Inside, I sample a series of wines and then the limited-edition grappa Herzog distills from the pomace – seeds, skins, pulp and stems – of its zweigelt and montepulciano plantings and sells for a robust $82 a bottle.
As I chat with the clearly knowledgeable and passionate staff, I recall the words of Steve Smith: “Terroir is more than just soil and climate. The third factor is the people.”
Judging from what I’ve seen, New Zealand has an abundance of all three.
IF YOU GO
Air New Zealand flies direct to Auckland from Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with frequent connections across the country to wine-route cities such as Napier, Wellington and Blenheim.
Summer peaks in January and February and sees vineyards at their greenest. The country’s original wine event, the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival, welcomes more than 8,000 guests on the second Saturday in February. Harvest begins in March.
The winter series of Hawke’s Bay’s FAWC (Food and Wine Classic) runs over a weekend in June and features cozy, indoor events, lots of music and plenty of red wine.
Binging on strawberries and asparagus while Canada hunkers down for winter is just one of the many pleasures of a visit in November, technically late spring but often with more summery temperatures. Toast Martinborough will be held on Nov. 16, and the summer series of FAWC lasts for 10 days with a plethora of events for food and wine lovers (and even their beer-preferring friends).
Where to stay
Bookend your journey with stays at these two luxe properties, complete with excellent food and sommeliers who know their way around New Zealand wines.
In Napier, the gorgeous Farm at Cape Kidnappers encompasses acres of native bush and the rolling hills of a working farm. It offers a world-class golf course, hiking and biking trails, spa and infinity pool, and even a kiwi discovery walk, as well as comfortable rooms (be sure to try the cookies and brownies stocked next to the tea and coffee) and a cozy lodge with upscale farm-inspired decor. From $740 (New Zealand, about $670 Canadian) per person per night, which includes dinner and breakfast, predinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres, mini-bar including beer, and use of all facilities except spa and golf. (capekidnappers.com)
In Marlborough, take a scenic 30-minute water taxi ride from Picton (we saw little blue penguins swimming on our journey, and orca spottings aren’t uncommon) to the secluded Bay of Many Coves Resort, where vistas of inky ocean and rugged forested hills make it hard to leave your room’s couch and soft wool blanket – but kayaks, paddle boards and hikes to glowworm caves make venturing out worthwhile. From $450 (New Zealand) per night. (bayofmanycoves.co.nz)
Where to eat
A person can’t live on wine alone – and in New Zealand, you definitely don’t have to. These stops along the wine route are just a few highlights of the modern Kiwi food scene.
Schoc Chocolate, Greytown: Find inventive varieties of chocolate (surprising hits include geranium, lime-chili and curry-papadum) alongside classic bars and truffles infused with pinot noir and chardonnay. The sweet treats make fantastic gifts for friends back home – if you can manage not to eat them all yourself. 177 Main St., schoc.co.nz
Olivo, Martinborough: The Wairarapa region’s oldest commercial olive grove hosts tastings and sells its distinctively floral (and beautifully packaged) plain and flavoured oils from a small shop next to 11 picturesque acres of trees. Hinakura Road, olivo.co.nz
The Malthouse, Wellington: Serving up the country’s largest selection of the world’s craft beer, this popular establishment boasts more than 150 different bottled brews and 29 on tap, featuring some of the best offerings from New Zealand’s mostly family-run small breweries. 48 Courtenay Place, themalthouse.co.nz
CGR Merchant & Co., Wellington: House-infused gins and rums form the basis of the menu at this cozy upstairs bar, where big jars of the latest experiments line the shelves (I sampled a vivid pink beetroot-apple gin) and soaked fruit is repurposed into “drunken sundaes” and other delights. 46 Courtenay Place, facebook.com/cgrmerchants
Seafood Odyssea, Picton: Spend the afternoon cruising the Marlborough Sounds while sampling some of the region’s renowned sauvignon blanc paired with local mussels, oysters and salmon. You’ll visit a mussel farm and learn how these shellfish are bred and harvested (hint: it involved a very long sock) and even get a chance to hand-feed salmon. seafoododyssea.co.nz
[Editor's note: This online version of the story corrects the rate for the Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.]
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