Aeoteroa “Land of the Long White Cloud”
(a 14 day Gastronomic Tour of New Zealand)
Day1; Arrive Auckland Intl Airport
The Pacific is an enormous ocean and crossing it is a long journey, after checking through customs we’ll transfer you straight to your hotel. As it’s still early in the morning, a chance to freshen up and if you wish, rest a while, before beginning to discover this Land at the other end of the Globe.
Auckland is the gateway to New Zealand and sets the tone for life in this part of “Down Under”; it’s an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanted islands, a sunny climate, the background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping - that’s Auckland.
If you have the energy we’ll take a trip to the Auckland Domain ; a very large park near the centre of the city full of trees, gardens and playing fields, it hosts the Winter Gardens, and several glasshouses full of tropical plants but perhaps most importantly, it is home to the Auckland Museum. Here is the place to get a feeling for this “new land”, it has the world's largest collection of Polynesian artifacts, giving us an insight into a vibrant people and their unique culture, there is also a great display of objects relating to New Zealand's natural history, it’s strange animals and wondrous vegetation. The drive from the Museum along the waterfront is a treat and the views across the harbor to the North Shore and the Volcano Island of Rangitoto, unique.
Day 2; The Vineyards of the Matakana Coast Matakana is a place where the “good things in life” are found in abundance. The region abounds with an array of fresh produce, often available from roadside stalls. From limes, avocados, herbs and persimmons to chestnuts, olives, venison and oysters, the area’s Chefs are spoilt for choice. Once the “fruit bowl of Auckland” the Matakana Coast is now home to a flourishing wine industry. These are innovative, quality-focussed wineries, small and mostly family-owned, each reflecting the passion and vision of its winemaker.
A vineyard that perfectly reflects the individuality of Matakana’s wines is Ascension; a steep hillside vineyard of ancient clay. Here, there are wines with purity of flavour, stunning architecture, imaginative cuisine and five generations of winegrowing passion. Darryl Soljan, Ascension’s owner, believes “life is too short to drink boring wine” and this philosophy has evolved to craft small quantities of distinctive, terroir-driven wines from both traditional and very unusual varieties. A wine tasting with Darryl and lunch enjoying Ascension wines alongside meals served in the vineyard restaurant.
Leaving Acsension and driving along the very beautiful Matakana coast a short distance brings us to Brick Bay and the vineyard of the same name. The bay is beautiful and the vineyard gently slopes down to lakes and streams, flanked by native bush.
About 25% of the vineyard is planted in Pinot Gris, while the remaining 75% is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
As in the premium wine areas of France, the vines have never been irrigated, encouraging the roots to delve deep into the substructure to develop complex flavours, as they access a multiplicity of minerals and trace elements in the soil
A decade ago they started planting an olive grove at Brick Bay, for the aesthetic qualities of the silvery green trees themselves, now their extra virgin oil is sought after by the Chefs of Auckland. The 2006 release is a blend of Verdale, Ascolano, Manzanilla and Italian varieties, predominantly Frantoio and Leccino. The fruit was hand-picked and cold-pressed with the resulting extra-virgin oil a distinctive green colour, with an elegant buttery palate and a restrained peppery finish. A tasting (wine and Olive oil) spend some precious time chatting with folks who both love and know their business, enjoy the fabulous view across the bay to Kauwau Island.
Day 3; Waiheke Island
No visit to Auckland is complete without a trip on the water and, among the many intriguing distinctions of New Zealand vineyards is, the extraordinary places you may find them. Waiheke Island is one such extraordinary place; lying just 35 mins from Auckland by ferry, the Island is a picturesque blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. There is a delectable cuisine on offer and this is complemented by a range of award-winning wines produced by the island's many wineries.
The island was first settled in 12,000 AD by the Maori and it was then called 'Te Motuarui-roa, 'Long Sheltered Island'. Evidence of Maori occupation is still to be found, with traces of fortified sites and villages.
Local and internationally renowned artists have chosen Waiheke as the base for their studios and the Island has a very healthy and dynamic artist colony. After the Ferry ride, a stroll around Oneroa’s galleries and studios is a must. At the top of Oneroa Village, Artworks incorporates the Community Gallery, Theatre, Cinema, Library, Beach Radio, Whittaker’s Musical Museum, Arts and Crafts, Cafe & Bar and don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s all, at the other end of the Globe, there’s some great “artwork”.
