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Who Should We Visit In New Zealand?

I've gotten great advice from readers before, and it seems that people have a lot of fun offering up suggestions, so here goes: which wineries should we visit in New Zealand? Ruth and I are headed down there for a couple of weeks at the end of December for a little vacation. We'll spend some time hiking and fly-fishing our way around both the North Island and the South Island, but we will reserve several days for winery visits.

So who should we go see? Remember it's me you're talking to here. I'm not so excited about visiting the Mondavis of New Zealand unless they have a winery building that is so spectacular that even if I were a teetotaler I would want to go just for the view. I'm talking about the small producers, the up-and-coming winemakers, the old school family estates that have been making 2000 cases for the last 30 years, that sort of thing. Heck, if there's someplace you've been dying to find out about and you want me to go there and blog about it, let me know that too.

I'm particularly interested in Central Otago and the Hawkes Bay's Gimblett Gravels district, but I'll take recommendations for anywhere. And of course, if you've got restaurant recommendations, or anything else that we should know before heading down there, we're all ears!

Comments (22)

Billy wrote:
11.17.06 at 12:27 AM

First of all, I'm jealous. I've been twice (only to the South Island, though) and I'm still staring daggers at my monitor right now. Due to my limited NZ exposure, I'm not much help on anything outside of Christchurch (the Waipara Valley area), but I've got some wineries and loads of restaurants I'd love to go back to.
Just off the top of my head -
Wineries: Pegasus Bay and Mount Cass
Food: Sticky Fingers(Casual) and Porto Fino (Nicer, but not too dressy)
Bars: Mickey Finn's and Bailie's (Both are pubs; Finn's has a great bar band)
The wineries are both in the Waipara Valley; the restaurants and bars are all in downtown Christchurch.
Also, you MUST find the Bannock Brae Pinot Noir while you're there. There's a great wine shop in CC called Vino Fino which has a great selection from all around the country and some good Aussie stuff as well.
Please e-mail me if you're going to be spending any time in the Chirstchurch area, and I'll send you some more information.
Two warnings: 1) you'll never eat lamb again once you leave (even the stuff that's $22/lb. out of Sonoma isn't as good) and 2) NZ is an intoxicating place; I didn't want to leave and you probably won't either.
Hope that helps some. Have a great trip!

Jack wrote:
11.17.06 at 8:29 AM

The three wineries I would visit would be Dry River, Bell Hill and Felton Road.

Brian 750ml wrote:
11.17.06 at 9:38 AM

I have been down numerous times and my favorite wine region is Martinborough outside of Wellington. It is a small Victorian era farm community.

Dry River is a must...even though an American bought it recently

Murdoch James...doing fab Pinots

Escarpment...Larry McKenna's new winery. He was Martinborough
Vineyards winemaker previously and put their Pinots on the map

Atarangi for Pinots...see Phyl...short for Phyllis...owner

Alana Estates...great P Gris, Riesling, Chard

Stay at the Petit Hotel in town, dine at Est across the street, dine at Wharekaha down on the sound half-hour South of there, and climb to top of lighthouse with great bottle of wine/food at Palliser Point...amazing views and only half-hour South of town!
The winebar and cafe in Martinborough has all small boutique producers avaialble to try and just across from Petit Hotel and down the street a few doors.

Enjoy! NZ is the most beautiful country...and they finally have a great dining scene to go with the wines. Go to the SHED in Wellington too and ARBITRAGE.


Tom wrote:
11.17.06 at 9:38 AM

Our favorites in NZ (Marlborough) were:
Lawson's Dry Hills
Villa Maria / Northrow
Clos Henri
MudHouse (particularly the great restaurant)

In Martinborough:
Te Kairanga

We didn't make it to Central Otago.

I would also strongly suggestly trying the local beer, as it is truly some of the best in the world. Our favorite local brands were Mac's and Monteith's, each of whom does a large range of beer varietals.

Finally, the lamb and the shellfish are ridiculously good. Prepare to be impressed. Hope this helps.

