15 Day Classic New Zealand Wine Trail Tour



A two week journey from Auckland in the North all the way down to Queenstown in the South. We will get to taste wine from eight different growing regions and partake in some of New Zealand’s finest scenery and activities along the way. Your friendly knowledgeable local guide will pick you up from either the airport or the comfort of your accommodation in Auckland and from there the tour begins! Welcome to The Road Trip Classic Wine Trail, ‘Where your journey begins’.

Day 1 – Auckland and Kumeu District (60km return- 90 minutes drive)

Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand. City of 1.5 million people and the birthplace of viticulture in New Zealand. The very first vines in New Zealand were planted by missionaries in Northland in the early 19th century followed by Dalmation immigrants planting in North West Auckland making this area the perfect place to start this two week trail.

In the morning we will take a tour around some of Auckland’s landmarks including Mt Eden, Mission Beach and the Americas Cup village at the Viaduct harbour. Lunch in Auckland city.

After lunch we will drive north over the famous Auckland Harbour bridge to the Kumeu growing district. This lush sub tropical region exhibits a real wine making heritage and while the more humid climatic conditions haven’t been optimal for expansion like Marlborough or Hawkes Bay, the area still warrants a visit. Most of the wineries now make the majority of their wine from grapes sourced out of the region.

Kumeu River Wines – Well renowned winery run by the Brajkovich family. Produces award winning chardonnays.
Matua Valley Wines – This is the original winery of what has become a national label. It is one of New Zealand’s top six wine companies and historically significant because it produced the countries first sauvignon blanc in 1974. Now the vineyard mainly sources it’s grapes from around the country.

Babich Wines – The Babich family were Dalmation immigrants to New Zealand and when the kauri gum industry died out they started making their own wine in 1916. They too, now source most of the grapes or their wine from other regions in New Zealand.

Overnight: Vineyard Cottages, Old North Road, Waimauku

Day 2 – Auckland to Waiheke Island (90 minute ferry journey)

Today we drive back south to Auckland city where we take the vehicle across to Waiheke Island on the Sealink ferry.
Waiheke Island, located 17.7km from Auckland is the second largest in the the Hauraki Gulf and is home to 8,370 residents. The island has a lovely relaxed “kiwi holiday” feel with lots of coves and beaches to explore making it a popular escape from the hustle bustle in Auckland.

Despite being a short distance away, Waiheke Island has a markedly drier climate than Auckland making it very suitable for viticulture. It has taken the label of New Zealand’s “wine island” full of smaller scale vineyard operations making great quality wines. The climate is well suited to the” Bordeaux style” reds although some chardonnay and sauvignon blanc varieties are also considered to be good.

Mudbrick Estate – One of Waiheke Island’s best known vineyards and an excellent place to begin. Produces merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and chardonnay. Also a good option for lunch here with a Provence style restaurant made of mudbrick and with breathtaking views out to the sea.

Stonyridge Vineyard – Famous for it’s production of “Larose” a Bordeaux style red with 5 varieties of grapes and was given cult status by international wine critics. They also grow lovely malbec grapes on their Northern facing hill slopes.

The Goldie Vineyard – This is the oldest vineyard on the island started over 30 years ago by Kim and Jeanette Goldwater. It’s now also used as a training facility by Auckland University.
Batch winery – A new high tech winery and also the highest vineyard on the island giving spectacular views. The only winery on the island producing sparkling wine {method traditionelle} onsite, with the sparkling rose proving very popular on warm summer days.

Passage Rock Vineyard –Established in 1993 this vineyard has won 18 gold medals for it’s syrah since 2004 and has been ranked in New Zealand’s top 5 syrahs for a decade. Also try the refreshing rose here.

Overnight: Onetangi Beach Apartments or similar

Day 3 – Auckland- Rotorua(228km- approximately 3 hours driving time)

Today we cross back to Auckland saying farewell to the lovely Waiheke Island. We drive south down to Rotorua, New Zealand’s cultural and geothermal hub! Driving time about two and a half hours.

Today we have a choice of activities in Rotorua depending on your mood. We can visit Rainbow Spring wildlife reserve, Te Puia Maori Village to see the amazing geothermal pools and famous Pohutu Geyser or we can take a walk around the splendid lake.

In the late afternoon, we will take the Skyline gondola to the top of where we get beautiful panoramic views of Rotorua and the lake. Up here we will visit Volcanic Hills Winery tasting room.

Volcanic Hills Winery – A venture started in 2009 by two kiwi winemakers who wanted to start their own project. Rotorua and the surrounding lake district, due to the higher rainfall is not considered a wine growing region of New Zealand. However, the guys have been sourcing their grapes from the famous regions of New Zealand such as Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawkes Bay. They make the wine in their winery at the bottom of the gondola and by day run this classy tasting room at the top!

