Touring New Zealand’s Wine Country
By Gary Parker, Owner
The WineSellar & Brasserie
October 1, 2016
Exploring New Zealand and its wine country is a must-do travel excursion for the epicurean. With an abundance of fresh seafood, lamb, venison, and great fresh produce, the culinary criterion is pleasingly elevated.
Beyond enjoying the excellent wines the country is now making, there are many world-class sites and adventures on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand waiting to be explored.
Getting there from the West Coast is actually less burdensome than making the trek to Western Europe. There are a number of non-stop flights to Auckland leaving from Los Angeles and San Francisco, taking only 12 hours of flight. You board your flight at 9:00 PM, have dinner, a couple glasses of wine, go to sleep, and wake up to breakfast in New Zealand.
To get to the wine lands, you will drive about a half-day south from Auckland to get to the coastal town of Napier, with its gorgeous art deco architecture. The wineries here enjoy a lot of sunshine, moderate weather, and great soil. The whole Hawkes Bay area produces exceptional grapes as well as other artisan fruit products.
Look for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Top producers found locally include Craggy Range, Elephant Hill and Sileni Estates.
Martinborough & Wellington
After a few days in Hawkes Bay take a drive to Martinborough to experience the intensity of their Old World wines, which they make with a New World flair. Pinot Noir is the major player in this relatively small community. The better producers are Ati Rangi, and Escarpment. From here drive up to Wellington and hang in the town for a day or two, and enjoy its San Francisco feel.
Take the ferry from Wellington to the South Island, and enjoy the fiords as you dock at Havelock. The Nelson area has pristine beaches, ample sun, beautiful scenery, fresh foods and great wines. Cooler weather varietals excel here, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir, made by Neudorf and Te Mania.
About two hours south of Nelson is the largest wine region in New Zealand, Marlborough. Their world famous Sauvignon Blancs hail from this region, from such producers as Craggy Range, Cloudy Bay, Clos Henri, Kim Crawford, Oyster Bay and Whitehaven.
Take a flight from Marlborough to Queenstown and taste the elegant Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, and other aromatic wines made here. The temperatures are cooler here, and it takes the grapes 4-8 weeks longer to ripen. Queenstown offers great beauty, and a lot of extreme sports opportunities. Top producers found locally are Mount Difficulty, Peregrine and Amisfield.
Next time, set your expectations high and your sites… down under. Make New Zealand and its world-class wine country your next destination.