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Do you enjoy wine? When traveling, do you enjoy visiting wine regions and meeting locals? Do you shy away from crowds and enjoy small and intimate experiences? Are you interested in learning about a relatively unknown wine region that produces world class Pinot Noir and is gaining international recognition?
If the answer is yes to these questions then a visit to Central Otago is a must for you. Read on and see how Active Downunder can offer you an outstanding vacation and wine experience.
The Central Otago region, affectionately known as "Central” is located in the South Island of New Zealand. Queenstown is the region’s main center and with a small international airport, host of accommodation options, restaurant’s and activities, visitors can start their wine adventure from here. The forty minute drive to the award winning vineyards of Cromwell and Bannockburn takes travelers through an amazingly varied and rapidly changing landscape - from an alpine lake setting to steep sided tree covered river valleys to alpine enclosed expansive valleys to large lakes surrounded by semi desert conditions. With vineyards scattered throughout this landscape, the region is a photographer and wine lover’s paradise!
This relatively unknown wine region produces world-class Pinot Noir, a fact supported by the many major international wine trophies won in the last twelve years. The region is also producing some impressive Rieslings, following the worldwide renaissance of this variety. Of the 110 vineyards in Central Otago producing wine, approximately 35 have cellar doors and open to the public. Many offer free tastings, free parking, and about a third have a vineyard restaurant affording visitors the gastronomic experience of food and wine pairing. The vineyards in New Zealand that do charge for tastings (which are very few) are reasonably priced and vary from USD$3-8 per person although purchasing a bottle to savor later on sees this charge waived.
The secret of Central Otago is that it has not been overcome by large commercial wine companies, and has maintained an intimate and boutique feeling. A lower volume of visitors means that those who visit experience a very personal level of service and interaction. We have found that vineyard staff will go out of their way for the wine interested traveler.
Not surprisingly, the region also offers stunning accommodation options in and around nearby Queenstown. We favor small intimate accommodations where visitors can get to know New Zealanders (affectionately called ‘Kiwi’s’). One of our favorites is a quiet country lodge, with only three *ensuited rooms and hosted by a fantastic Kiwi couple. While not located on a vineyard, the hosts, John (a former wine-guide) offer a complimentary tasting every evening of regional wines, to which you might add a delicious dinner prepared by Amanda with freshly picked produce from their organic garden. Favorite activities at this lodge include feeding the pet lambs and watching the magnificent stars of the southern sky through the telescope.
For true wine enthusiasts, another option is a luxury bed and breakfast situated on a vineyard. Each of three *ensuited rooms has a terrace that overlooks the dramatic view of vines, valley and mountains. Here visitors can enjoy a guided walk through the vineyard with host Brian, or pre dinner drinks with he and wife Maureen.
Central Otago is a visitor’s paradise due to its proximity to the many other South Island ‘must see & do’ sightseeing experiences and the wide range of activities and rich history that comes with the region.
The area still shows signs of the large 1860’s gold rush when thousands from around the world chased their dream of making a fortune…abandoned mines, extensive tailings with vineyards scattered amongst them and old gold mining towns add to visitors Central Otago experience.
With five World Class Golf courses nearby, and an abundance of activities from fly fishing, hiking, jet boating, biking, horseback riding, skiing, scenic flights to glaciers or the fiords of Milford and Doubtful Sound, visiting countryside art galleries, meeting local artisans and lovely lakeside walks ……..there is without a doubt plenty to see and do all year round.
For wine touring, we recommend an award-winning tour operator that is extremely well connected in the region. Their close relationships often bring special access and experiences, which inevitably add more value to your wine touring experience than if you were to visit the vineyard independently. Their small group tour (max. 11) is an enjoyable day out and great for both the novice to more experienced wine lover. Private tours can also be arranged.
At the end of the day, settle into your ‘hosted’ accommodation; enjoy a glass of wine and conversation with your hosts before dining in-house or at one of the many award winning restaurants nearby.
Central Otago is certain to be a “must do” in your itinerary. It is a place where you can experience New Zealand's award-winning wine scene in a laid back, uncrowded atmosphere; spend time with locals who are genuine about sharing New Zealand with you and allows you to experience a range of activities against a backdrop of gorgeous scenery for which New Zealand is famous for!
One final note for serious wine enthusiasts: If you plan to visit this region independently it is worth making an appointment, it won't always make a difference but often it will.
*ensuited = a term used in New Zealand to identify a room which includes its own private bathroom.
See our 'Stay amongst the vines' accommodations in other parts of New Zealand.
Let us customize your trip to include some time in New Zealand’s Wine Regions.
Active Downunder is an Award Winning boutique travel company specializing in New Zealand offering highly customized active, leisure and luxury vacations for the independent and discerning traveler. We use our expert destination knowledge, local connections and personalized service to guide our clients to the real people and places of New Zealand. Our goal is to meet and exceed the needs of our clients by designing 'one trip at a time'. This approach delivers a highly customized itinerary which maximizes vacation time and allows clients to focus on having fun and enjoying their trip.
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