It's 1983 and there's not a great deal of winemaking happening in Orange. Stephen and Rhonda Doyle are kicking some dirt out along Griffin Road, with a dream of making cool climate wine. Crazy thoughts! In between deciphering the Dewey Decimal Classification, Stephen planted row upon row of Pinot Noir, Malbec Noir, Cabernet, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Riesling. Varieties suited to the cold climes of the 900 meter elevation that would become Bloodwood.
Nearly forty years later, and there is a quilt of vineyards laid out across the region.
The winegrowers of Orange have done an amazing job in a short period of time. The Barossa, by comparison, has a 140 year head start.
If you're seeking out a few of the best Orange winemakers here's a start...
The Angullong property is entrenched in the history of the region. Dating back over 100 years years, Angullong was once a huge sheep property, shearing over 30,000 sheep in the 1920s. The current custodian of Angullong is the Crossing Family who planted a rainbow of varieties over 20 years ago. Whilst the Angullong Sauvignon Blanc is a mainstay, the best of the brand is the Angullong Crossing Reserve Harriet. This reserve wine is a blend of their best Italian varieties and really sums up the family with its generosity, poise and attention to detail.
I first meet Gerald Naef at the Orange wine show when his 2003, unnamed Chardonnay swept all aside, winning the trophy for best Chardonnay. Never one to rush into anything, the thoughtful Gerald subsequently named his winery Patina; the signature of time and environment.
Patina Chardonnay is certainly one of the region's best with proven longevity and quality. Gerald's wines are often released with some bottle age. He likes to release the wines when he likes to drink them. This is rare indeed, and often you are able to purchase one of his wines with 10 or more years' bottle age. Perfect!
Philip Shaw really needs no introduction. Twice awarded International Winemaker of the Year, Orange is lucky to have someone of Philip's experience calling Orange home. Philip's new(ish) HOOSEGG wines stem from the mature Koomooloo vineyard that he planted over 30 years ago. The tasting at the Cellar Door is a special experience as he generously pours his beautiful wines. Elegance, flavour, structure and texture are the hallmarks that he has captured from the region. These wines are future Australian icons.
Hard working Tom Ward has come a long way in a short period of time. Initially establishing his family vineyard in Canowindra, the vineyard and winery was move to Orange a number of years ago. Over the past couple of years Tom has set up his Hill Park Cellar Door which sits proudly in front of the imposing Mount Canobolas. Tom is focused on making the region's best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and if the current wines are any indication, he is well on his way.
The Swinging Bridge Reserve wines need noting, however for pure value for money, The Swinging Bridge Mrs Payten Chardonnay and MAW Pinot Noir are exceptional. They are perfect Orange wines, with style, flavour and structure.
SLOW WINE CO.
A bit of a dark horse here with Slow Wine Co. However, the wines are made from the Bantry Grove vineyard, which has a history of making great wines. The newly released Slow Wine Co. Tribus is a white field blend that takes Pinot Gris and gives it more life with Gewurztraminer and Riesling. The zesty natural Orange fruit purity and acid are the ticket here, and the value is bang on. Try this one, along with their Pinot Grigio at $25.
Nadja Wallington and Steve Mobbs are ChaLou. This is the exciting aspect of the future of Orange winemaking. They have set up their winery with the purchase of the old Sassy vineyard and, in one vintage, made their mark. The wines include the ChaLou Estate range of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, complemented by their Dreaded Friend wines, made from non-estate grapes. Small volumes initially, but there is a sense of excitement with these young winemakers setting up their future in Orange.
You can't really say you've experience Orange without enjoying Bloodwood. If you visited the Cellar Door during the recent Easter holiday, I hope you took Stephen an Easter egg - condition of entry! The wines are proven, with more Orange vintages under his belt than any other. My pick is the Bloodwood Riesling, Chardonnay, and when available, the Bloodwood Big Men in Tights Rosé and Malbec.
Photo: Angullong Vineyard