I knew from the second I found out New Zealand was prime wine country, that I wanted to go on a wine tasting tour. I’m not quite sure why it didn’t make my NZ bucket list, but would it be cheating if I threw it on there real quick just to cross off? It should have been part of the list for sure! For Valentine’s Day I wanted to do something fun and romantic with Derik, so I booked a last minute wine tour through Appellation Central Wine Tours.
Central Otago (and Queenstown) is only a few hour drive for us from Dunedin, and honestly I have no idea why it’s taken us this long to drop by this area during the summer! We’ve visited Queenstown three times previously, but all have been in the winter/early springtime. If it says anything, we’re going back to Queenstown, Wanaka, and Mt. Cook this weekend to find more summer fun.
Our tour started bright and early at 9:30 am at Gibbston Valley Winery. After learning about some of the local wines out in the vineyard (pinot noir and pinot gris vines grow best in this area), we headed into New Zealand’s largest wine cave for our tastings. I was a gigantic fan of their dry riesling (totally different than the syrupy sweet rieslings in the US), and Derik chose the pinot gris as his favorite. I would love to swing by Gibbston Valley Winery on our way back to Queenstown sometime and give their cheese tasting a go. I’m a gigantic fan of cheese, and I can’t imagine how delicious a plate would be with their wine!
Waitiri Creek was next on our itinerary, and by far my absolute favorite stop of the day. We had a wine and cheese tasting within an old quaint church converted into a cellar door/restaurant. I loved the lavender path leading up to the cellar door, and had a great time learning about how pairing certain cheeses with certain wines can totally change the eating/drinking experience! Who knew?! Waitiri Creek produces an amazing chardonnay, which I am regretting not purchasing a bottle of while we were there.
Eight tastings in, we were starting to feel pretty chill and relaxed. I was intrigued by the name of our next location, The Nose, and knew it had to be quite the stop. Turns out it was. The Nose is known in Central Otago for it’s amazing food, selection of local wines, and wait for it, an aroma room. If you have time, stop by to enjoy the ‘Wine Experience!’ You’ll first watch a short video on the making of wine around the area, and then you get ushered into the aroma room to test how great your sense of smell is, and of course, taste more wine.
After we were finished with our wine experience, we sat down and enjoyed a beautiful array of antipasto for lunch. Yes, antipasto is typically served before the meal as an entree (or appetizer as we would say in the US), but we were given a gigantic platter to share with one other person, and it was more than enough to eat for lunch. I also thought it went well with the glass of wine we enthusiastically purchased with our meal.
We reluctantly left The Nose (seriously I could have stayed there for hours), and headed over to Old Cromwell Town to stretch our legs a bit before our last two winery stops. Old Cromwell Town is remnants of a town (saved and preserved by residents) long since destroyed and buried under Lake Dunstan. It was a fun little spot to walk around: browsing through shops with handmade goods, grabbing a snack at the cafe, and relaxing by the lakefront.
We had a quick stop at Wooing Tree Vineyard, where we enjoyed four more amazing tastings of wine. Let it also be known that right outside the Wooing Tree cellar door is where you will find New Zealand’s finest growing grass. We all took our shoes off because it was literally the best grass we’ve ever seen and felt. Now that I’m writing this I feel weird talking about it, but for some reason, I still feel it’s worth mentioning.
Passing through Kawarau Gorge is absolutely breathtaking. We were lucky enough to go through it twice on our way to and from Queenstown. Our guide was nice enough to stop at the ‘Roaring Meg’ for a few pictures before arriving at our last tasting stop. Amisfield is a popular little spot, probably due to the views, bistro, AND winery. I would love to go back and try some of the food next time as well as exploring the vineyard a bit more. We only had about 20 minutes at this location before we had to end the tour, and it wasn’t nearly enough time. Amisfield, we WILL be back!
We had an absolutely fantastic time on our Central Otago wine tour, and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting or even living nearby! Appellation Central Wine Tours was a great company to book through, and I am so thankful they were able to squeeze us in last minute!