But it’s the Wineries and the Eateries that have drawn us here and first on our list is Stonyridge; a world-renowned Cabernet-blend winegrower; dedicated to producing some of the finest Cabernet blends in the world. The first Bordeaux vines and olive trees were planted in 1982, with the help of close friends and family and the first vintage came in 1985. Two years later, they made the great 1987 Larose that rocketed Stonyridge to fame - a wine hailed as the greatest red wine ever made in New Zealand.
If you only had time to visit one winery in New Zealand this would have to be it, because after checking out the vineyard, you can relax in the Café overlooking rows of vines that slope down to where Pacific meets Mediterranean, sipping a wine equal to any, in Bordeaux.
After Stonyridge it’s off to visit the neighbours - Te Whau Vineyard; has breathtaking 360° views, stunning architecture, exquisite food and New Zealand's largest wine list, including its own 5-star wines, a truly unique wine lover's experience.
The vineyard was the first in New Zealand to be established from the outset according to the Sustainable viticulture approach, which is now being widely adopted. They are proud of their winemaking approach: strict fruit selection, gentle handling and minimal intervention. Our tour will encompass the vineyard, winemaking facility and underground barrel cellar. Taste the award-winning wine whilst being taken through the process from grape-growing to the finished bottle.
And the Restaurant? – “Stunning site, superior wine list emphasising island rarities, unfussy, fresh New Zealand flavours using premier league ingredients… Five Star Heaven”.
Definitely “the Place”, for Dinner.
Sated and like everyone else, lucky enough to have visited, in Love with the Island, we will make our way back to Auckland, afloat under a canopy of Southern Stars.
Day 4; Auckland & Rotorua
A great “Mollies” breakfast and we are off to the other great North Island wine growing area, Hawkes Bay. However, it happens to be on the other side of the North Island and getting there allows us the opportunity to visit the heartland of Maoridom, Rotorua.
Rotorua is the spirit of Manaakitanga; a uniquely Maori concept, Manaakitanga places the obligation on the hosts, to give the visitor the very best of themselves. It is deep-rooted cultural concept, expressed throughout the Polynesian world, deriving from their belief that, really there is only “one people”. To arrive in Rotorua, is to know immediately that you are somewhere, unlike anywhere else, hissing geysers just minutes from the city centre, scaling water, bubbling mud and sinister formations inform, you are close to incredible earthly forces. There is a roar from deep within the earth’s crust and geysers hurl spray 100ft into the air, pools of bubbling mud pop and belch like pots of porridge. Towering volcanoes (thankfully now dormant) are unmistakeable reminders of this land’s turbulent past. Our hotel is an elegantly restored colonial classic, right in the heart of town, close to the spa’s,’ the museums and the shops. But first a visit to what must surely be one of the most unique cultural experiences anywhere. A visit to “Te Puia”; here is where the goddesses of fire, Te Pupu and Te Hoata, breathed and created geothermal wonders. From their breath rose Te Puia which means the geyser or volcano but also refers to the entire valley. First occupied around 1325, a similar time to medieval castles in Europe, Te Puia was an impenetrable stronghold overlooking the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. Today, it is the most important Maori cultural centre in Aeoteroa (New Zealand). For Maori everything is in a name, it represents Mana, honour and prestige, land, deeds and ancestors. Every piece of history within a name is passed on to those who bear it. So the selection of a name for the great Maori Centre was a vigorous and lengthy process, in the end there was only one name -Te Puia. Our visit here is a unique opportunity to see a cultural bastion - preserving arts and crafts within it’s’ schools, conserving history of the land and encouraging understanding through stories, song and performing arts.
Day 5; Rotorua & Hawkes Bay
The drive from Rotorua to Hawkes Bay and the coast takes about 3 hours and traverses the great central Volcanic Plateau of the North Island. As we climb up from the lake district of Rotorua and Taupo, we enter and pass through, the Land of the Gods, the land of the great volcanoes; Tarawera, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.
The descent to the coast is equally interesting though perhaps not so dramatic and the destination, Hawkes Bay is yet another fascinating facet of this strange and beautiful land. “The Bay” is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and to the south of Gisborne, it is for many, New Zealand’s leading wine and food destination. It’s also a region steeped in history. Its principal cities, Napier and Hastings were all but destroyed by earthquake in 1931, and then rebuilt in the prevailing Art Deco and Spanish mission styles. Napier is known as the Art Deco city, so it’s not surprising that during the City’s Festival each February, locals and visitors alike can be spotted sporting Art Deco garb. It’s a very special little city, the size that a city is supposed to be and the art scene is vibrant, reminiscent of Monterey and Carmel in the early sixties.
