly matched with the following wines: the 2010 Swinging Bridge Cabernet, the 2005 Swinging Bridge Shiraz, the Printhie Swift Family Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and the Printhie MCC Cabernet Shiraz 2009.

Swinging Bridge is located about 45 minutes south west of Orange near Canowindra in the Central Ranges. Established in 1995 by the Ward and Payten families, the winery has worked closely with the Yalumba Nursery to secure the best clones for the site. The results can be seen in its award-winning medium-bodied 2005 Swinging Bridge Shiraz, which had delicious dark stone fruit aromas, nice savoury overtones, silky tannins and good length.

I have always been a big fan of Printhie’s sauvignon blanc, but the reds on show certainly didn’t disappoint. The limited production (only 150 cases were produced) Printhie Swift Family Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is the flagship wine of the estate. Made by Drew Tuckwell from selected parcels from the oldest estate vineyard blocks, the wine spends 22 months on oak and an additional 24 months in bottle prior to release. This wine was delicious, with complex earthy and tobacco aromas overlaying a bouquet of concentrated ripe fruit. In the mouth the layers of dark fruit flavours were balanced by fine grained tannins, creating a superbly elegant wine.

Dessert was also very special. The poached pear with candied walnuts, goats curd sorbet and light balsamic coulis was matched with the Orange Mountain Winery’s Mountain Ice Vioginier 2010. Terry and Julie Dolle of Orange Mountain Winery have made viognier their specialty since starting the winery in 1997. The pale coloured but luscious Mountain Ice Viognier is created through the use an advanced freezing technology that concentrates the flavours.

Merrill Witt, Editor