Lake Wanaka, an hour from Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand, is a great place to base yourself to discover the excellent wines of Central Otago. Slated by British wine writer, Jancis Robinson, as one of the top five New World wine producing areas in the world, this region should be a definite stop on any wine-lovers itinerary of New Zealand.
The Central Otago region is most famous for it’s Pinot Noir variety, which thrives in the hot dry summers and cold winters. Pinot Noir makes up 70% of the wines produced in the area, however Pinot Gris, Reisling, and Gerwutztrameiner are also gaining in popularity.
A great day loop starting in Wanaka, driving through to Cromwell and Bannockburn, and continuing on to Queenstown, offers plenty of wine to titivate your tastebuds and amazing scenery to boot. You will need your own transport for this wine circuit, however there are plenty of organised trips on offer if you find yourself in New Zealand without private transport (try Funny French Cars in Wanaka).
1. Rippon – Wanaka
With a view to die for, Rippon Vineyard is the perfect place to begin your day. Located on Mt Aspiring Road, just out of Wanaka, Rippon overlooks Lake Wanaka and the stunning mountain ranges in the distance. Grab a cheese platter, sit on a bench outside and enjoy the sun, whilst sampling their tasty Pinot Noir wines.
2. Lazy Dog – Queensbury
Swing by The Lazy Dog on your way to Cromwell and try their Chenin Blanc and a number of other delicious wines from neighbouring vineyards. Pick up some preserves and relishes from their Farmgate shop, and maybe even some of their freshly smoked salmon for tomorrow morning’s eggs benny!
3. Cider House Café – Cromwell
Stop here for a wee break from wine and try some of the excellent cider on offer at the Cider House Café. Once you are refreshed then take a wee stroll around Old Cromwell before cruising up to Bannockburn.
4. Mt Difficulty – Bannockburn
Located on a hill in Bannockburn overlooking the Cromwell Basin, Mt Difficulty is not to be missed. Set amongst rugged, other-worldly terrain, this is a great place to relax, enjoy the view and take in some lunch from their superb menu. Cardrona merino lamb, wild venison, and slow roasted duck are just a few of the tasty morsels on offer. Pair your meal with one of their excellent Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris wines and you will have an ideal lunch.
5. Peregrine – Gibbston Valley
Gibbston Valley is home to a number of vineyards and Peregrine is definitely one that you don’t want to miss. The building itself represents the wing of a Peregrine in flight and has won awards for architecture both nationally and internationally. The Pinot Noir is once again at the forefront of the wines produced here, however you will also be able to taste excellent Reisling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
6. Amisfield – Lake Hayes
Amisfield is the closest winery to Queenstown itself and is situated next to one of New Zealand’s most picturesque lakes – Lake Hayes. After sampling some of their fine wines, wander through to their sun-drenched courtyard for the famous “Trust the Chef’ menu which is a selection of dishes prepared from the finest and freshest local ingredients. Their bistro was a finalist for the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year 2012 and is the perfect place to end your day.
After so much good food and wine you will most likely find yourself feeling rather full! If it is summer there should be plenty of light left to take a brisk stroll around Lake Hayes before driving through to Queenstown. Stop for a hot spa at Onsen overlooking the Shotover River before driving back to Wanaka over the Crown Range. If you still have energy left then check out the famous Cardrona pub on the Crown Range road. This is a New Zealand institution and one that you should definitely visit at some stage of your stay in Wanaka. By the time you return to Wanaka you will be ready for sleep, completely sated from your perfect day in Central Otago.
Angela Schrider is Director at NZ Snow Tours.