In the evening we have the option of having a traditional Maori “hangi” dinner (food is roasted under the ground) included in a cultural evening at Mitai Maori Village.

Accommodation: Regal Palms 5 star Resort or similar

Day 4 – Rotorua – Gisborne (274km- approx. 4 hours driving time)

Today we drive to Gisbourne, the capital of Poverty Bay and New Zealand’s third largest wine producing region famed for its production of great chardonnay. The region also produces quality pinot gris, gewürztraminer, viognier and merlot. Today’s driving time is three and a half hours through some dramatic national park scenery on the edge of the Urewera Ranges. We have a pleasant afternoon of tasting ahead.

Millton Vineyard – Distinguished winery in the region noted for its excellent chenin blanc and reisling. The winery is one of few in the country that follow biodynamic principles.

Kirkpatrick Estate – Well established local vineyard with fantastic outdoor picnic tables to sit and enjoy the wine.

Bridge Estate – 120 year old stables framed with rosebushes provides the setting, this is one of the regions oldest vineyards first planted in the mid 80’s. Excellent winery in which to taste the classic Bordeaux varieties cabernet savignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and semillon.

Matawhero – Founders of this label Bill Irwin and son Denis were pioneers in New Zealand wine best known for benchmarking gewürztraminer in the 70s that even the Queen tasted. Also try the chardonnay and Church House label Malbec.

Overnight: Portside Hotel or similar

Day 5 – Gisborne – Hastings (231km- 3 hours 30 minutes driving time approx.)

Today we say farewell to the Poverty Bay area and drive 3 hours down the coast to New Zealand’s second largest wine producing area, Hawkes Bay. The region has a lovely coastal feel and along with its high annual sunshine hours, make it perfect for growing grapes. The region’s sunnier warmer climate is most suited to Bordeaux style reds such as merlot and syrah but also produces fantastic chardonnay. Our option for tasting on day two in Hawkes Bay is to hire bikes and cycle around the lovely rolling countryside while tasting.

Esk Valley Estate – Distinguished Hawkes Bay winery owned by Villa Maria. Under winemaker Gordon Russell since 1993, Esk Valley has earned a place as one of New Zealand’s flagship wineries. Try “The terraces” a Bordeaux styled red produced in small quantities from a steep terraced hillside vineyard beside the winery.
Mission Estate – What better place to ease into our Hawkes bay wine excursion than the most visited and oldest winery in the country founded by catholic marist missionaries in 1851. This can also be our lunch stop with indoor and outdoor dining options at the restaurant.

Church Road Winery – Another of New Zealand’s oldest wineries made famous by Tom MacDonald who released the countries first commercial cabernet sauvignon in 1949.
Stonecroft – Vineyard established here in 1984 by Alan Limmer and the vines are amongst the earliest plantings in the Gimlett Gravels region. The oldest syrah vines in the country are just outside the cellar door and these vines produce fantastic bright fruity wine.

Trinity Hill – High profile Hawkes Bay winery established in 1993. The cellar door is an impressive concrete structure and while tasting you can watch those working in the barrel hall through the glass doors. Try the Tempranillo for a hint of Spain.

Overnight: The Vines Vineyard cottages or similar

Day 6 – Hawkes Bay Wineries

Today is all about the Hawkes Bay region, tasting, optional cycling between wineries and a trip to Cape Kidnappers with its gannet colonies and spectacular geological cliff formations. Also there is the option to visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand or the New Zealand Wine Centre on Wine Street for some sensory evaluation. In the afternoon we can visit another a few more wineries for tasting:

Pask Winery – Named after CJ Pask was a topdressing pilot who discovered the regions potential for grapes. Try the “Declaration” cabernet merlot malbec.

Te Mata Estate – A leading Hawke’s Bay winery and arguably the first producer to win international respect and demonstrate Hawke’s Bay could consistently produce Bordeaux style reds. Try the “Bullnose” syrah made from grapes in the Bridge Pa Triangle winegrowing district.

Elephant Hill – Opened in 2008 and a beautiful setting shadowing the coastline, this winery also has vines in the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle districts. This may also be a great dinner option as the restaurant was recently voted the best winery restaurant in Cuisine’s New Zealand Good Food Awards.

Overnight: The Vines Vineyard Cottages or similar

Day 7 – Hastings- (252km- 3 hours 15 minutes driving time approx.)

Today we travel south down to the Wairarapa region. It is a quiet farming region off the typical tourist map. The drive takes about two and a half hours and we can make a stop on the way and take a tour at the famous Tui beer brewery at Mangatinoka.

The Wairarapa grape growing region is in the warm rain shadow of the Tararua and Rimutaka ranges allowing an ideal place for viticulture. The region is famed for fine pinot noir and it is the birthplace of the grape where in the 1880s it was first planted by French settlers. Much of the industry has become centred around Martinborough, a quaint little town to the south of the region.

