Central Otago: Cromwell

Wooing Tree vineyard

Cromwell itself is a great place to base yourself for a Central Otago wine adventure. The town has a few wineries and the popular 4 Barrels trail is about 8kms walking, but with four winery stops along the way, it’s a great way to get a bit of exercise and work up an appetite for each break…with wine!

Photos in this section supplied by Central Otago Tourism, copyright: Image Central

Aurum wines

Coming from the north, the first vineyard to visit is Aurum just off the highway that runs between Cromwell and Wanaka at 140 State Highway 6. Although only about 1km from Cromwell, the area is known as the sub-region of Lowburn. Family-run, the Aurum estate is certified Bio-Gro organic. The Cellar door and Tasting Room is in the original farm building with beautiful surroundings of a traditional country cottage garden – including an olive grove.

They offer a couple of accommodation options onsite, and are part of the 4 Barrels walking wine trail. Look out for the ‘Madeleine’ Pinot Noir that uses 100% whole bunch. Open in winter every day from 11am to 4pm; and in summer (from 5 Dec) from 10am to 5pm. Ph: 03 445 3620. Email: sales@aurumwines.com. www.aurumwines.com.

Scott Base is at 27 McNab Road – offering beer and wine tastings, this is one for everyone. It’s own by wine pioneers the Scott family who made their name in Marlborough (and there’s even a book about patriarch, Allan). Josh Scott founded Moa Beer in 2003, and you can even try the family wines from Blenheim here alongside their distinctly Central wines.

Scott Base

They have a corner of Chardonnay in the vineyard, and make a Méthode wine – ‘Emporer’ as well as a couple of regular wines from those grapes. Of course the Pinot is great too! Phone 03 445 4715. Email:info@spaceatthebase.co.nz.  www.scottbasewines.com

Also on the 4 Barrels trail is Wooing Tree – a family-run vineyard named after a ‘local landmark’ that has attracted its share of lovers to it’s shade over the years (so the story goes) – well before the land was planted as a vineyard. The tree sits squarely in the centre of the property, and made an easy decision when it came to naming the new venture. The Cellar Door is open daily and serves platters and sweet treats, so is a great spot for a rest and a flight of wines. Their Pinot Noirs are superb, but make space for a couple of fairly unique wines whilst you’re here – ‘Blondie’ is a Blanc de Noir, and ‘Tickled Pink’ a dessert wine – both are made from Pinot Noir, but maybe unlike anything you’re used to (and are excellent). www.wooingtree.co.nz. 64 Shortcut Road, Cromwell, Ph: +64 3 445 4142

Mishas vineyard

At 182 State Highway 8B, one of the main roads into Cromwell, so hard to miss… is the last of the wineries on the 4 Barrels trail – Misha’s Vineyard. Their pretty tasting room is open daily 10am-4pm but it’s a very popular stopping point, so time your run well! From vineyards in Bendigo, they make up to four styles of Pinot Noir, and a range of aromatic whites

Wines are award-winning and often attracting high scores from the critics, and they have something for most tastes. ‘The High Note’ Pinot is one to watch out for. www.mishasvineyard.com. Tel: +64 21 500 904. Email: info@mishasvineyard.com

In the same ‘block’ as Misha’s – sometimes known as the ‘Freeway Orchard complex’ are the combined Tasting Room of Matt Connell wines and Quest Farm; as well as the ‘Stoaker Room’ Bistro & Bar run by Wild Earth wines, which also serves as their Cellar Door.

Matt Connell wines

First up, let’s talk about Matt Connell. Something of a Pinot Noir wunderkind – we have just put up his interview here..

and reviewed his Chardonnay here..

The Cellar Door is a shared space, but is a delightful relaxed affair, where Matt himself is often found hanging out at the weekends. This is the place to find some of his harder-to-get wines, or vintages. ‘Rendition’ is a cult wine and a bottle from the stellar 2017 that won a Trophy would be the one to seek out. Matt is a convivial host, full of stories and makes one of our greatest wines. Not one to miss.

In the same boutique Cellar Door are Quest Farm, and to be honest there’s not too much that I know about them. It was after hours when I visited, and spent my time talking to Matt on his side of the property. I’ve heard the Pinot is good, but again, haven’t tried it myself. If you can offer any info on this label, please leave a remark in the Comments below, and we’ll follow it up.

One of the other recommendations from me, is to visit the Stoaker Room whilst you’re here. Or double back for dinner – that’s what I did when I was in town, and am glad I didn’t miss out on it, as it was a great experience. A ‘Stoaker’ is a barrel converted to a cooking device – think a smoker, steam oven and BBQ rolled into one. All of the food I aw being served looked amazing. Huge platters groaning with meats, salads, shellfish, salmon. I had the burger of the day and it was glorious. Messy, spicy, tasty – delicious. After a days tasting wine I had a local IPA beer, but you can sample the full range of Wild Earth’s award-winning wines here. Their range of Pinot is excellent. www.wildearthwines.co.nz and www.thestoakerroom.co.nz.

Now, you need to jump across town to the ‘industrial chic’ neighbourhood, but what you lack in beautiful outlook, is made up for by tasting wines of absolute class and some genius. You’re heading for Burn Cottage, and Quartz Reef.

Starting at Burn Cottage – they are a working winery, and can therefore only see visitors by appointment – don’t just rock up here, as there may well be no-one available to host you. Make a time, however, and you’ll get to taste wines that feature on the Fine Wines of New Zealand list, and are highly sought-after, small-production items. Our interview with Claire is here…

The white wine, of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, is a rarity and utterly sublime, but for me the Pinots are classic examples, and I’d stick my neck out and say the ‘Moonlight Race’ is an absolute banger for the price. Phone 03 445 3670 or visit www.burncottage.com

Burn Cottage Valli Pinot

The last opportunity of the day for tasting is at Quartz Reef – we interviewed Rudi Bauer here…

OK, we are fans of this label! There, we said it. They are at 8 Hughes Crescent in Cromwell and open from 12-4pm daily, but bookings are recommended. Email info@quartzreef.co.nz or call 03 445 3084.

The sparkling Méthode would be amongst the best in New Zealand, and certainly offers outstanding value as well as the quality of a great champagne (if not the pricetag). I was amazed to discover how good their whites are – Chardonnay in particular – reviewed here…

but also the Pinot Gris – since their reputation is built upon some of the finest Pinot Noir wine in Central – and therefore New Zealand. They are pioneers of the Bendigo region, now one of the most talked about sub-regions around.

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