5 Fantastic New Zealand wineries for wine lovers

New Zealand’s wines are vibrant and intense so if you’re a wine lover here’s 5 fantastic wineries on North Island to see what the excitement is about.

New Zealand is famed for producing exceptional wines so we decided to include several tastings as we visited some of the best wine regions on the North Island.  

The North Island’s temperate climate provides an opportunity to grow a range of wine varieties.  New Zealand’s temperate maritime climate is not only ideal for growing grapes, but also for tasting and enjoying wine.

Whilst we expected the variety, we didn’t expect such diversity in wine styles.

It was a pleasant surprise that each of these 5 wine styles was quite different. Some vineyards we visited simply for wine tasting, whilst others we also sampled locally grown fruit and cheeses and others, we stayed for the full dining experience.

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Our 5 favourite wineries in northern New Zealand

Waiheke Island

Waiheke - Exceptional Wineries to visit

This picturesque island defines the boundaries of the Auckland region with the warm, dry Mediterranean climate promoting substance and intensity of the wines.

Just a short cruise to the island, it’s no secret that Waiheke’s wineries are a popular drawcard.  Once known for its exciting Cabernet blends, the Island has more recently celebrated its gutsy Syrah, elegant Chardonnay and fragrant Viognier and Pinot Gris wines.

With around 30 boutique wineries, Waiheke Island has become a popular day trip from Auckland with many of the wineries hosting cellar doors, tasting rooms, exquisite restaurants and stunning views.

Mudbrick Winery on Waiheke Island was our first lunch destination.  It was the perfect setting for an exquisite a la carte menu with wines perfectly matched to the menu and impeccable service.

Quite possibly one of my best winery dining experiences!

Mudbrick has been cleverly terraced into many levels, patios and decks to provide diners with private nooks and stunning views across to Auckland.  A walk through the manicured lavender gardens provided a spectacular outlook over the bay.

Hawke’s Bay wine region

Napier Wineries

New Zealand’s second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay offers some of New Zealand’s favourite wine styles.

A well-established wine trail offers a variety of cellar door experiences.  The Napier region’s food and wine festivals showcase the boutique wineries and art-deco architecture adding to the atmosphere of the region.

Hawke’s Bay has earned an international reputation for its high quality Cabernet & Merlot blends as well as Syrah.  In addition Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and an impressive selection of aromatic white wines are also being produced in this region.

Mission Estate Winery

Mission Estate tasting

Grape vines were first planted in the Hawke’s Bay in 1851 by Marist missionaries, at Taradale’s historic Mission Estates Winery.  As New Zealand’s oldest winery, Mission Estate has a longstanding reputation for producing award-winning wines.

The Cellar Door is in the elegantly restored seminary building in Taradale Hills.   It was interesting to learn of the history through the early photographs of the Mission and the Missionaries who settled in Napier.

The award-winning restaurant at Mission Estates is also set in the restored seminary and offers a garden verandah with stunning views across Hawkes Bay.

We explored the magnificent estate buildings before heading to the cellar door for the Mission Estates wine tasting.  It was interesting to learn that most of the fruit is grown in the South Island and transported to Hawkes Bay for processing.

Tip:  We came away from our Mission Estates cellar door with a couple of bottles of their fine Jewelstone Syrah to cellar at home.

Church Road Winery

Cosy wineries to discover

Church Road Winery is the place to visit when in Hawkes Bay.  Winery tours, a fascinating underground museum, a popular a la carte restaurant and Cellar Door wine tastings.  There is something for everyone.

The first vineyard in New Zealand to craft Bordeaux style red wine, Church Road Winery utilises its fruit from its own vineyards in the Hawke’s Bay region.

Church Road Wine Museum houses some of the oldest wine-making relics in the country, with some dating back 3000 years.  The underground Museum in the old concrete wine vats.  The walls of the vats are encrusted with tartrate crystals originating from when the wine was stored in the vats.

Church Road Winery

The winery’s rustic surroundings provided a great visual setting for the Church Road cellar door.  We were offered a full tasting and finished with a tipple of their vintage port.

It was the perfect opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon catching up with friends on the balcony.  Albeit with our favourite wines from the tasting and a delicious fruit and cheese platter.

Craggy Range

Craggy Range Winery

The family owned Craggy Range winery was established in 1998 under the escarpment of Te Mata Peak.  The outlook from the cellar door is a stunning setting for this magnificent winery.

Learn about the Craggy Range wine-making philosophy by attending a tasting and take a personal tour of the winery.

Winner of two hats at the 2018 Cuisine Good Food Awards Craggy Range Restaurant. We were excited to join friends celebrating their anniversary at Craggy Range Restaurant as we’d heard great things about the restaurant and winery.

Craggy Range Winery restaurant specialty

The menu choices were varied but I can totally recommend sharing the Slow Roasted Lamb for two!  Delicious with wines to complement.  We headed out to the deck with selection of petit-fours and a desert wine to end a perfect day!

Linden Estate Wines

Linden Estates Winery

We stumbled on this boutique winery just 15 minutes north of Napier.  Linden Estate cellar door is located in New Zealand’s most versatile wine-growing region of the northern Esk Valley and offers unique wines and beautiful views across the beautiful Esk Valley hills.

Esk Valley is the oldest and most northerly wine growing area in the Hawke’s Bay region.

An informal and a friendly experience, Linden Estates was one of our favourite tastings on our visit to Hawke’s Bay.  The northern Esk River Valley area is well-known for premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.  Whilst these were quality wines, our favourites of Linden Estates tasting were the Pinotage and the Syrah.

The winery boasts a sunny deck overlooking the valley and is a great place to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Linden Estates Winery

Wine Styles grown in New Zealand

Red Blends:  Bordeaux blends are produce wines of great intensity, elegance and longevity. Merlot is one of the popular blends, offering rich plum undertones.

Chardonnay:  Full-bodied and lengthy the chardonnay has a well-balanced and fruity richness.

Sauvignon Blanc: Rich, fruit-driven wines with a degree of oak fermentation or maturation to add complexity and body.

Pinot Gris: Aromatic, spicy, bold and balanced wines with good body, retaining excellent varietal character and freshness.

Syrah: An exciting variety showing great distinction. Elegant with ripe fruit, tannins and lingering spice.

Pinot Noir:  Varietal aromatics of cherry, berry fruits, plum, florals and spice through to more savoury and earthy examples. Soft tannins and great richness of flavour.

Other Varieties:  Excellent aromatic whites such as Viognier, Malbec, Tempranillo and experimental plantings of Italian and Spanish varieties.

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New Zealand wineries

Hawke’s Bay is famous for its sunshine, but all is not lost if the weather turns gloomy.  Head to the nearby cellar doors.

Cellar doors provide an opportunity for wine novices and experts alike to meet the friendly people behind New Zealand wine!

Have you visited the Hawke’s Bay region yet?  What wineries did you visit and do you have any suggestions for our next visit?  

Reference:  NZwine.com