New Zealand Wine Trail

Hands down, some of the most enjoyable days we spent in New Zealand included visiting wineries in different regions on the North and South Islands. We sought out many smaller, family run, and often organic vineyards to visit in the various wine regions. The wines and the people running the wineries were amazing and created a wonderful tasting experience.

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Although T and I definitely love and appreciate wine, we are by no means gurus. We simply like to try different wines and enjoy a good quality bottle without spending a small fortune. Without further adieu, I want to share the wineries we enjoyed visiting and would recommend to anyone traveling to these regions of New Zealand.

The first wine region we visited was Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. The closest major city to Hawke’s Bay is Napier, which you can read more about here!

Hawke’s Bay’s most famous area is called Gimblett Gravels, and is home to some fantastic wines. We had a few recommendations, but chose to visit Alpha Domus, a family owned winery that we really enjoyed.

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We were particularly fond of a white blend called The Aviatrix. It is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Semillon. There reds were great too, but being that New Zealand is known for their whites, and we usually tend to buy reds, we opted to buy a bottle of the Aviatrix. We recently enjoyed this bottle with T’s birthday dinner. It ended up tasting just as great as we remembered and the friends whom we shared it with enjoyed it as much as we did.

Gimblett Gravels has a number of other great wineries such as Sileni and Crossroads that could be worth a visit, but we did not have enough time to taste at those wineries ourselves. Gimblett Gravels is certainly worth a visit for anyone that likes wine!

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We also visited a winery called Elephant Hill, which is in a beautiful location on the coast in Hawke’s Bay. For us, the wines were okay, but not worth a purchase. We enjoyed our time there, but realized we prefer a more cozy, laid back atmosphere as opposed to the more modern decor.

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From Hawke’s Bay, we drove south to a town called Martinborough, which is a little northwest of Wellington.

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Since we were driving quite a bit that day and wanted to leave some time to explore Wellington, we just visited a winery by the name of Palliser Estate. They had some great wines, particularly their whites, and since we were given about 10 tastings, we certainly had a wide variety of their wines to influence our evaluation! We ended up settling on buying a bottle of their Riesling, which normally are very sweet (at least in the U.S.), but the one from Palliser was nicely balanced between sweet and dry.

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After thoroughly enjoying the regions on the North Island, we were excited for the wineries on the South Island, as it has the most well known wine regions in New Zealand.  First up was the Marlborough region…home of the NZ Sauvignon Blancs. There are tons of great wineries here that you can easily bike around to, which is what we did during our visit.

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We stayed in the town of Renwick at a B&B called Olde Mill House, which I would highly recommend, as they also have bikes for their guests to use during their stay. (Check out this post for more about this area!)

The wineries we visited in Marlborough were Te Whare Ra, Forrest, and Huia. Te Whare Ra is actually one of the oldest vineyard in the area, is organic, and is family owned and operated.

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They have awesome wines, and particularly fantastic whites and white blends. We purchased their Toru, as it was amazing and although they do sell some wines to a store in Los Angeles, this particular wine is not sold in the U.S.

Forrest has a beautiful setting that is fantastic for a picnic and other fun activities (badminton, volleyball, etc.), but we preferred the smaller wineries in the region for their hospitality and less commercialized nature. The wines were enjoyable, but we favored the other wineries we visited in the region.

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Huia is a small, organic winery that we loved for the atmosphere, vibe and quality wines. We ended up purchasing two bottles from here: a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc. They have a line of wines under the brand of Hunky Dory, which we loved because this accurately sums up T in a nutshell! Plus, the Pinot Noir tasted delicious…win, win in our books. Truly, our favorite in the region. The wines that Huia makes are high quality and very affordable.

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The last vineyard we visited in the Marlborough region, Riwaka River Estate, was near Motueka (Northwest of Nelson). This was a very small, family owned and operated vineyard with a cute and welcoming tasting area. They also made their own quality olive oils. We intended not to purchase any wines from here, but I really liked their Pinot Noir, so we ended up purchasing a bottle of wine, and olive oil…whoops!

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Yes, at this point our backpacks were becoming full of only wine, and we knew we would need to drink a few bottles to be able to clear customs without paying any extra fees in Australia…no problem there!

This also didn’t stop us from visiting one last wine region on the South Island most famous for their Pinot Noirs: Central Otago.

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Just outside of Queenstown, Gibbston Valley has some fantastic wineries and beautiful scenery. We went to Gibbston Valley Winery to visit their famous cheesery, which was seriously delicious and certainly worth a stop.

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After making a few purchases, we continued on to Chard Farm to do a tasting before making our way to Queenstown.

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We could have easily bought 5 or 6 bottles of their wines, but we had to talk some sense into ourselves. They had amazing Pinot Noirs, they also had a great Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay (particularly the one named the Judge & Jury) as well.

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We decided to buy one nice bottle of their speciality Pinot Noir (called the Tiger) to save for our 10 year anniversary when the wine will be at its peak. We loved all of the wines at Chard Farm, the atmosphere, and the incredible view of the river and gorge the winery overlooked.

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If there is one winery in New Zealand that you visit out of the ones I have mentioned, it should be this one!

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(Chard Farm is also right near the birth place of bungee jumping! This is the first bungee jumping spot)

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(The “Judge and Jury” mountains that their Chardonnay is named after)

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, I would highly recommend allowing some time to visit a few wineries. The majority of the wineries actually have free tastings that normally include about 6 wines, with some including 9 or 10. Sometimes the tastings were included if you bought a bottle, and if not, the tasting would be $5 a person. Take a day, pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful scenery and tasty wines…you won’t regret it!

4 Comments

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