Classic Martinborough Vineyard. © Mike Heydon

Classic New Zealand Wine Trail: Napier to Blenheim

How about a peaches-and-cream chardonnay in the Bay or a silky, cherry-drenched pinot under the oak tree in Martinborough? 

Perhaps a zingy sauvignon in Marlborough? From one of the world’s finest, naturally, given this is the region that put New Zealand on the wine map of the world. 

There are quality choices, people, on this 380-km trail that takes you past no less than 230 wineries and to 120 cellar doors, exposing you to some of the finest, most flavoursome and fabulous food and wine New Zealand (and, frankly, the world) has to offer.

Where to start this epic trip, you ask? Well, where better than Napier, home to Mission Estate, New Zealand's oldest surviving winery...

Hawke's Bay

Hawke’s Bay is one of the country’s oldest wine regions and with good reason: a sumptuous climate and soil combo that encourages the cultivation of most of the major grape varieties has attracted top-quality winemakers for over a century, on and off. You, and your awaiting tasting glass, are the beneficiaries.

As with the other regions, the Bay really has nailed the whole cellar-door experience, with most places serving cool cheeses and meats to accompany the vinous temptations, while places like Elephant Hill go the whole hog, to mix animal metaphors, and offer some serious fine dining. 

 

In the Bay, there are coastal wineries, inland wineries, out of the way wineries... offering up white, red, rosé and sparkling.

You can also try your hand at a genteel game of boules or pétanque to while away an afternoon, though you’re more likely to pour your energies into your tasting tray once the wine itself has been poured.

Extraneous activities can be undertaken, including a trek to the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and a must-do viewing of the stunning art-deco architecture of Napier proper.

Martinborough

Onwards down the line to tiny, charming Martinborough, home and gateway to some of the greatest pinot this side of Burgundy.

What could be better than being able to walk or cycle to any one of the vineyards in the area from the village square, the dun-coloured hills retreating in the background?

It may prove inevitable that you wish to prolong the pinot for another day. If so, there are some delightful places to stay here. 

A side trip to Castlepoint Scenic Reserve on the wild and woolly coast will certainly clear the cobwebs in stunning fashion while exploring the wildlife sanctuary at nearby Pukaha Mount Bruce on the way through is a must-do.

Marlborough

Ferry the Strait and finish this epic trail in Marlborough, home to a staggering number of top-class wineries, some brilliant cellar doors and, of course, the zippy, zingy, world-famous sauvignon blanc.

Marlborough is also recognised for its sparklings too, so if you’re in the mood to celebrate and not just salivate, here be bubbles, buddy.

Blenheim itself, the heart of Marlborough, is a pretty little town with some outstanding accommodation and a handful of excellent restaurants. Hey, it’s indulgence but isn’t that sometimes what time out is all about?

When the sun slowly fades on Mustang Hill vineyards. #CloudyBay #Winemakers #ExploreMore #TravelGoals

A post shared by Cloudy Bay (@cloudybay) on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:41pm PDT

A quick word on the obvious... take turns each day to be the sober/non-drinking/water-slugging driver.

Alternatively, in each region there are always excellent hosted winery tours, offering site visits to the pick of the bunch (sorry) and access to some really handy, local info...

So you can always put yourself in the safe hands of someone likely called Merv or Beryl, while you enjoy scintillating views out big bus windows, safe in the knowledge that the car is securely stowed back at the motel.

Explore more...


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