Day 197: 13 December – Orange redeems itself

Author: Mrs A

Location: Orange, NSW

Another warm day dawned and the promise of vineyards was on our horizon. First we completed some tasks – popping to BCF (Boating, Camping, Fishing) to pick up some new gas bottles. We checked out which vineyards were open on a Wednesday morning – the answer was not many.

Ross Hill Vineyard is not too far out of Orange, and a quick bit of research revealed they are a relatively small boutique vineyard with a great reputation. Wine critic James Halliday has rated them five stars, meaning he considers them an outstanding winery, producing consistently good wine with at least two bottles rated at 92 out of 100 or above. We headed on over.

The cellar door has recently been renovated, and is modern, bright and airy. We were the only visitors and so got a personal tasting. There are some delicious wines there – Mr A was particularly keen on the Pinnacle Chardonnay, and we both loved the cool climate Shiraz. Their light yet spicy Tempranillo was delicious – and would cope with being lightly cooled – perfect for a hot summer’s afternoon.

All that personal service paid off, and we ended up joining the wine club and wheeling off two dozen wines to magically conceal in our caravanAll this wine tasting had worked up an appetite and a very timely text from friend Karen gave us a list of recommendations. We decided to call into Agrestic Grocer. It turned out to be right next door to the Badlands Brewery, the beer Mr A had enjoyed at The Oxley Wine Bar in Cowra, and they offered a tasting paddle from the bar.

The favourite for both of us was the Pale Ale – not too filling, with the right balance of malty-hoppiness. We enjoyed lunch, though the salad could have done with some vinaigrette – they removed the pesto dressing for me but replaced it with nothing. After lunch we picked up some vegetables for tonight (Woolworths ‘the fresh food people’ this time) – again disappointed by the poor quality of fresh produce available – bendy carrots, soft runner beans, under ripe strawberries and nectarines – not what we expected at all.

One of the bottles of Ross Hill Tempranillo was opened with dinner – beef burritos with stir fried vegetables, after which we joined some campground neighbours for drinks and a chat. Gemma and Sweeney are opal miners from Lightning Ridge who met while holidaying in the Philippines. Gemma is from Cambridge in the UK while Sweeney is western Sydney born and bred. What a different life they live, trying to make their fortune hunting for gems underground – Gemma showed us a couple of opals she had been learning to carve – beautiful strikes of colour, and for small stones, quite valuable. As always, it was so interesting learning about another way of life and a lovely evening had.

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