Reclining beneath the whispering fronds of a weeping willow amongst the lines of pinot and shiraz vines in the beautiful elevated wine region of Orange, NSW. That’s how to picnic.
I have to be honest, I haven’t tried that hard to keep my fervent dislike of picnics a secret. I’ve never really liked them – and it turns out neither does my dad.
In fact, we wrote a He Said She Said ages ago on mine and Christina’s opposing views of picnics.
I don’t mean to come across as a killjoy or a complainer. I love a barbecue or tailgate – even a picnic at a picnic table. But the idea of hunkering down on the ground to pick at morsels by your feet like some sort of hunter-gatherer doesn’t appeal.
And when you see what owners Michelle and Phillip Stivens at Heifer Station Winery in Orange, NSW have created, you realise how badly you’ve been doing picnics all this time.
Christina and I were lucky enough to be in Orange for the annual Wine Festival that happens here, and as a part of the festival, we were invited to try Heifer Station’s amazing and incredibly romantic picnic experience.
The cellar door
A little out of town on the Escort Way, Heifer Station has something of a phoenix-from-the-ashes tale. Left out to pasture, the land was revitalised by the Stivens when they bought it in 2009.
They brought the vines back to life and renovated the old historic wool shed to the point where this winery is a must-visit for wine fans coming to Orange.
On sunny days, the yard with its hilarious entourage of chickens is the perfect spot for a tasting and lunch. And the beautiful Highland cows around the corner always want a bit more of your attention.
To the picnic
But it’s the picnic you’re here for.
It’s a short drive from the cellar door in the winery’s buggy through the land between the vines to the picnic spot. As you go, look out for the hares that inhabit the area – looking like giant clumsy rabbits as they clamber amongst the vines.
Greeting us from the shade of the estate’s graceful willow on the banks of the winery dam, the elegant feast set on the white table cloth beckoned.
Set out in delicious array, the picnic of artisanal cheeses, dips, fruit, nuts and crusty bread tempted us. And to refresh us was the bottle of Heifer Station Bull Paddock Chardonnay we chose at the cellar door.
We dined in secluded bliss with only the birds in the trees to see us. And when we’d eaten our fill, we took our glasses of wine to the thick rug on the grass.
I surprised myself by finding a comfortable spot on the ground, but I didn’t have to. The deep wicker chairs next to the rug – or even the piles of heavy floor cushions – offered plenty of comfort.
We dozed for a while, enjoying the sounds of nature and the views out over the tree-lined vineyards.
Back to reality
When we’d eaten everything, finished the bottle and said hello to the friendly farm geese, a quick phone call back to the cellar door heralded our ride back to reality.
As we went, we spotted kangaroos amidst the vines, relaxing in the shade just like we had been moments before.
It’s so much harder than you expect to get back up to speed when you’ve eaten and relaxed this much.
Picnics are available in 2 spots – The Willows or the Bull Paddock, though they can set something up almost anywhere on their 130 acres. Picnics don’t run during winter though, April-Sept.
Our picnic in the Willows is $200 per couple and includes setup, transfers from and back to the cellar door, food, non-alcoholic drinks, and a bottle of wine of your choice.
As for me, it means no more trying to find that comfy spot on a resolutely lumpy terrain. No more trying to grab food from the floor before your head fills up with blood. No more pins and needles in my feet and bum.
About as far as you can get from that conventional picnicking nightmare, this is the way I expect dine al fresco from now on.