New Zealand has a reputation for good wine and probably my favourite thing to do in the summer is drink the stuff at it’s source, in the sun, with good people and a platter to share.
One day last summer I was doing just this with a London based friend who was complaining that to go to a winery, she “has to go to France”.
While the comment only made me jealous at the time, a year later I understand my proximity to wineries wherever I may be in my home country is pretty special.
Most of New Zealand’s wine is produced in ten major wine growing regions which are spread across the county: Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago. Here are (in my opinion) the best New Zealand wineries which are well worth a visit:
Stonyridge Vineyard – Waiheke Island
80 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island 1971
Waiheke Island can be a mission to get around without a car and designated driver, but Stonyridge is easily accessible from the local bus and has a gorgeous views.
You can choose from a range of cheeses ($18 each or $60 for all) which are served with honeycomb and fresh fruit (which match perfectly with their fallen Angel white wines), as well as breads, crackers and crostinis.
Matawhero Wines – Gisborne
189 Riverpoint Road, Matawhero, Gisborne 4071
Playing a game of pétanque in the sun or walking the vines with a glass of wine in hand while you wait for lunch is pretty ideal.
Their cellar door offers a children’s platter, trio of cheeses or a gourmet antipasto platter for two ($36) or four people ($65) and includes a selection of cheeses, salami, pastrami, smoked salmon, caperberries, olives, gherkins, pesto, sundried tomatoes, feta and hummus which is served with fresh ciabatta bread and crackers.
Church Road Winery – Napier
150 Church Road, Taradale, Napier 4112
Church Road Winery in Hawkes Bay has a beautiful building as well as a massive lawn area with picnic tables. In addition to their complimentary tasting (3-4 wines) Church Road offers additional premium wine tasting for $5 or $10 per person.
Their platter includes pastrami, coronation chicken, ceviche, breads, crackers, cheeses, olives and a range of dips and spreads. I took the wine match recommendation from their menu and can confirm the platter goes perfectly with their Rose.
The Urban Winery – Napier
3 Ossian Street, Ahuriri, Napier 4110
Winemaker Tony Bish tries to be as sustainable as possible, something demonstrated in the barrel soundproofing on the cellar wall at The Urban Winery in Napier.
Tony Bish Wines only make chardonnay and their barrel room is full meaning the ageing process maxes out at 12 months when each new harvest takes place. I’m told the Fat and Sassy, Tony Bish’s biggest wine is already stored off-site.
Tony imports all of New Zealand’s French Oak barrels as well as commissioning the concrete egg-shaped barrels hold which hold unoaked wines and keep the wine constantly moving.
There is also a French Oak tank, one of only 10 in the world as only one can be completed each year. The man who made these has now retired so currently none are being manufactured.
The Urban Winery Platter for four, which easily feeds six, costs $95 and includes breads, olives, an amazing smoked fish paté, homemade dips, baked goat cheese, various meats and more.
Poppies Winery – Martinborough
91 Puruatanga Road, Martinborough 5711
Poppy herself is lovely, perfectly friendly to those tasting and her passion for the wines the couple are making is infectious.
I definitely advise booking for lunch in the courtyard or tasting room to avoid disappointment as they get super busy. The platters at Poppy’s winery showcase local produce and are substantial enough to share between two.
Gladstone Vineyard – Wairarapa
340 Gladstone Road, RD2, Gladstone 5792
At Gladstone they offer a DIY style platter where you choose the cheeses, crackers, meats and condiments out of a fridge and someone puts it together for you.
Life feels pretty perfect when you’re sitting at the tables on their lawn in the sun and they even offer cute accommodation if you can’t bear the thought of leaving and want the area to yourself for the night.
Gladstone also deserve points for offering a tasting flight with written descriptions of the wine rather than the wine tasting only being available at the cellar door.
Cloudy Bay – Marlborough
230 Jacksons Road, Rapaura 7273
I’ve been a long time fan of the Cloudy Bay’s Pelorous sparkling wine, having cracked open many a bottle in celebration of something. Cloudy Bay had Oyster shucking in progress when I visited one March and it was an accompaniment we just had to have.
Cloudy Bay has a gorgeous decking area as well as a lawn perfect for picnicking on.
Amisfield – Queenstown
10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, Frankton, Queenstown 9371
In the case of Amisfield I’m not going to recommend ordering a platter, but rather their ‘Taste the chef’ menu with wine matches. Since Prince William visited with Kate it has proven tough to get into (if it wasn’t already before) and is certainly considered one of the best wineries in New Zealand. Wine tasting is $10 per person and their reisling was my personal favourite.