Wine tasting in Queenstown

What do Burgundy, Oregon and Otago have in common?

They all make outstanding Pinot Noir.

So when in Queenstown, no trip is complete with out visiting the vineyards and sampling some of the delicious wines produced in the area.

We are booked onto ‘The Wine Trail Tour’ with Queenstown Winery Tours. We are picked up from our hotel by our fun and knowledgeable host, Susana. There are 7 of us on this tour, plus Susana, and within minutes we are all chatting away like old friends.

Our first stop is not to a vineyard. Susana take us to Lake Hayes. A beautiful, picturesque lake just outside Queenstown’s center. While taking in the scenery (and Daniel is photographing ducks) we play a little game to help prepare us for what lies ahead.

You may recall in a previous post, I smelt a range of wine fragrances then tried to match them to their scent without much luck. You can read that post here. Even with my previous experience, the results were no different. I wont be giving up my day job!

We smelt many fragrances, from sweet smelling strawberry to pineapple to lychee to some less expected ones like mushroom and peat. We were also educated in the art of wine tasting (it is very technical) so we could all at least pretend that we knew what we are doing.


Our first vineyard is Akarua. With a beautiful outdoor dining area, set amongst mature trees, it is not only the perfect place to taste some wine, but also to enjoy an exquisite meal.

I love travel shows and on a Canadian travel vlog, I heard about something called ‘ice wine’. A dessert wine that has been made with grapes that have frozen on the vine.

I have wanted to try it ever since.

My lucky day – I was informed that Akarua is the only place in New Zealand that produces it. (The grapes are artificially frozen as they don’t get enough consecutive freezing cold days to produce it naturally) Deliciously sweet and sticky, needless to say a bottle of this came home with us.

After our wine tastings we delved into a scrumptious shared lunch which provided a great opportunity to chat with our fellow wine tasting tour buddies and get to know them more.

The food was amazing, as was the company.

We then headed to Chard Farm by way of a narrow winding road next to a very steep drop. (I feel like our 4 wheel drive trip to Skippers Canyon the day before prepared us well for this!) The scenery at Chard Farm is gorgeous!

Chard Farm produce another of my favourite wines, Gewurztraminer. It was not on the tasting list that day, so I purchased a bottle. I am still yet to try it.

Moving onto Gibbston Valley we go on a short tour around the vines, learning about the wine making process. We then head into their wine cave (The largest in New Zealand) for our wine tasting experience.

Our last stop for the day is Wet Jacket located in a beautifully done up wool shed. The wines we tasted were all exquisite. We tasted 6. I was about to suggest to Daniel that we buy one of each when he spotted another wine, not available for tasting, called ‘The Pirate’. An exclusive Pinot Noir in a leather bound bottle complete with a map of Dusky Sounds (Where Wet Jacket Arm is).

Instead of 6 bottles of wine, we walked away with The Pirate, number 893 of 929.

We purchased this on our 10 year wedding anniversary, I think we will be saving this for our 20th anniversary. (Or another level 4 lock down)

Wine tasting with Frankly Tours

We wake in Waipataki and walk a few minutes down to the beach. A small golden sandy bay, enclosed by rugged looking hills, a world away from the city. The waves are big and the tides are strong. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you are a confident swimmer. I’m not, but can manage a paddle in the surprisingly warm water. The morning colours are starting to appear through the clouds. This beautiful little place is still and peaceful.

I wish I could stay longer. However, our wine tasting tour is calling.

Hawake’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand and the second largest. Today, we are joining Frankly Tours  to help guide us in our wine tasting experience.

At first I was disappointed to learn that the owner, Frank, would not be our tour guide. Frank has many excellent reviews! I need not have worried though, Mark was an excellent host. Friendly and knowledgeable, we were in great hands.

We visit 4 quite different vineyards, the first being the oh so grand and elegant Mission Estate. (Mission estate is another winery that holds concerts amongst the vines.)

Established in 1851, it is New Zealand’s oldest winery. The building exudes elegance. A grandiose colonial styled building with a tree lined driveway, central water fountain and a foliage engulfed porch to welcome you in.

We try 6 wines here while a Mission Estate host shares his knowledge of wine making with us. I learn that pinot grapes grow really well in Otago but not in Hawkes Bay. This is because the pinot grapes have very thin skin and cannot manage with the heat Hawkes bay gets. I also learn that Shiraz and Syrah are made from the same type of grapes.

We then move onto Moana Park, a small boutique winery producing 100% plant based wines. We wine taste, alfresco style, under walnut trees, while snacking on fresh bread, olive oil and homemade dukkah. My favourite wine was from here. A 2019 sauvignon blanc. I’m not normally a fan of sauvignon, but this one was delicious. I wish I had bought more than just one bottle. Small places like this can sell out fast. My advise – if you like it, buy it. You might not get another chance!

After a scenic drive through the country side, we arrive at Oak Estate Wines It is run by and Austrian couple and their wines have a European taste to them. The land in this area was no good for growing crops or raising stock, but it was discovered to be the perfect place for growing grape vines. A platter of delectable treats was included with this wine tasting. The burnt butter mousse was outstanding.

Back into the van and onto the next place. I am quite please we are such a small tour group today (just the 4 of us and our driver Mark) it means there is lots of room on the back seats for our quickly growing collection of wines!

We arrive at Unison Vineyard, our 4th stop and by now I am struggling to walk in a straight line. I have tasted so many wines! We are each asked what type of wines we like and our host tailors the tastings for each of us. We are told a bit about the technicalities of corking wine, but to be honest, I am far too happy to take any of it in.

I leave Unison Vineyard with a few more bottles of wine feeling very merry. We have one last stop – Roosters Brewery . I am not a fan of beer, so opt to have a cider instead. Daniel gets the beer tasting paddle. I am not sure how he managed it, they were very generous servings. Paired with some hot chips; it was a great way to finish off the tour.

Hawkes Bay produces some excellent wines. With Frankly Tours we were able to sample a huge range of wines in a fun and hassle free manor. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Frankly Tours, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. To end the day, Daniel and I decide to head back to Mission Estate for dinner.

We have an early start the next morning. I’m talking on the road by 6am early. My lovely husband forgot that he had someone coming over to our house in the morning to interview him about his turbo motorbike!!

The advantage to this early morning car ride home is that it’s much cooler and I get to see a sunrise – even if it is from the car window.