I could not decide for the life of me how to approach wine tasting in Queenstown. So many beautiful, boutique wineries, so little time. Not to mention the annoying necessity of transport – nobody wants to drive on wine tasting day!
Enter Alpine Luxury Tours. These guys came to the party with a luxe wine tasting afternoon, all planned out with the best wineries to visit and transport sorted – tick, tick, tick! All we had to do was sit back and relax. And drink the wine. Yewww!
Our wonderful tour guide, Jamie, picked Kim and I up in a beautiful Mercedes AMG GLS350D. Leather interior and as smooth as they come. Later this would come in quite handy when Jamie took us off the beaten track to show us where Lord of the Rings was filmed so we could get pics.
Alpine Luxury Tours chose four of their favorite wineries for us to visit; Amisfield, Akarua, Chard Farm, and Mt Rosa. Jamie was a wealth of information while we were traveling to the Gibbston Valley with insights on the local area and especially on viticulture and the wines we were about to taste.
For instance, did you know that in even years (ie. 2018, 2020), the wine is fruiter and bolder? 2014 was apparently the best year for the region. Odd years, however, have their growing challenges. Smaller yields of fruit due to snow and weather irregularities to make the wine. They are often experimental years as they have to work with what they’ve got.
What wines did I enjoy? Well, I have quite an old-school style palette. I like oaked, buttery wines. Creamy flavors. Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are my favourite so I was really spoilt for choice here.
Amisfield is a breathtakingly beautiful winery. Stone, wood and black highlights form the base of the interior with adorable glasshouse for dining outside. I hear their menu is excellent. Here you choose your wines on an iPad and it has all the tasting notes ready for you to make a decision of what to try and then you are taken through it with one of the lovely ladies. The wine tasting is of five, and my favourites were the Fumé Sauvignon Blanc and the Breakneck Reserve Pinot Noir. Make sure you check out the tractor out the back – Jamie will show you where it is!
Next up, practically across the road was Akarua, which means two vines in Maori. Here we met Allie, the loveliest American Sommelier who was sooo much fun! Her passion for the wines was infectious and we just loved being there as it was a blast. These wines were really suited to my palette. Kicking off with the Brut Rosé – beautiful strawberry brioche flavors. We tried the 2018 chardonnay (later that day I would devastatingly break a bottle while trying to juggle too many bottles up a flight of stairs), which has pear coming through and is just all-round bloody delicious! The 25 Steps Pinot Noir was also fantastic but the 2018 Pinot Noir stole my heart with its earthy, smokey tones. My notes from this vineyard simply said; ‘Allie is awesome. Buy the chard, pinots, and rose brut.’
We swung through Arrowtown, a quaint, historic village while Jamie told us about how Gibbston Valley put Otago wine on the map. I was surprised to learn that only 3-4% of Kiwi wine is produced in Otago. We learned that it was an area where it was said it was good for nothing – maybe cattle. Then in the 1980’s they attempted to grow grapes and were told it wouldn’t work. And it didn’t the first year, but it eventually paid off. It took about 12-15 years until the good vines started coming through the tough climate. It’s a young wine region yet is winning accolades around the world for Pinots Noirs and more.
Next up, the renowned Chard Farm. This is the winery I probably heard about the most when I asked where I should visit. The lovely Pam took us through our tasting, with some outstanding Pinot Noirs. We then went downstairs to their cellar to check out all the barrels and to learn more about the beautiful wines they have there. I walked out with a number of the Chard Farm Tiger Pinot Noir. Another Jamie insight, this was the second winery in the area!
Last but not least, we winded along the gravel roads, picturesque scenery with a golden glow to Mt Rosa. Guy, the winemaker was quick to read the crowd and realised we were a rowdy pair who enjoyed quick banter. He had hilariously inappropriate jokes. Between him and Baz (the winery dog) I can see why this winery is a crowd favourite. I particularly loved their mulled wine and sangria syrups! A unique product offering, which makes a fantastic gift.
I cannot recommend the guys at Alpine Luxury Tours enough. We had a genuine kiwi experience and an absolutely awesome time. From organising the tour, to the luxe car, and most importantly the company (thanks Jamie!!), we were very well looked after.