Wine tasting is our thing. We love drinking it, we love touring a vineyard and we love meeting other enthusiasts in the tasting room. That being said, we are not experts on all wine, just those we like. We are most familiar with Napa reds and thus gravitate towards Cabernet Sauvignon and this rule of thumb has worked for us around the world … until Gibbston Valley, New Zealand.
Our first week in New Zealand we must’ve tried 4 or 5 different Cabs and Red Zins that we didn’t love. Then, we spent just one day learning about and tasting New Zealand wines and figured out why! Pinor Noir is the way to go … as is making a day trip to Wanaka and Gibbston Valley while you are in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grapes do not like the hot dry summers – but Pinot Noir does. In fact, 70% of the grapes grown in the Gibbston Valley region are Pinot. Once we knew this, our wine selection and experiences were immensely better!
The scenery of the region varies from rolling hills to mountains, lakes and rushing rivers. Almost all of the water is bright blue – as one comes to expect in New Zealand. While each tasting room and vineyard has its own flare, a few really stuck out to us – and all for different reasons.
Rippon, Wanaka – Rippon’s wines were refreshing, but to be honest, the view is why we visited. The tastings are free and the help is friendly – both strong qualities and very important. But, in my opinion – Rippon should be enjoyed outside. Lupins overlook green fields of vines which melt into turquoise waters which is then met by rugged mountains. It is breathtaking.
Wild Earth, Gibbston Valley – Wild Earth is tucked into the hillside and is located at an old gold mine. To enter you have to cross a metal foot bridge to get to the tasting room – pretty awesome! However, a better description of tasting room is likely “restaurant.” Come here hungry and thirsty! Mike and I are big eaters and I left almost uncomfortably full. The 6 wines you taste are paired with deliciously prepared meats and vegetables. The pairings ranged from chicken, beef, venison and lamb. There were points when I forgot to sip my wine because I was all about the food. It is a must taste kinda place!
Gibbston Valley Winery, Gibbston Valley – Chances are if you taste in this region, you will end up here. The caves are neat, and unique to the area. While impressive, the caves are not the biggest, longest or deepest, rather, just the only in the region. Gibbston Valley Winery also has a cheesery … yes please! You can’t miss stopping here and sampling the yumminess. Or, better yet, buy some, and a bottle and picnic in their beautiful gardens; it is an experience for sure!
I don’t think I realized this until writing this post, but Gibbston Valley was a tasting experience, but not for wine, but food too – a total win-win if you ask me! From this point on, which, was actually Day 9 of 14 days, we loved every local wine we tried. It is amazing what you can learn if you seek out the information, and the goods!