Wine About New Zealand
When you think about wine in New Zealand, mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir come to mind. New Zealander’s do make other lovely wines, however I have to admit I love their SB’s and Pinots, and had fun exploring 3 of the wine regions on the South Island, including Canterbury/Waipara, Marlborough, and Central Otago.
Heading north out of Christchurch on my way to Blenheim, a town in the heart of the Marlborough region, I first passed through Waipara, and had been advised of a great winery there to check out, Pegasus Bay. I was not disappointed. A lovely chateau loomed up behind wrought iron gates, set in a garden of colorful blossoms, reminiscent of some of the prettiest wineries in Napa. The wines were fabulous, as were the 2 women who poured for me, Sue and Heigi. We shared information, as they were in the throes of preparing for their 3rd level somm exams and were interested in Napa wines. They recommended several other wineries, but since I was my own designated driver and had a fair amount of road to cover, that was my only stop in Waipara.
Blenheim is located in the famous Marlborough region, and besides their famous Sauv Blancs, they produce some great Pinot Noirs and Rieslings as well. I spent a couple of days there in order to check out several wineries, especially the ones known to grow more organically and sustainably, the smaller boutique producers. They were all great, including Saint Clair, Seresin, Fromm, and my two favorites, Rock Ferry and Hans Herzog.
Many of the wineries have restaurants as part of their cellar doors, and I’d purposely eaten my budget hostel meals so I could splurge a bit in wine country. Rock Ferry was supposedly fabulous, so I stopped for lunch. When my host, Diana Ross (yes, that’s really her name) heard I’d been in the wine industry in Napa, she went out of her way to share tastes and info while I waited for and enjoyed my lunch. I also tasted at St. Clair that day, and made a stop in their gourmet cheese shop for a few supplies for my picnic dinner.
The following day, I tasted at Seresin, a winery owned by the cinematographer of such movies as Gravity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and although he wasn’t there, the wine and hilltop views made the visit worthwhile.
I also stopped at Fromm, and then Hans Herzog, where their lunch was highly recommended, and I happened to arrive just when a tour with Rosa was about to begin. It was fun to see how the wine industry might differ from Napa, however it was more similar than different. The wines were great, as was the food, and I met another guest, Sylvie from Nelson, originally from France. She’s a novelist, and we ended up hiking together at Abel Tasman a few days later. Wine, food and friends go together!
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and after many more hostel spaghetti dinners, I arrived in Central Otago, where Pinot Noir, one of my favorite varietals, reigns supreme. Again, being my own driver (and on the left side of the road as well) I was very careful about not over-tasting, and so only stopped at 2 wineries, Amisfield first for a tasting…
…and then a perfect spot, just my style, Wild Earth, for a wine and food pairing lunch. Small, organically grown grapes, farm to table foods, all served outside on wooden tables overlooking a river of the most amazing blue green water. One of the best parts was the dessert, a sampler of tastes of pavlova, chocolate peanut butter caramel brownie and berry granita. The owner. Quintin, came out and chatted with me – turns out he’s from Santa Rosa (my first home after moving to California), and his family is from Michigan, my home state – small world. He’s been in New Zealand 21 years now, and started out as an abalone diver. It’s fascinating what you learn about besides wine!
A nice thing about tours of New Zealand wine country is that many of the wineries don’t charge for tastings (think Napa in the old days) or if they do charge, it’s minimal and usually refunded with a bottle purchase. There’s something for everyone, including bigger, more commercial wineries, as well as the tiny boutique variety. And wines for every taste and budget, not to mention beautiful scenery. Cheers!