Central Otago – Cromwell

Matt Connell Tasting Room view

Coming from the north, the first Cellar Door that you’ll find to visit is Matt Connell Wines 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. Recently owned and operated by Aurum, and now taken over by Matt, the Tasting Room is in an original farm building with beautiful surroundings of a traditional country cottage garden – including an olive grove. Something of a Pinot Noir wunderkind – I visited Matt for the second time now that he’s in this new home and winery > https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=7277

Open by appointment only. 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.

Email: matt@mattconnellwines.com or check out the website – www.mattconnellwines.com.

Rendition 21

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. 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!

Call them on +64 3 445 4715, or Email:info@spaceatthebase.co.nz  www.scottbasewines.com

Something has definitley happened to Wooing Tree – a family-run vineyard  since I was last in town – it’s now an upmarket housing subdivision!! The vineyard was named after a ‘local landmark’ that 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 subdividion still, but I’m guessing that the vineyard is all gone now?

The website has this information about their Cellar Door – “Please Note: We are operating a temporary Cellar Door whilst we start the build of our exciting new Cellar Door that will be located on the highway SH8B off the new roundabout. There is construction happening around us, but we are looking forward to our new Cellar Door! We are still offering Platters, tastings and wine sales just with a smaller venue”. 

The Wooing Tree Pinot Noirs are good, 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

At 182 State Highway 8B, one of the main roads into Cromwell, so hard to miss… is 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 – see my 94/100 review here – https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=3032. Their excellent ‘The Soloist’ Pinot Rosé 2021 won our Top 10 tasting of rosé – https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=4546 against a very strong set of entries.

Mishas Limelight 2019
Misha’s Vineyard ‘The High Note’ Pinot Noir 2015

In 2021 I had the great pleasure of attending a vertical tasting of their Pinot and Rieslings – https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=3032. Both of the 2012 vintage wines were well-deserving of their 96/100 point scores. I visited in December this year (2022) and I’ll be publishing an article from that trip to see owner Misha and winemaker Olly Masters in the New Year. 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’ is the Tasting Room of Pisa Range Estate. It is open Wed-Sun 11am-3pm although times may vary due to seasonality, so, if in doubt,  contact them on (03)445 0412. You can also book a 30min guided wine tasting at our Cellar Door where we will take you through our current vintages and history of Pisa Range Estate.

Stoaker room

Also in that block is the ‘Stoaker Room’ Bistro & Bar run by Wild Earth wines, which also serves as their Cellar Door. Don’t miss a trip to the Stoaker Room – 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 saw being served looked amazing. Huge platters groaning with meats, salads, shellfish, salmon. I’d definitely recommend getting one of the ‘Stoaker Feast’ platters or for bigger groups the Butcher Feast is the way forward! They are seriously impressive and very, very tasty. www.wildearthwines.co.nz and www.thestoakerroom.co.nz.

The wines are made by Jen Parr – the 2020 winner of NZ Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet traveller Wine. Their top Pinot Noir – the Reserve ‘Earth and Sky’ 2021 won the Trophy for Best Wine in Show at the last NZ International Wine Show – that I judged at – as well as winning the Pinot category and getting a Double Gold medal.

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. 

Burn Cottage Valli Pinot

Our interview with Claire is here…https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=1817. 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

The last opportunity of the day for tasting is at Quartz Reef – we interviewed Rudi Bauer here…https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=1238. And reviewed some of the wines here…https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=4883. 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. 

Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle Brut NV

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, 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.

cromwell wine map

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