Gladstone Vineyard – A popular stop on the way into Martinbrough is this cellar door with a lily pond and park and a number of farm animals. The barrel fermented sauvignon Blanc is a lovely drop.

Palliser Estate – The biggest winery in Martinborough with beautiful grounds and a large selection of wines for tasting. The estate boasts vineyards across the district. Recommended is the Riesling with lime notes and the “Dog” series pinot noirs.

Ata Rangi – One of New Zealand’s most visited wineries founded by former dairy farmer Clive Patton in 1980. Pinot Noir is the star wine here having won the coveted Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for the best Pinot Noir at London’s international wine and spirit competition three times.

Cambridge Road Vineyard – A rustic small producer that follows biodynamic principles. Winemaker Lance Redgwell produces several experimental wines such as “dovetail” a blend of Syrah and pinot noir.Murdoch James Estate- A little drive out of town down Dry River Road and down a poplar lined driveway is this multi level winery. Martinborough’s only hillside vineyard noted for its “Blue Rock Syrah”

Overnight: Aylstone Martinborough or similar

Day 8 – Martinborough- Wellington (82km- 1 hour 30 minutes driving time approx.)

Today we drive the one and a half hour journey over the Rimutaka ranges into Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. Today presents an opportunity to have a break from wine tasting and explore what the city has to offer. We will take a panoramic view of the city from the famous Mt Victoria lookout and visit Te Papa, the national museum. Other options include a tour of Weta Caves made famous by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or why not enjoy the vibrant hip cafes of Cuba Street or shop on Lambton Quay. Wellington is a real walking city and the Parliament grounds to the waterfront down towards Te Papa makes a fantastic half hour walk for those feeling energetic.

Overnight: Bolton 5 star Hotel or similar

Day 9 – Wellington- Blenheim ( 3 hour ferry crossing + 40km- 1 hour driving time approx.)

This morning we farewell the North Island and board the Interislander ferry, sailing to Picton in the stunning Marlborough Sounds, gateway to the biggest wine producing district in New Zealand, Marlborough. Marlborough produces roughly 70% of New Zealand’s exported wine volume.

The sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough has long been considered the finest among the finest examples in the world. The district is split into two main valleys. Most of the wineries are situated in the Waiau River valley. Further south the Awatere River valley produces its own distinctive styles of wine reflective of their different geography and climate. The reason the Marlborough region has been so successful in wine production is due to the high sunshine hours, cool nights and the free draining alluvial soils. Today we have plenty of tasting on the cards!

Johanneshof Cellars– Just off the main road towards Blenheim nestled into the hills is this German owned winery. Try the method traditionelle and the gewürztraminer. The wine cellar cave here built in 1993 is 50m long.
Hunters Wines– One of Marlborough’s oldest wineries set up by Irishman Ernie Hunter in 1983. The winery produced award winning fume Blanc (sauvignon Blanc before it became known as such) in the mid 1980’s that put Marlborough on the world wine map. We can have lunch here in the garden restaurant.

No 1 Family Estate – A winery specialising in sparkling wine. The founder and Marlborough sparkling wine pioneer Daniel Le Brun has been in the region producing top quality sparkling wines since emigrating from France in 1980. Try the Cuvee No 8 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.

Wairau River Estate – This vineyard was planted in 1978 and the label established in 1991 with the older vines adding a great intensity to the sauvignon Blanc.

Cloudy Bay Vineyards – Iconic and perhaps the best known New Zealand wine label internationally makes a good last stop for the day. The interior of the cellar door is immaculate and you can view the production line through the glass wall behind the counter. Renowned initially for it sauvignon Blanc, the other wines include chardonnay, pinot noir, late harvest Riesling and a great sparkling named ‘Pelorus”

Overnight: Saint Leonard’s Vineyard Cottages or similar

Day 10 – (Marlborough Wineries + Drive to Kaikoura (130km- approx. 2 hours driving time)

Today we will taste more of the Marlborough region and then drive two hours south to the beautiful seaside town of Kaikoura where we stay the night, passing the Ohau Point seal colony on the way.

Fromm Winery – A small Swiss owned certified organic winery making beautiful wines such as pinot noir, Syrah, chardonnay and Riesling crafted in an old world style.
Te Whare Ra – A small winery but one of the oldest in the region. It produces excellent desert wines and gewürztraminer.

Spy Valley Wines – The cellar door here has won numerous architectural and landscape awards. The single vineyard “Envoy” range is the premium range and definitely should be tasted.

Wither Hills – One of Marlborough’s larger wineries with a nice grassy outdoor courtyard to relax and taste. During vintage they have a vine library where you can pick and taste a grape to see if you can correctly identify its variety. The restaurant here is a good option for lunch with everything made on site.

