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Benefiting from a sunny, maritime climate, the picturesque valley vineyards of Nelson yield some of New Zealand’s most freshly scented, intensely flavoured sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, as well as vibrant, supple pinot noir.
The famously creative local culture extends to wine making in a multitude of privately owned boutique vineyards. Nelson winemakers are recognised for crafting wonderfully drinkable wines that stand apart from the typical commercial styles.
Wines from Neudorf Vineyards have found their way onto the wine lists of several great European restaurants, and Kaimera Estate wines are exported to the UK, Ireland, Singapore and the USA.
The award-winning Woolaston Estate is a beautiful place to visit and is also home to a significant collection of stunning sculptures and artwork. The Gallery at Woolaston hosts a changing programme of exhibitions by national and international artists and is open year-round.
If you’re driving around the Nelson region, keep your eye out for eating opportunities. A variety of artisan food producers will tempt you with breads, chocolates, pesto, chutneys, honey and jams, fine meats and salami.
At Mapua there’s a smokehouse with an adjacent cafe - the menu includes fish, mussels and vegetables delicately hot smoked on site. In Motueka you’ll find great organic cafe food.
The city of Nelson is known for its waterfront restaurants. Golden Bay scallops take pride of place among a wide selection of fresh local ingredients. The culinary approach throughout the region is perhaps best described as ‘slow food’. It’s about creating rather than producing, and savouring rather than consuming.
With 90% of the country’s sauvignon blanc plantings, Marlborough is New Zealand’s (some say the world’s) sauvignon blanc capital. With robust aromas and crisp flavours of gooseberry and capsicum, this varietal has been a glittering success for New Zealand.
The region’s second VIP grape is pinot noir. Acclaim is mounting for Marlborough’s fragrant, mouth-filling reds which are richly flavoured and supple. Other Marlborough wine specialties include fresh, vibrantly fruity chardonnays and crisp rieslings.
Scores of vineyards rub shoulders along the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. These vast flat areas are ideal for a gentle gourmet cycle tour. From the small township of Renwick, there are 30 great wineries within a 24 kilometre circuit. Bike hire is easy to arrange.
Lunch menus at favourites such as Allan Scott Wines, Brancott Estate Heritage Centre and Wither Hills feature local delicacies like smoked salmon and blue cod. Talented chefs, from New Zealand and around the world, are drawn to Marlborough’s high quality ingredients and outdoor lifestyle.
The Hans Herzog winery and restaurant offers exquisite fine dining in the evening as well as a more relaxed dining for lunch and dinner in their bistro. For something with the extra wow factor, they offer pre-dinner tours of their winery and barrel hall with a tasting of three of Han's unique wines.
In Havelock, "the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World" succulent mussels can be savoured in a pleasing array of restaurants, cafes and even a cruise.