With over 200 vineyards under an hour’s drive from the town centre, Queenstown is the gateway to the Central Otaga wine region, known best for its pinot noir, and is a dream playground for wine buffs. Most wineries offer cellar door tasting, so you can easily spend days sipping your way through the region’s best wineries. Here are five for inspiration.
Peregrine Wines, Gibbston Valley
Located just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, this winery is a must-visit both for its wines as well as stunning architecture. Inspired to evoke the wingspan of a Peregrine falcon in flight, the building has won international accolades for its design. The winery is best known for its award-winning handcrafted pinot noir, but they also have pretty good pinot gris and riesling.
Amisfield Vineyard & Bistro, Queenstown
Nestled beneath the Pisa mountain range and situated next to the picturesque Lake Hayes, the rustic Amisfield is a tribute to terroir, and is currently in conversion to full organic certification. They take much pride in their pinot noir, and usually offer two to four on the wine tasting list (NZ$10, refundable upon first purchase) at the cellar door. Cap your visit with a meal at their acclaimed bistro, which serves seasonal, sustainably sourced food that’s made from scratch — go all out with their multi-course ‘Trust the Chef’ menu.
Mt. Difficulty, Bannockburn
Boasting some of the oldest vineyards in the Bannockburn region, Mt Difficulty is best known for its extra complex and concentrated pinot noir. The cellar door boasts breathtaking views of its rugged surrounds overlooking the southern Cromwell basin, which you can take in while you taste its range of Mt. Difficulty and Roaring Meg wines. If weather permits, sit out on the terrace and order its hearty lunch platter to share.
Rippon Vineyard, Wanaka
Set on the shores of Lake Wanaka, Rippon Vineyard is one of the most scenic wineries in the region, with views of the lake as well as distant mountain ranges. Respected as a pioneer in Central Otago’s wine evolution, Rippon employs biodynamic farming and no irrigation to foster wines that capture a strong sense of place. Like most in the region, the winery is known best for its pinot noir, but they also offer riesling and sauvignon blanc.
Two Paddocks, Alexandra
Established by actor Sam Neill in 1993, when he planted five acres of pinot noir grapes, Two Paddocks focuses on pinot noir — they have five, from four organically grown vineyards in the Central Otago region — along with a small volume of riesling. Two Paddocks, along with most cellar doors in the Alexandra area, open by appointment.