November 15th-27th, 2010
New Zealand was a land of great surprises for me. I knew it would be beautiful, and I knew I loved the Sauvignon Blanc it has become known for – but experiencing the fascinating and varied wine industry there firsthand whetted my palate and psyche in ways I had not anticipated.
Our trip covered a lot of ground, concentrating visits around the main wine-producing areas of Hawke’s Bay on the north island, and the Marlborough region on the south island. The warmer climate of Hawke’s Bay produces grapes perfect for developing rich red wines — Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot – while the Marlborough region has the perfect climate for Pinot Noir. Both islands produce Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.
Like Washington State, the New Zealand wine industry is young and growing rapidly. Grapes were originally brought to the Hawke’s Bay region in the 1850’s by Catholic priests for sacramental wine. As recently as the 1960s, the country had only about 1,000 acres of grapes planted, mostly in the Auckland and Hawkes Bay regions. Since that time though, due to growing demand and successes with Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s wine industry has expanded exponentially and as of 2009 it had about 79,000 acres in grapes.
Our winery visits revealed an amazing array of architecture and styles – from the lacey-white Victorian winery,Mission Estates, perched on a high green hill, to the space-age, undulating walls of Delegat’s (Oyster Bay label), whose mirrored exterior reflected the landscape. Other stops included: Villa Maria-Auckland, Mission Estates, Vidal, Sileni, Craggy Range and TeMata in Hawke’s Bay and Villa Maria, Montana, Delegat’s, Cloudy Bay, St. Clair’s, Fromm, Nautilus, Seresin and Greywacke in Marlborough, and Pegasus and Waipara in Canterbury. Each and every stop was a unique and special experience that included in-depth site tours and memorable tastings.
As I mentioned earlier, New Zealand is so incredibly beautiful – with its vast amount of coastline surrounding the two narrow islands, its craggy mountains, moss covered forests, and green pastures. Every view along the way was a photo opportunity. The people were every bit as warm and friendly as I had heard, and the cuisine went well beyond its reputation for delicious meat pies.
Touring New Zealand was a grand experience that combined incredible wines and food, beauty and surprise, warmth and sophistication. Like me, you will undoubtedly want to go back, again and again.
Here are some of the wineries we visited and the scenery we viewed along the way.
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