There are easily more than a few dozen vineyards in the Orange District of New South Wales. Apart from its other reputation as the food basket of the state, its viticulture traditions and output are spread out along Pinnacle Road ( mountain topography, as with Ross Hill estate); Cargo Road in Lidster; the Escort Way (also known as the Borenore Trail, with names like Philip Shaw and Barton Creek); the Canowindra Trail; and the Eastern Heritage Trail. It was along Cargo Road that I enjoyed discovering the Canobolas-Smith Cellar Door, Winery and vineyards. This is a mature establishment since 1986 and significantly dry-grown area, which specialises in the Alchemy Cabernet blend. William Rikard-Bell and Murray Smith run the operations here.
We met Murray, an easy going and down to earth fella, patient at letting us explore our palate, starting with the sublime and moving us on the path towards the Alchemy. Alchemy is a combination of the very best in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz.
French oak is utilised in the casking and Murray emphasises the artisan approach in the wine making here, preferring the practice of small batches to allow as much as possible the outcome of the house's unique and natural flavours. Interesting enough, all fruits are hand pruned and picked. The six hectares planted lie on the northern slopes of Mount Canobolas.
The Canobolas-Smith bottle label stands out bright blue, centring on a representation of the cheery sun with the crescent moon, and was designed by Orange artist Tim Winters. The ladies in my group enjoyed their adventures with the Chardonnay produced here, whilst I reserved my tastings to the heavier reds which caught my eye, though I skipped the Shiraz on its own. Commencing with the Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc, I was heightened in interest with the Pinot Noir and was sold in conviction with my tasting of the Cabernet Sauvignon. I highly recommend the Alchemy.
The neighbouring Gordon Hills Estate in comparison is relatively new, established in 1999 and run initially as Burke and Hills until 2008. The distinctive feature of the Gordon Hills is the elevation of the grown vines at around 900 metres above sea level and thus it benefits from such a cool climate in its output.