Our base for our time in “the Bay” is Wallingford; and it is a Station, housing what is purported to be the largest single storey dwelling in the southern hemisphere.
The Wallingford Homestead is surrounded by sweeping lawns, rose gardens and English Oak trees.
The Station still functions as a sheep and beef cattle breeding station (please note, stiletto heels may not be worn at the Homestead, they destroy the wooden floors that are a feature). In 1883, Lady Barker published the kiwi classic – “Station Life” and in the preface wrote; "the intending emigrant will scarcely find here so much as a single statistic … simply a record of the expeditions, adventures, and emergencies diversifying the daily life of the wife of a New Zealand sheep-farmer and, as each was written while the novelty and excitement of the scenes it describes were fresh upon her, they may succeed in giving here in England an adequate impression of the delight and freedom of an existence so far removed from our own highly-wrought civilization” .
One hundred and twenty five years later it still holds true, it is a way of life far removed from the stress of “civilization” and for a few days at least, it is ours.
Dinner is in the Homestead's main formal dining room which seats 34 people with a separate formal drawing room and a less formal sitting room linked by double glass doors, an Erard 1880 Grand Piano compliments the Homestead's sound system.
And the beds, goose down, they haven’t made beds like this since…..!!
Day 6; Hawkes Bay & the Vineyards.
“Let us get up early to the vineyards, let us see if the vines flourish, whether the tender grapes appear…….” Song of Solomon, 7.12”
Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's second largest wine growing region and one of its oldest. Wines have been produced in the Bay since the 19th century. High sunshine hours and variety of soil types make the region ideally suited to the growing of fruit and wine. Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape variety but a long ripening season attracts a high percentage of later-ripening red grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The region has a multitude of micro sites, each producing its own unique variation and exploring these is an adventure in wine discovery - we’ll begin at Esk Valley. Best known for the production of high quality red wines, it is one of Hawkes Bay’s finest boutique wineries. Voluptuous, silky, Merlot-based reds are the principle glory of this Bay View winery. Esk Valley is on the coast just north of Napier; Mediterranean themes are reflected in the buildings and vine-draped terraces. "The Terraces' from the home vineyard is consistently rated as one of New Zealand's finest red wines.
After Esk Valley we’ll drive through town along Marine Parade, passing through half of this beautiful bay to Clearview vineyards where owner Tim Turvey is waiting to greet us.
Tim brags that they produce New Zealand's most power packed Chardonnay - lots of melolatic fermentation and oak. Bob Campbell (MW) describes their award winning Chardonnay as 'Exceptionally mouth-filling and overflowing with peachy, oaky, mealy flavour...a hedonist's delight'.
Clearview boarders the Pacific Ocean and the Estate is a labyrinth of some 2500 trees, including avocados, olives, melias, bay trees, citrus and of course lavender.
Tim and partner Helma grafted and planted their grapevines, rammed the posts, ran the wires and trained the young vines, for many years also doing all the pruning. They also designed and built the winery, adding to the cellar door and restaurant as the business grew.
Opened in 1991, the coastal vineyard restaurant rates highly, consistently nominated in the top winery-restaurants in the country, receiving BEEF & LAMB awards since 1998 and long known as a vineyard winery dining institution for local and visitors alike – this has to be our lunch stop.
After Clearview it’s a free afternoon to discover Napier, the galleries and craft shops, cafes and museums, or maybe just hang out on the beach, it’s right in town.
Day 7; Hawkes Bay & the Vineyards
A station breakfast and then we take a short drive to Havelock and then up to the summit of Te Mata Peak. The Peak which rises 399 majestic metres above sea level dominates the fertile plains and provides panoramic views across to the ski slopes of Mt Ruapehu and out towards the Ruahine Ranges. According to Maori legend Te Mata hillscape is a sleeping giant, with the hill being the body of Maori Chief, Te Mata O Rongokako.
