Vineyard Hopping Must-Haves
When the hubs and I first decided to go on a trip around the world before he started his MBA program, we toyed with the idea of basing our destinations around a common theme. At the top of the heap? Wine regions.
How amazing would it be to bounce from country to country, meeting winemakers and testing out the latest vintage? I had dreams of stomping grapes in Italy and swirling our glasses in Argentina, before eventually buying up a plot of land to call our own somewhere in Napa.
Clearly, I have a vivid imagination. And, if you’ve been following along with our RTW journey you can probably guess: Hawaii and Fiji aren’t really known for winemaking, so we did, eventually, ditch the idea of vineyard-hopping our way around the world.
Naturally, we couldn’t rid ourselves of this idea completely, and as soon as we arrived in New Zealand, we mapped out our month-long trek through the North & South Islands to include Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, Central Otago, and Marlborough.
Though a life as winemakers isn’t in our near future, visiting almost twenty vineyards in the course of a month did give me serious insight into how to run a successful wine-tasting—or at least what to ask for when we make it to our next wine region. (Here’s looking at you, Barossa Valley).
Know the winemaker… or better yet: BE the winemaker.
Obviously, the most important aspect of a successful wine tasting is the wine itself. But if you’re going to be chatting with a string of people about wine, you should probably be able to answer a few key questions, right?
Questions like: how long has the winemaker been making wine? What brought the winemaker to this region? What’s the inspiration behind the label? Where is the toilet?
I don’t have photos from our two best wine tastings, because we were way too busy chatting. At Brennan Wines in Central Otago, we had the pleasure of chatting with Sean Brennan himself—which was, to be honest, a little intimidating when asked for our honest opinions of the wine.
At Gibson Bridge in Marlborough, one of the winery’s co-owners, Julie, detailed the backstory of their growing boutique winery, as well as each bottle we tried.
It completely changes the tasting experience, and hint, hint, vineyard owners: made us far more likely to actually buy the wine.
If you’re going to offer lunch, do it right.
On our first wine tour in Hawke’s Bay, we rented bikes and were advised to make sure our lunch stop lined up with our visit to Church Road. Though not all of the wineries offer lunch, it is important that your lunch goes well with… le duh… the wine list.
You can imagine that, after eating the cheese board in the photo above, our lunch a few days later could not compare:
No, no, no. Bad job, nameless wine tour company.
Show off your grapes.
On our second stop in Central Otago, we noticed something—this was the only region we’d visited where we were invited to try the grapes. At Gibbston Valley, our guide took us for a walk around the grounds and showed us a few different vines, inviting us to pick and try some of the grapes directly. At Peregrine, our host let us snack on pinot noir and chardonnay grapes as we tasted their corresponding wines… and it totally enhanced our experience.
Bonus Points: Awesome Views
Ok, fine. Soil is probably more important… but as soon as we set foot onto Rippon Vineyard’s land, we didn’t care if they served us vinegar.
This might be where a real wine-taster questions my commitment to the palette… but seriously. That VIEW.
Though I can’t tell you how a wine snob might respond if you ask exclusively for vineyards with good cheese, stellar views, and the chance to eat their key ingredients, I can at least attest to the importance of a good tasting ambiance to go along with fancy wines.
Unless you’re hungry… then cheese is always the most important aspect of any tasting.
Take note, vineyards of the world.
Vineyard Hopping Must-Haves is part of my travel blogger network series.
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