Continuing our trend set our first few days in Waiheke, we decided a wine tasting of the Otago Valley was definitely order. Because Pinot Noir. Because it’s our favorite red, and it grows like no other in the cooler climate of southern NZ. Because the country outside Queenstown is some of the most beautiful in the world, and what better way to see it than with a glass of wine in hand?
After a little investigation into pre-organized wine tours, we discovered that the cost for the three of us would have easily been nearly $200, so we hatched a plan. Amanda posted on a Facebook forum for Queenstown locals to see if anyone would like to supply a vehicle and sobriety for a day. We would supply $100 NZD, lunch, gas, and sparkling (if slurry) conversation. In no time, we had dozens of offers.
We were picked up in time to make it to the first winery by the time the tasting room had opened. Our itinerary was as follows:
The wine here was good, but not memorable. The huge barrel room directly behind you as you taste certainly is, though! After a wander through the barrels and a careful consideration of two Rieslings, a Sauvignon Blanc, and two Pinot Noirs, we picked up a bottle of their easy drinking 2013 Saddleback Pinot Noir to drink later, because it was both our favorite and the cheapest! Those two things weren’t linked, I promise. Okay, maybe they were.
Tasting Cost: Free; bottle purchase recommended
The wines here were all enjoyable. We started with a chardonnay that didn’t win any fans, then tasted our way through three Pinot Noirs, 2013, 2011, and 2010. We finished with a dessert Rose made from Pinot Noir grapes that we all absolutely adored, so much so that we bought a bottle. It’s cutesy name Tickled Pink was adored when tipsy, but groan-worthy once sober. Either way, it was delicious!
Tasting Cost: $5 without bottle purchase; free with purchase.
We stopped here for lunch, a couple of meat and cheese platters that had us swooning (though I rarely meet a meat and cheese platter I don’t like). We did a tasting to see what glass we should have with lunch, and opted for a delicate, light 2014 Chenin Blanc. The view from the vineyard was also stunning, looking out over several different vineyards that populate the Bannockburn region of the Central Otago Valley.
Tasting Cost: Free
The drive to this vineyard is pure New Zealand: a dusty, one-lane road carved into a mountainside, falling steeply to a fluorescent blue river. Across the highway, bungee jumpers are braving a free fall off an old bridge. After a few nail-biting minutes, rows of vines cradle you until you arrive safely at the tasting room. There, you’re rewarded with some of the juiciest pinot noirs in the area. Try them all, but stick to the reds if you’re trying to avoid getting wine drunk. My favorite is the Mata Au, but i haven’t tried the single vineyard varieties yet. They also have great deals on pre-selected boxes of their favorite bottles. Not to be missed!
Tasting Cost: Free