There are 2 other, very good reasons for visiting this part of the Bay, first the cheese (ah! the cheese) and, Te Mata winery. The artisan Cheese Factory and Cheese Cafe sit in green fields at the foothills of the majestic Te Mata Peak, the perfect rural setting for the creation of specialty cheese. It’s fascinating to watch how they hand-craft feta, brie and blue cheese on site. Modern equipment, loving care and the best of local milk are combined to create stunning examples of favourite cheeses. Check out the state-of-the-art maturing room and discover the secrets of the aging process - sample some of the specialities there’s, traditional Brie, vine ash rubbed Brie, Feta, Irongate , creamy and strong Blues, Goudas and a variety of Sheep and Goat milk cheeses - all lovingly cared for in ideal conditions until they are ready to savour.
Te Mata Estate is New Zealand’s oldest winery, originally a part of Te Mata Station, a large pastoral land holding established by English immigrant John Chambers in 1854. Influenced by comments from visitors that the hills were suitable for grape growing, vines were first planted in 1892 and wine was first made from those grapes in 1896. Te Mata Estate now makes some of New Zealand's very best Bordeaux style wines, the Cabernet Merlot is regarded by many as New Zealand's best red wine. The vineyard has been invited to open this years London international Wine and Spirit Fair in May 2007, with a tasting spanning 25 years of its Coleraine wines. The audience for the opening seminar is the Circle of Wine Writers, a UK based organisation with worldwide membership including most of the world's leading wine commentators. Each year the Circle invites a leading wine producer to present to their members.
Lying in the shadow of Te Mata Peak is, Sileni Estate; a superb winery and an architecturally designed epicurean centre, tasting room, gourmet food store and award winning restaurant. Sileni Estate wines are excellent, especially its wonderful EV Merlot Cabernet Franc and its Chardonnay, hand crafted wines that reflect the unique characteristics of the vineyards.
Wherever quality grapes and wine are produced, olives will do just as well and Hawke's Bay has the sunshine hours, rainfall and soil profiles to be New Zealand’s premier olive growing region. So, while we’re at Sileni, we’ll drop in on the Village Press. Here olive oil is produced from quality olives, pressed in the old style by Hawke's Bay’s first and New Zealand’s largest traditional press. The process is gentle and pure to ensure smoothness of texture and depth and purity of taste. Nine different cultivars are grown with each tree capable of producing at least 30kgs of fruit and up to 50kgs each season. Oil product started at 3500 litres and is likely to exceed 250,000 litres after eight years.
Day 8; Hawkes Bay & the Vineyards
Deep in the very beautiful hills to the west of Hawkes Bay is a small township with the name Puketapu, which is Maori for Sacred Hill. The hill overlooks the Dartmoor Valley and the view is truly breath taking, it is here that we will find the Sacred Hill Winery.
Begun in the mid 80’s by the Mason brothers, the estate has enjoyed a rapid rise in profile, with a special focus on producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The Dartmoor Vineyard is situated on a stony riverbed, where a mixture of calcareous silts from the surrounding limestone hills combines with river gravel to produce vine growing nirvana. As the site of Sacred Hill’s first planting, Dartmoor is a vineyard close to the Mason family’s heart. The 12.7 hectare production area is dominated by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; smaller planting’s of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes complete the picture.
The critical review of Trinity Hill winery reads; a strong, dynamic yet undeniably rural building, Richard Priest has designed a winery which uses materials in sympathy with the surrounding countryside. The soaring roof form imitates and accentuates the gravity of the site at the juncture of foothills and the Gimblett Road valley floor.
Because Trinity Hill has never focused on growing for volume, we've been able to concentrate on making exceptional wine, so says winemaker John Hancock. This naturally takes a little more time, a little more care, and in our case over sixty vintages of combined winemaking experience. Soils in New Zealand are very young and in the Bay, derived from the gravels, silts and sands left behind as the 3 main rivers of Hawkes Bay changed course over thousands of years. Specifically the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing area defines a particular “terroir” producing outstanding wines, particularly Syrah and Bordeaux-style Reds. The majority of Trinity Hill’s grape harvest comes from the unique gravel soils and micro-climate of this Region.
We’ll taste from the great selection of award-winning wines, perhaps browse through the merchandise, enjoy the art exhibitions and then relax in the gardens with a delicious antipasto platter lunch, featuring the best of local produce. The People over at Craggy Range tell us tell us they have a philosophy like no other. To select and source the very best vineyards in the country, plant them with only the vines that are perfectly suited to that terroir. Bottle them all as single estate wines. This simple philosophy, to make wines that speak more of where they come from than any other, is what drives their entire systems of farming and winemaking. Craggy Ridge is tale of two families: American industrialist Terry Peabody and his family had searched for ten years to find the place and the people that could fulfil a dream – that they could make some of the best wine in the world. This led them to winemaker Steve Smith and together they have created some exceptional wines.