Me at Clos Henri:

Geoff Smith wrote:
11.17.06 at 11:41 AM


If you want to encounter a great guy who is a viticultural expert, and some super Chardonnay and Pinot noir, go visit:

Danny Schuster

Daniel Schuster Wines Ltd.
Omihi Hills Vineyard/Petrie Vineyard
Reeces Road, 3 RD
Amberley, New Zealand

Tim S wrote:
11.17.06 at 2:45 PM

Alder--About 20 years ago before I became a wine head I did a surf trip to New Zealand by myself and loved it; wonderful food, people and visuals, good surf too. I'm fairly familiar with the North Island and have tried a number of lesser known NZ wines--not the usual Cloudy Bay SB. One of the most beautiful spots on the North Island is Hawkes Bay and the art deco town of Napier. Craggy Range is one of my favorite wineries and it is within shouting distance of Napier. CR makes a very beautiful and potent syrah called Le Sol from the Gimblett Gravel vineyards. The winery also has a delicious Chard and various red blends that are very good. As soon as I convince my wife and twins that we really need to visit NZ as our next destination trip, this will be where we go.

Have a blast! Tim

Jay wrote:
11.17.06 at 5:54 PM

Visit C. P. Lin, the blind winemaker at Mountford Vineyard. Just saw him on winelibrary tv. Very interesting fellow.

I've been to NZ a couple of times but before I was really into wine. Drive down the East Coast north of Kaikoura on the South Island. Stunning scenery. I tear up thinking about it.

Hey, Tim S ... mangamaunu!!!

Anyway, that's what I would do.

Eric Stumpf wrote:
11.18.06 at 2:13 AM


We spent last January in Australia and New Zealand. Don't forget about Tasmania if you have the opportunity. Great fly fishing. Emerging wine regions with great diversity. Contact Jon Dakin in Launceston at www.benchmarkwinegallery.com (retail/tasting bar).

Our NZ highlights -

South Island - Central Otago - In addition to the world class pinot noir, there is growing excitement for surprisingly high quality riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

Just outside of Queenstown - Amisfield Vineyard - http://www.amisfield.co.nz -
Just recently voted "Best Winery Restaurant of the Year" in NZ.

Central Otago - Bannockburn region (historic gold mining area) - check out:

Akarua - (contact CEO Warren Jackson) http://www.akarua.com

Felton Road - (contact winemaker Blair Walter) http://www.feltonroad.com

Carrick - (contact winemaker Steve Davies) http://www.carrick.co.nz
Great restaurant for lunch!

North Island - Must do if you have an extra day or two. Ferrys leave/return from Auckland about every half hour.

Waiheke Island - 20 miles off the coast from Auckland. Of the 30 plus small vineyards planted since 1978, there is potential to produce high quality Bordeaux blends. Americans are unaware of these wines because everything is small production and the best are never exported.

Contact Gretchen Goldwater for traditional Friday "Long Lunch" at Goldwater Winery (Last Friday of the month.) Need to reserve in advance! http://www.goldwaterwine.com

Stoneyridge Winery (owner Stephen White) http://www.stonyridge.com

Te Whau Winery - The "Harlan" of NZ! Contact owner Tony Forsyth. Lunch is a must! One of the very best "casual" restaurants in NZ. Incredible views looking back across the sound to Auckland. http://tewhau.co.nz/winemaking.asp

Check out http://www.waihekeunlimited.co.nz

Oh - We are off to Argentina and Chile this January. I have enjoyed your posts regarding the dining scene in BA and your winery visits in Mendoza. Thank you!!

Terry Hughes wrote:
11.18.06 at 8:23 AM

Lucky man, Alder.

If I were you, or if I were going, I'd head to Berridge Vineyards in Central Otago. They are a very small producer and their pinot noir is available only in a couple of veddy select restaurants here in the States, like Per Se and (I think) Chanterelle. Lovely stuff form an exciting region.


Alder wrote:
11.18.06 at 10:40 AM

Everyone: these are great recommendations. Thanks so much. Keep them coming.

LarryS wrote:
11.18.06 at 1:57 PM

Check out the not-yet completed travelogue on oenoLogic (another wine/travel blog). This is their '05 NZ trip. If you do a Google search, there's an earlier travelogue from '03. This should provide more info than you'll need.


claire wrote:
11.18.06 at 8:29 PM

I may be a bit biased but i live and own a business focusing on the Hawke's Bay experience so know a bit about the area. If you are interested in the gimblett gravels, owner/operator wineries I would suggest Unison as a starting point. It is tiny but they produce some good drops. I would also suggest going on a personalised wine tour perhaps meeting a wine maker or two to get the real feel of the area. Though not far from Napier i also recommend that you stay at least a night in the gimblett gravel area if you can, adds to the whole wine expereince.