Yealand’s Estate – Further down the road towards the township of Seddon in the Awatere Valley we get to the largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand. Taste the difference between an Awatere Valley sauvignon Blanc and a Wairau one.

Overnight: Kaikoura Boutique Hotel or similar

Day 11 – Kaikoura- Christchurch (189km- 2.5 hours driving time approx.)

This morning you have the opportunity to explore some of the surrounding area with the choice of doing the Kaikoura Whale Watch or do a walk around the Kaikoura Peninsula.

Late Morning we will leave Kaikoura and drive south into the Waipara wine growing region. This region is sheltered from the cool easterly winds by the Teviotdale Hills and has a predominating limestone sub rock giving different characters to the wine. The region is about one and a half hours drive south of Kaikoura and sits about one hour north of Christchurch, our destination for the night.

Greystone Wines – Established in 2004 this winery sits at the foot of the Teviotdale Hills that is packed with fossil clad outcrops. Best known for its pinot noir, the gewürztraminer and desert Riesling are also worth trying.

Torlesse Wines – Open since 2000 and one of the oldest wineries in the region. It’s an old converted red barn that is a winery as well as a cellar door. Try the late harvest sauvignon Blanc and the gewürztraminer.
Pegasus Bay Winery – This winery is famous and holds a place in the book “100 most iconic wine estates” The Rieslings here are highly renowned. If lunch is required, the restaurant on site has been voted New Zealand’s best winery restaurant by Cuisine five times.

Overnight: The Grange Bed and Breakfast or similar

Day 12 – Christchurch Sightseeing

Today presents an opportunity to fully explore New Zealand’s garden city Christchurch. Hit hard by a devastating earthquake in 2011, you will see evidence of the widespread destruction of buildings and the rebuilding going on all over the city. As a result the city has many new innovative haunts like the sea container shopping mall on Cashel Street. Also take a tram tour of the city or visit the beautiful botanic gardens and Canterbury Museum. If time permits in the afternoon we can go for a drive up the Port Hills for stunning views of Christchurch city and Lyttleton Harbour.

Overnight: The Grange Bed and Breakfast or similar

Day 13 – Christchurch- Queenstown (489km- 6 hours driving time approx.)

This morning we drive south to the Central Otago region of New Zealand. On the way we will make stops at Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki for views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook at 3754m high. We will arrive in Queenstown late afternoon where we will stay for the next two nights.

Queenstown is the adventure sport capital of the world and we will get an opportunity to get into some of these activities on the last day here for whoever is keen! Tonight we have the option of taking the gondola to the top of the steep hill overlooking Queenstown to take the new destination in.

Overnight: Central Ridge Boutique Hotel or similar

Day 14 – Central Central Otago Wineries + Queenstown Sightseeing

Today we can spread out and taste across the region from the Gibston valley to the Cromwell basin area. The Central Otago region is a glacially carved landscape of steep rocky valleys and high peaks.

It is the southernmost wine growing region in the world and the cooler microclimate and stony schist bedrock has a profound effect on the wine. It has fast grown a reputation for excellent pinot noir with hot summer days for ripening and cool nights that retain the thin skinned grape’s natural acidity. Later in the afternoon on the way back to Queenstown we can do a bungy jump or take an exhilarating ride on the Shotover jet boat. For those of you not game for adventure on the way back, we can visit the quaint gold mining settlement of Arrowtown near Queenstown.

Amisfield – Made more famous by a royal visit from Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014, this winery has long been an outstanding producer in the region. It is famed for its wild yeast fermented pinot noir but also produces some nice whites.

Gibbston Valley – One of the first wineries in the region founded in 1981 by Irish entrepreneur Alan Brady who from an early time, believed the region would be suited to pinot noir. The winery has vineyards both on the property and down the road in the hotter drier Bendigo region near Cromwell. We can also do a wine tour of the facility here that takes you inside the natural cave cellar.

Wild Earth – A different winery in that we get to sample some of the regions gold mining heritage as well as the wine. To get there we cross a suspension bridge adjacent to the Goldfields Mining Centre. Owned by an American adventurer, the wine here is superb. Try the three types of pinot noir as well as the rose, Pinot Gris and Riesling. This place is also an awesome stop for lunch with a top quality kitchen.

Quartz Reef Vineyard – The wines are made by Austrian winemaker Rudi Bauer and he was the first to plant vines in the region. They make excellent method traditionelle, pinot Gris and pinot noir.

Overnight: Central Ridge Boutique Hotel or similar

Day 15 – Departure Day

Today the NZ Wine Trail Tour officially ends and we trust you enjoyed tasting all of the great wine, adventure and scenery this country has to offer. We can transfer you to the airport or you can stay on in Queenstown under your own arrangements.


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