At Craggy Range the restaurant is called “Terrôir” – its name reflecting that its food, the vineyard’s wine and its culture, come together sublimely, in a unique and dramatic setting.
Condé Nast Traveller described the Terrôir restaurant as “a meal as close as you can get to perfection” - where your roast chicken is spit- turned in front of you on a roaring wood fire, and the grilled figs were picked one hour before. Served alongside - the single vineyard wines of Craggy Range.
Day 9; Hawkes Bay & the Journey South
The Journey from Napier to the Nations capital Wellington is about a 3 hour drive. The route takes us through the Wairarapa. The area is characterised by quaint little towns dotted between rolling fields of sheep, olives and grapes - all set against a panoramic mountain backdrop. Over recent years, the region has undergone something of a revolution, with an explosion of boutique wineries and is proving to be a natural for Pinot Noir. Martinborough, a small rural town with a permanent population of around 1000, lies east of the Rimutaka Range in Wairarapa.
Free-draining gravel river terraces, low rainfall, warm summers to ripen grapes, and long autumns with cool nights to preserve acid levels produce some of the worlds best Pinot Noir wines. It is an hour's drive from Wellington, New Zealand's capital city and the perfect lunchtime break on our journey.
Martinborough Vineyard established the Wairarapa's reputation for the production of high quality Pinot Noir wine in 1978. The winery won the trophy for champion Pinot Noir at the each of the 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 Air New Zealand Wine Awards (and then stopped competing nationally). With its 1994 vintage Pinot Noir it put New Zealand Pinot on the international stage by winning the trophy for best Pinot Noir in the world at the International Wine Challenge in London. The reception area at Martinborough Vineyard reflects the dedication to World class wines. It is in close proximity to the Winery and Barrel Room and offers a warm and intimate introduction to the Martinborough Vineyard passion ... great wine! It’s an impressive wine tasting room, surrounded by a cottage garden where we can linger and picnic with a glass of fine Martinborough wine.
Wellington, the Capital we’re here! The Polynesian explorer Kupe is credited with the initial discovery of Wellington Harbour. From Maori tradition it is estimated he arrived with his followers around the 10th century.
...it's hard to imagine that a city smaller than New Zealand's Auckland would be so hip and alive with excitement... Wellington has the rapidly beating heart of a creative centre..." - Tatler, Hong Kong, 2004
Wellington is also the culture capital of New Zealand. It is the home to the National Ballet, the Symphony, the National Opera and Theatre. Surrounded by mountains the city is centralised around the Harbour and is very attractive. Our hotel is downtown, everything is close by, a free afternoon and evening to discover.
Day10; Picton &the South Island
This morning we are off to that other New Zealand, the South Island. Our ferry for the Cook Strait crossing leaves early and Wellingtons harbour is full of expectant travellers. For although
Cook Strait is just 19 kilometres wide, this stretch of water separating Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island is spectacularly beautiful. Cruising out through Wellington Harbour offers panoramic views, a dramatic cityscape set on green hillsides which run down to sparkling waters. Cook Strait is a historic waterway full of myth and legend. There are stunning views of the snow capped Kaikoura Ranges and nearly always, Dolphins following.
And our destination Picton is a picturesque town, deep within Queen Charlotte Sound, gateway to a region which is a Gourmets paradise, olives, mussels, salmon, fruits and great wine.
Once we’ve arrived at Picton and organised our luggage transfer, we are going to change ships and meet up with the local mailman. He’s the only licensed NZ Post Rural delivery service by water in the Queen Charlotte Sounds and we are going to share the excitement of a mail run, as we reach places that remain unknown to most visitors and that are straight out of a dream. We’ll be delivering the mail and supplies to families that live in some of the most beautifully remote places imaginable. Also saying 'Hi' to their kids waiting on the wharf as we deliver their schoolwork, part of New Zealand’s famous correspondence school. The mail run takes about 4-25 hours; passing Salmon farms, bush clad mountains and isolated bays alive with Paradise Ducks, Dolphins and New Zealand Fur Seals. Cruising through the Sounds is an experience that you will never forget, the fantastic vistas, the amazing array of flora and fauna and the people of the Sounds, the very best.
