Last time I left you in Part 1 of our story, I was drinking in the back of a campervan on my way to Hobbiton. What’s the worst thing that happened to me, you ask? Nothing.
I enjoyed myself immensely in the faux Middle Earth setting—and the many other noteworthy touristy stops, such as Rotorua, hot springs, splunking in caves and eating my way through the food scene in Wellington. We didn’t get as far as Auckland, but I really liked the diversity of the North Island even though everyone there told us go straight to the South Island. Before I take you to the South Island, we must get into the wine scene on the North Island, which is well worth a stop.
New Zealand has made it easy for visitors to follow their main wine trail all the way from the North Island and into the South Island. The “Classic New Zealand Wine Trail” is marked with brown metal signs along the road. NewZealand.com even says that the trail is not called that for nothing because you can visit over 120 cellar doors that cover about 75% of the country’s wine producing regions. (BTW, “cellar door” is what Kiwis cleverly call the tasting room.) The NZ wine trail goes from Napier on the North Island to Blenheim, which is the Marlborough wine region, in the south.
Through our North Island travels, we started in Napier and headed south towards Marlborough. People recommend taking four days to do the trail. This part is entirely subjective. I’ve known people who have spent weeks trickling down this trail. We spent about five-six days. Some days on the trip, we tried to rush to four or five wineries, whereas one day in the Canterbury region, we spent all afternoon tasting and eating at one winery with the winemaker. Like with most travel plans, be sure to stay open to what happens. For instance, on one of our wine days we stopped in a pub for a quick bite and ended up drinking beer, watching All Blacks rugby and befriending all the locals in the town’s only pub. You never know what can happen. That’s probably the most I’ll talk about beer, so back to the wine.
The two main wine regions we hit in the North Island were Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa. While most people immediately associate Sauvignon Blanc with New Zealand, these non-Marlborough wine regions are known for producing their own tasty varietals. (Varietal is a fancy wine word for grapes. Sexy, I know.) Hawkes Bay is known for making some bold Cabernet Sauvignons. And Wairarapa makes some of the best Pinot Noirs in New Zealand.
Hawkes Bay is huge and contains about 80 wineries, whereas Wairarapa has about 20. The scenery in both parts is equally amazing. Ranging from the Craggy Range Winery, which is nestled at the base of the towering Te Manu Peak, to the sophisticated Te Manu Estate winery, you can get a blend of different experiences. If you tire of the wine, you can go to the beach, hike the gorgeous scenery or learn the “Haka”(an ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield to display a tribe’s strength and unity) from the locals at the pub...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Orignally from Missouri, Katie has lived in Switzerland, Chicago, San Francisco. Brooklyn and Arizona-and prefers to live in close proximity to old vines. Her first job in college was pouring wines and pruning wines at a winery in Augusta, Missouri which was the first designated AVA in American. Since then, Katie has spend several years working in corporate America as a copywriter and content marketer. She now works for herself because "her boss" adheres to a strict unlimited winery vacation policy. Follow her tasting and travel notes: @eieigel.