For wine lovers, New Zealand presents an opportunity to indulge in their passion while staying at hotels and resorts of the highest standard. This is true of both the North and South islands; you can literally go from the top of the country to the bottom, enjoying great comfort and delicious wine all along the way. Should you wish to pursue any of the other numerous activities offered in each of these places — golf, fly-fishing, hiking, etc. — you can easily adjust the plan to introduce more variety to your vacation. The point of this itinerary is to indicate top wineries in the major regions that enjoy close proximity to some of our favorite New Zealand properties. Taking such a journey, even in part, will give you a splendid taste of the country’s wines.
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Most international flights arrive in New Zealand’s capital of Auckland, set on an isthmus between two harbors, at the north of the North Island. My longtime favorite boutique hotel in the city, Mollies, recently closed and will revert to being a private residence, leaving The Langham as the best available choice. The hotel may be large (411 rooms), but staying two nights is worthwhile, not only because it allows you a chance to relax immediately after the long flight, but also because the region around Auckland boasts several wineries of note.
The Brajkovich family, which runs Kumeu River Wines, are descendants of immigrants from Croatia who have made significant contributions to the New Zealand wine effort. Their wines are some of their best, notably the Chardonnay, which brings to mind white Burgundy. And if you have the opportunity, try the Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay.
On the island’s central Pacific coast, the Hawke’s Bay wine region is second to Marlborough on the South Island only in terms of size. In terms of quality, it more than holds its own. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers serves as an ideal base for exploring the wineries of the region.
Although the Otago region on the South Island draws the most attention for Pinot Noirs, I am also fond of those from Craggy Range. I admire the winery’s efforts with Syrah (not commonly made in New Zealand). Craggy Range’s appealing Terrôir restaurant emphasizes produce from the area. For those who become smitten by the property, attractive cottage accommodations are available.
I also recommend a visit to Te Mata Estate, a winery with a history that reaches back to 1896. I am always susceptible to good red blends, and Te Mata’s Bordeaux-style Coleraine has won me over. I have also been seduced by the Sauvignon Blanc, the Estate Vineyards being hard to resist.
At the southern end of the North Island, Wharekauhau Lodge is a place I always enjoy returning to. Here, the small Martinborough region produces wines of real distinction.
With the lodge as your base, you can easily explore Martinborough, and if you have time for only one winery, make it Ata Rangi. The benchmark varietal here is Pinot Noir, which distinguishes itself with an ability to age with grace and finesse (not forever — a few years will do). The cellar door (or “tasting room” to those of us in the United States) is particularly charming, as it is in the original winery. Rustic and cozy, it offers the chance for an intimate tasting.
Edenhouse, a secluded country residence situated at the northern end of South Island, outside Nelson, is a lovely place to stay. On my latest trip to New Zealand, I discovered Marlborough Lodge, a charming 10-room former convent in Blenheim. Both afford access to the greatest of New Zealand’s wine regions, Marlborough.
An impressive 70 percent of the country’s wine comes from this region, the star of which is Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, the stellar success of one particular Sauvignon helped trigger the worldwide interest in New Zealand wines.
That wine comes from Cloudy Bay, a winery now owned by the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. The cellar door operation, just four minutes away from Marlborough Lodge, occupies a spacious, airy structure with a delightful courtyard. In addition to the iconic Sauvignon Blanc bottling, try the Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in French oak barrels.
I also recommend visiting Matua, which produces a lively and full Pinot Noir. To add to the pleasure of a stop here, choose from a selection of well-prepared foods that make for a delicious picnic on the grounds.
Also in Marlborough, Villa Maria produces a fine Sauvignon Blanc, with a citrusy edge and suggestions of stone fruits such as peach and apricot. If, like me, you enjoy dessert wines, try the Late Harvest Riesling and the Late Harvest Sémillon.
Run by husband-and-wife team Peter and Bobbie Martin, this small, secluded hotel is located a 50-minute drive west of Nelson.
Built in 1901, this historic former convent with 10 rooms is centered on 16 lavender-strewn manicured acres, complete with vineyards, heritage trees and lily-covered ponds.
From Marlborough, journey to the Christchurch area on the central coast, a one-hour flight or a five-hour drive. There, Otahuna Lodge has been favored by Hideaway Report readers for many years. The Waipara wine region around Christchurch is relatively small. Nonetheless, it makes wines of distinction.
I have pleasant memories of a visit to the Pegasus Bay winery. The Donaldson family started the operation in the 1970s, making it among the first in the area, and they have gone on to become one of the most notable producers in New Zealand. I particularly like the Pinot Noir, redolent of red berries with a bite of spice. Pegasus also makes wines that are not widely produced in the country, such as Gewürztraminer and Riesling. In addition, a visit to Pegasus brings with it the chance to enjoy a fine meal at the Pegasus Bay restaurant. The menu evolves from the wines so the dishes match with great finesse. The setting is lovely, with works from New Zealand artists decorating the walls, and an outdoor space with views of the grounds and gardens.
And finally, a one-hour flight will bring you to Queenstown at the southern end of the South Island. There, I recommend no fewer than three places to stay: Azur, Matakauri Lodge and Eichardt’s Private Hotel, which is right in town. (For those who want to be outside Queenstown, I recommend a fourth: Blanket Bay, a splendid sanctuary 45 minutes away on Lake Wakatipu.) The nearby Otago region is noted for making some of the best Pinot Noirs in the country.
Although it did not release its first vintage until 2004, Wild Earth has already garnered awards and critical praise for its Pinot Noir. It is a bewitching mix of spice and red berries (raspberry being prevalent), with an undertone of earth and mushrooms imparting an admirable complexity. The cellar door lies within the Kawarau Gorge, once a gold-mining area, right on the Kawarau River. If you can divert yourself from the Pinot Noir, be sure to try the Riesling and Pinot Gris. The rustic Stoker Room Bistro and Bar, also part of the experience, offers an appealing range of regional foods served on the staves of well-used wine barrels.
This dramatic property is five minutes from the center of Queenstown.
This stylish alpine retreat on the shore of spectacular Lake Wakatipu is just 10 minutes from bustling Queenstown.
Overlooking a public beach in the heart of Queenstown’s lively waterfront shopping district, this lakeside hotel occupies a restored historical residence.
Depart Queenstown on your flight home.
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