Bradley wrote:
11.18.06 at 9:16 PM

Akarua - Otago
Dry River, the grail.
Esk Valley - The Terraces
Vidal Estate - anything Rod touches.
Matariki -passion, Gimblett, rugger

Jules wrote:
11.18.06 at 11:49 PM

Working from south to north...
In Central Otago, Felton Road is marvelous but by late December (because of the relatively small production) they are often out of thier wines. They make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling - all magnificently. Mount Difficulty is also very, very good.

In Waipara (Canterbury) Pegasus Bay should be your first stop.

In Marlbrough go directly to Herzog (the best winery resteraunt in NZ), Cloudy Bay and Fromm La Strada.

In Nelson try Neudorf.

In Martinbrough Ata Rangi and Escarpment are good and if you want to visit Dry River it would pay to ring/email before hand because they do not usually accept visitors or have a cellar door.

In Hawkes Bay Craggy Range, Te Awa and Black Barn have very good resteraunts (and great wine) and you must stop at Te Mata (buy some Coleraine - its a Kiwi classic).

If you can get to Gisbourne Milton Vinyards are a great Bio-Dynamic producer and in Auckland visit Kumeu River and Waiheke Island for Stonyridge (among others).

And if you pass through Wellington make sure to say hello!

Toby Gillman wrote:
11.19.06 at 2:24 PM

Hi Alder - well, I'm happy to extend an invitation to my vineyard, in Matakana, an hour's drive north of Auckland. If you want to visit something on the other extreme from Mondavi we would be it - our vineyard would almost fit comfortably in your pocket, think Le Pin-sized.

I can also offer you some Providence that HASN'T been spoiled in storage, unlike your experience with the 1995 (I accrued most of my winemaking experience there before starting our own place a couple of miles away).

If you want any more detail on what we're doing email me on [email protected]

Alder wrote:
11.19.06 at 8:28 PM

More info about our itinerary as it shapes up:

Looks like we'll only be getting to Otago, Wiararapa, and Hawkes bay on this trip.

Chris Carlson wrote:
11.20.06 at 1:08 PM

Central Otago: definitely Carrick, and across the road is Akarua. Both wineries have nice restaurants. Akarua's winemaker, Jacqueline Kemp, is a rockstar and a sweetheart. Surveyor Thompson is making beautiful wines there too. I also like Mt. Diff.

Lucy Ross wrote:
11.20.06 at 1:57 PM


I am From New Zealand, And We Have Some Great Wineries Here, I Have Recently Checked Out Some of the Wineries in Malbourough Region... And it is definatly worth doing a day... or two seeing all the wineries (with a Sober Driver Of Course) I thouroughly Enjoyed the Malbourough wine tour which takes you round the facilities, and also everything from cloudy bay, to allan scott, and there were so many... and so many testings I could not name them all!

I brought a few great bottles as well when doing the new zeland wineries.

And In Christchurch Pegasus Bay is Definatly worth a look, beautiful grounds, nice restaurant, friendly people and superb wine!

Tim S wrote:
11.21.06 at 10:13 AM

Heh, Jay, one of these days I'd like to spend the better part of a trip surfing there. Cheers, Tim

Tyler T wrote:
11.21.06 at 8:44 PM

Alder -

I worked in the Hawke's Bay region in 2005. Definately go to Craggy Range, one of the most beautiful tasting rooms I've been to, and solid wines. I cannot remember the name of their restaraunt but probably some of the best fare for NZ. (A hike/drive to the top of Te Mata peak is well worth it by the way). I also concur with Vidal, Dry River, and Akarua.

In my humble opinion, anyone who is making Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels may be worth a visit - I worked with some killer Syrah fruit for Sacred Hill. Also, I had some great wines from Esk Valley (just north of Napier).

For a locals experience check out Rooster's Brew Pub north of Hastings (very small, not much to eat but good beer to go if you like). The Sacred Hill (where I worked) production facility is adjacent to this pub and after our shift we often bought several self-serve 2-liter bottles of their beer (might be worth if it if you need a break from wine). Finally, check out Hawthorne Coffee Roasters in Havelock North for a great esspresso or Cap, these people are very friendly and passionate about coffee. Enjoy mate!!!

cane wrote:
11.25.06 at 11:56 AM

check out olssens on felton road. making awesome pinot and rieslings. Also have a winemeker who is mad on fly fishing. would also highly recommend bannock brae estate pinot also from cental otago.

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