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Here at CK Travels, we love nothing more than a glass of New Zealand wine (and of course, the country in general). We found ourselves with a spare Sunday in Queenstown recently and decided to get away from all the hubris of the adventure sports and busy town and ‘escape to the country’ , so we planned a day out visiting Gibbston Valley boutique winery in the Central Otago region for a winery tour.
Winery tour Queenstown
We purposely chose Gibbston Valley as we’d been there on a brief visit before, but had been driving so weren’t able to fully experience the winery in terms of a tour and tasting session. This time, we opted to get picked up by the winery from Queenstown, it just so happened that the pick-up was right outside our Jucy Snooze hostel. We jumped aboard at 10am minibus on the Sunday morning, and enjoyed the lake and valley views en route to the winery.
Our wine cave tour was booked for 11am so we had a little time to kill beforehand, allowing us to check out the cheesery (which we’ll return to later) and also the rather cute gift-shop (chock-full of wine related presents and puntastic paraphernalia).
The cave tour started amongst the vines out the front, where our guide gave us a little background to why this part of the world and its soil was so unique – no-one ever thought good wine would be able to be produced given the soil type here but the wineries founder, Alan Brady worked hard to establish a winery here.
The winery tour group was a good size (approx 15), with nationalities including the UK, Canada and the US. Plus for a little while, we were joined by Gibbston Valley’s very own collie dogs! Group sizes for this tour vary as sometimes visitors from the hop-on hop-off wine bus also join in.
Our next stop on the Queenstown winery tour was the ‘wine cave’, which had been created using a combination of digging at the start (followed by a lot of dynamite when they realised it would take forever if they just manually dug in).
This was a very cool place to visit (metaphorically and literally) as we got to see hundreds of aged barrels full of wine, as well as a very special caged cellar that held bottles from every year of production (apart from the first four years, whereby the finished product wasn’t so good, as they learned how to make better wine through trial and error).
We then got to sample several of Gibbston Valley’s wine range whilst inside the cave, two whites (Pinot Gris and Riesling), one rosé and one of their signature pinot noir. Fun fact – they have a wine fridge in the cave to help keep the red wine at ‘room temperature’ as obviously the cave can be quite cold.
It was great to be tasting wine made right here on this very site, in such an atmospheric location. I can also report that no-one on our tour spat out the wine after tasting (so clearly none of us were wine experts, just novice drinkers and huge fans of the grape).
The winery tour lasts around one hour and we were then taken back to the main tasting room. There is something here to suit every budget, including a tasting of three GV wines from only $5 per paddle (the better quality wine you go for, the more you pay). If you like a particular varietal, you can also opt to do a tasting session based on your preferences. I purchased a couple of glasses of amazing pinot gris for $8 a glass, so the prices are very reasonable (especially compared to some of the wineries we tried on Waiheke Island).
As Gibbston Valley is a boutique winery and production volumes are quite small compared to the larger players, their wine generally isn’t available to buy outside of New Zealand save a few places. You can either join their Wine Club to get bottles shipped home on a regular basis, or buy some here to try back in your hotel (we also noticed GV wine on sale in the Four Square supermarket in Queenstown).
After all the hard work (hic!) of tasting, we decided to reward ourselves with a platter in the cheese room. We found an outside table that had great views of the winery and surrounding mountains and indulged in a ‘mini gourmet’ platter including 3 varieties of cheese, chorizo, and smoked salmon, along with another glass of the GV signature pinot gris – bliss.
Finally, we hopped back into the minibus that we had booked as part of the tour and made our (very) merry way back to Queenstown. If you are in Central Otago and want a relaxed tasting experience with some truly amazing cheese platters, ‘wine’ not visit Gibbston Valley?
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Words by Neil Hassall. Photography by Neil Hassall and Caroline Keyzor.
Disclosure: We were invited onto the Gibbston Valley winery tour, but as always, opinions are all our own.
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