Back at the Mail wharf, we find our bus transport is waiting to take us to our South Island base at nearby Nelson.
Nelson is an irresistible blend of lifestyle and stunning landscapes at the top northwest corner of the Island. It stretches from the northern edge of the Southern Alps across fertile plains and out to a great sweep of beaches, the town is beautifully laid out under a generous sun that delivers New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours.
Check in to our hotel and then go discover. The crystal clear Maitai River flows through the city and its path to the sea can be followed via a scenic walkway. Other highlights include the Queens Gardens, Tahunanui Beach, Cable Bay, Christ Church Cathedral, and the rivers and picnic spots surrounding Richmond. The town is paradise for lovers of coffee and fine art with its numerous galleries and street cafes, year-round sunshine, fine local wines, abundant seafood, and a totally relaxed atmosphere.
Day11; Nelson &the South Island
The view from the terrace of your hotel says it all, why Kiwis spoilt on natural beauty, have a special attachment to Nelson. Your hotel and the area surrounding, is called Monaco, nobody seems to know how the name came about, though for a unique location it certainly holds it’s own with the original. Located on a small bay where the Waimea River reaches the ocean and just 15 mins from Nelson it’s the perfect spot for discovering the Region.
Nelson is an art lover's treasure-trove, with more than 350 fulltime artists and craftspeople working in the region. Several weekend markets display the diversity of talent in the area and you can choose to visit some of the many studios, home galleries and art outlets open to the public. The WOW complex is a 'must-see', showcasing the internationally-renowned World of Wearable Art collection. Close by at Richmond is the Höglund Art Glass Studio & Gallery, creators of stunning hand-blown art glass in striking colours and bold designs, earning worldwide recognition.
Along the coast between Richmond and Motueka lies some of the region’s most fertile land where export crops of apples, berries, hops and olives are grown. Motueka is the country’s centre for Hop growing and as you would expect some great boutique beer gets produced from the local crop. In days gone by, when smoking a cigarette was “cool”, Motueka also produced the Nation’s tobacco. The hop fields are a fascinating visit and the people involved, every bit as dedicated and “one eyed” as the wine growers. In this part of the world beer is almost a religion and we are in the Heartland of Kiwi beer brewing. After seeing how the hops are raised, we are well prepared for a trip to the breweries back in Nelson.
New Zealand's natural environment is unique. Once part of the southern super continent of 'Gondwana', it had been isolated for about 80 million years until the first humans arrived a mere 700 to 800 years ago. That event made New Zealand the last major land area on earth to receive the brunt of human contact. "New Zealand is the closest we can come to studying evolution on another planet" (Jared Diamond, American biologist).
Day12; Nelson &the South Island
Nelson is amongst the countries smaller wine regions and we can visit most of its wineries in a single day. Wineries here are picturesque and many offer the chance to taste wines the way they should be – with fresh local cuisine. Nelson vineyards concentrate on grape varieties suited to cooler conditions, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir accounting for most of the grapes grown.
Bridgwater produces a Riesling that is perhaps one of the best value for money available - pale straw colour, fragrant dry Riesling showing delightful aromas of orange blossom with apricot highlights. The palate is elegant and balances lovely flavours of mandarin and lime with threaded minerality, followed by a crisp lingering citrus finish.
Neudorf Vineyards is situated in the Upper Moutere Valley of Nelson and was established by Tim and Judy Finn in 1978. The vineyard is credited with producing one of New Zealand's best Chardonnay's. UK wine writer for the Independent, Anthony Rose, described Tim Finn's Chardonnay as 'New Zealand's convincing answer to premier cru Puligny Montrachet'. It is a powerful Chardonnay made from ripe fruit and exposed to the softening effects of melolactic fermentation. The Chardonnay is competitively priced, cellars well and is now widely exported.
Spencer Hill has its home on a 100 acre property that has stunning views over Tasman Bay and the snow capped Mount Arthur Range. Spencer Hill Estate wines are made from this vineyard, established in 1990 by Philip Jones and Sheryl Jones the wines created under this label are vineyard designated - they come from just one vineyard - and are wines of exceptional character.
