I've been at work for months on a comprehensive review of the 40+ wineries we visited during our month-long stint in New Zealand last October. Now that I'm back at work, it's hard to find time for writing. I'm over halfway done, but getting impatient! I want to share with everyone how much we loved the wine and the beautiful regions where it's made. Here's a quick preview of my review, starting with my top 5 favorites.
(Click on the linked name to visit their website, where you can usually find distribution info.)
Craggy Range has it all. This internationally-respected winery produces some of NZ's best French varietals. We visited twice! After a delicious dinner at Terroir, their on-site restaurant, we returned the next day for a full-range tasting. This winery was our favorite in the Hawke's Bay region. We brought home three bottles: a 2014 Avery Sauvignon Blanc, a 2013 Le Sol Syrah, and a 2013 Aroha Te Muna Road Pinot Noir.
The Felton Road Block 5 is the best Pinot Noir in the world. That's an outlandish statement to make by a man with an amateur's palate and no formal wine education. But I dare you to find a bottle of Pinot that is more fine, balanced, and smooth as this one. This winery is tucked back off a gravel road outside of Queenstown and is worth going out of your way to visit when in the Central Otago region. It's also worth scouring the internet to see if you can procure a bottle of this very limited release wine. If not, good luck waiting on the mailing list for years to acquire it.
Tucked into an industrial park, this unassuming tasting room and wine production facility exceeds expectations. Owned by an Austrian transplant, this New World wine has Old World character. They create very good Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir, although their top prize is a vintage Methode Traditionelle (champagne). It's one of the best bottles of bubbly I've ever had. Sadly, we couldn't bring any back to the States, but they do have a distributor in Colorado.
Highfield Estate winery, in the western Marlborough town of Renwick, sits atop a small hill overlooking the Wairau Valley. This lovely winery also has an on-site cafe, a sun-soaked patio, and a three-story faux-Tuscan tower overlooking the vineyards. Highfield has merged with TerraVin, and both line-ups are available for tasting here. Each label was impressive and had their own standouts. The TerraVin "J" Merlot blend was phenomenal: rich body, smooth tannins, and full of fruits. The Highfield Riesling is a semi-sweet delight on a warm day, as well as a perfect accompaniment to Thai food.
Schubert's winery in Martinborough is located next door to Ata Rangi - one of the most consistently highly-rated Pinot Noir producers in New Zealand. Frankly, I enjoyed Schubert's wines much more. Their Pinots are perfectly balanced, fruity, and interesting. I brought home a bottle of their 2013 Marion's Vineyard Pinot. We also loved their Dolce desert wine, a sweet white blend with low alcohol content, and snagged one of those, too.