“Jones's wines are those to get your teeth into, to enjoy and relax with, rather than to pose alongside. It is a measure of Spencer Hill's commitment to quality that it has the basics of balance, finesse and flavour dead right. With degrees in viticulture and winemaking, Jones has the training, as well as the inclination, to make the grade."
Day13; Marlborough & Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine growing region. It has an enviable international reputation for producing the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. It also makes very good Chardonnay and Riesling and is fast developing a reputation for high quality Pinot Noir. Of the region's ten thousand hectares of grapes (almost half the national crop) one third are planted in Sauvignon Blanc.
Cloudy Bay is New Zealand's most famous winery. The winery takes its name from the bay at the eastern extremity of the Wairau Valley and winemaker Kevin Judd is one of New Zealand's most respected winemakers. He is the man who created for sauvignon drinkers of the world, the internationally acclaimed Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The Cloudy Bay team combines meticulous viticulture, modern winemaking technology and traditional vinification techniques to produce a style notable for its structure, complexity and fine balance. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is an elegant aromatic wine with appealing fruit and crisp acidity.
Dr John Forrest brings to winemaking the discipline of a scientist and combines it with his own exuberant personality and artistic flair. The modern state of the art winery Forrest Estate, is nestled in a charming parkland setting, creating a warm, friendly, unique experience for our visit to Renwick. For those seeking archetypal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Forrest Estate is it - Lifted, fresh nose combining herbaceous, juicy capsicum and lime aromas. Full flavoured wine with ripe passion fruit characters and a deliciously balanced, mouth-watering acidity.
Forrest Estate offers a Quintessential Marlborough experience—from its walls of river stone, to the warm welcome and award winning wines at the cellar door. Taste your choice of wines at the bar, or take time out to relax in the gardens among the trees and sculptures, or just enjoy the picnic with a glass of Forrest wine.
Day14; Marlborough & Sauvignon Blanc
Hans and Therese Herzog come from a winegrowing family that dates back to 1482. They moved their renowned winery and Michelin-starred restaurant from their native Switzerland into the heart of Marlborough, where they have become established as one of New Zealand’s leading boutique estates. Herzog wines are made very much in the old world style.
They are considered the new world version of the famous Burgundy and Bordeaux houses and like them Hans creates the wine on the vine - but with the advantage of a consistent climate. The single Herzog vineyard is one of the top spots in New Zealand’s sunniest region Marlborough and unfettered by commercial considerations or shareholder value – Herzog is a family affair – Hans produces almost uneconomically low yields. He works ‘hands-on’ in the vineyard every day paying meticulous attention to detail, something that can only be done in a small vineyard such as his. The Burgundian style Pinot Noir, the Bordeaux style Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon "Spirit of Marlborough" and Montepulciano, all rated 5 stars, belong to some of New Zealand's most age worthy, finely balance wines, of great complexity.
Nautilus Estate has been producing wine since 1985, previously best known for its sparkling wine, in 2000 Nautilus built a winery solely dedicated to producing pinot noir - the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The Awatere River Vineyard is all picturesque glacial river terraces, planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. First planted in 1992, this low yielding vineyard is characterised by intense fruit flavours and fine aromatics. The winemaking facilities at Nautilus Estate are absolutely state of the art, and in many respects are unique in the Southern Hemisphere. Nautilus Pinot Noir is made in a cellar solely dedicated to Pinot. All the equipment used here is only for Pinot – all designed to handle the fruit as gently as possible and allow the natural intense flavours and aromas – the expression of the different vineyards – to come to the fore.
Hunter's Wines is a great place to visit, as well as being open for wine tasting, we will enjoy dining at a top quality restaurant that is open every day for lunch, and for dinner. Sitting on the wisteria-clad verandah of the weatherboard villa which houses Hunter's restaurant, unhurriedly sampling the latest releases on selected vintage wines. Set right in the vineyard itself, Hunter's Restaurant is the ideal place to experience the authentic flavour of this beautiful region, with its abundance of fresh seafood, stone and pip fruit, lamb, venison and salmon. Hunter’s Wines have won more than 100 gold medals at national and international wine competitions, including the Marquis de Goulaine Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc in the World, at the 1992 International Wine & Spirit Competition.
The short drive, back across the Valleys to Nelson and our last Dinner together at Monaco – what a time it’s been in “the Land of the Long White Cloud”.
Day15; Transfers International & Domestic
A final breakfast and then transfer either to the Airport or your ongoing travel arrangements - End of our Services.