It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Marlborough, because the weather is invariably balmy (with a few frosty winter mornings), and there’s always wine to drink if all else fails. If you stand on any high point, you’ll see grapevines spread across the rolling landscape in all directions as far as the eye can see—vines now cover approximately 23,000 hectares (57,000 acres). In just over 25 years, Marlborough has established itself as one of the world’s premier wine-producing regions, responsible for over 63% of New Zealand’s total wine production. There are about 160 wineries in the area and around 40 of those are open for cellar door visits; plus, many have restaurants, and some have galleries or crafts shops. Pick up the free Marlborough Winemakers map and the Top of the South Wine Guide from the visitor center before setting off, or check out www.winemarlborough.net.nz. You would also be wise to get a copy of The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail from visitor centers throughout the country. Following are a few wineries of note.
More than 30 years ago, Montana Brancott Winery, State Highway 1, Main Road South, Riverlands (tel. 03/577-5775; www.montana.co.nz), planted the first vines in the region, and today it’s New Zealand’s largest winery. Tours leave Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. The wine shop and the huge (and sometimes noisy) Montana Brancott Restaurant are open daily from 10:30am to 3pm.
Those with an eye for good wines will be familiar with Cloudy Bay, Jacksons Road, Blenheim (tel. 03/520-9147; www.cloudybay.co.nz). Its name is well known internationally, and 75% of its acclaimed sauvignon blanc is exported. It also produces chardonnay, cabernet merlot, and a sparkling wine, Pelorus. It’s open for tasting and sales daily from 10am to 5pm (closed Dec 25).
Allan Scott Wines & Estates, Jacksons Road, Blenheim (tel. 03/572-9054; www.allanscott.com), is just across the road and has a good vineyard restaurant called Twelve Trees. The winery produces chardonnay, sauvignon, and Riesling. The cellar is open for tasting daily from 9am to 4:30pm; the restaurant opens daily for lunch at noon. Hunter’s Wines, Rapaura Road, Blenheim (tel. 03/572-8489; www.hunters.co.nz), is home to Jane Hunter, acclaimed as one of the five best women winemakers in the world. The winery is hugely popular with tour groups. The restaurant is open daily from 10:30am to 4:30pm; the wine shop, daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm.
Grove Mill, Waihopai Valley Road, Renwick (tel. 03/572-8200; www.grovemill.co.nz), is well worth a visit, especially if you’re also an art lover. In addition to producing medal-winning chardonnay, Riesling, and cabernet sauvignon, its gallery features exhibitions of nationally recognized New Zealand artists. In 2006, it became the world’s first carbon-neutral winery. It follows the carboNZero program and is a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand. It’s open daily from 11am to 5pm. Highfield Estate, Brookby Road, Blenheim (tel. 03/572-9244; www.highfield.co.nz), which produces classic varietal wines, has wine tastings, cellar door sales, and a restaurant with stunning views. It’s open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Wairau River Wines, corner of Rapaura Road and State Highway 6, Blenheim (tel. 03/572-9800; www.wairauriverwines.com), has one of the best winery restaurants in the Marlborough region—a reliable brasserie with an innovative blackboard menu at reasonable prices. It’s housed in a charming mud-brick building, has cellar door sales, and is open daily 10am to 5pm. Mahi Wines, Terrace Road, Renwick (tel. 03/572-8859; www.mahiwine.co.nz), has a delightful cafe. French winemaker Daniel Le Brun established the vineyard in 1980, and with 12 generations of champagne making behind him, he’s truly established in his new venture. It’s open 10am to 4:30pm.
Johanneshof Cellars, State Highway 1, Koromiko (tel. 03/573-7035; www.johanneshof.co.nz), has spectacular underground wine cellars blasted into the hillside. It’s open in summer Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm, and in winter, Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm.
The Sounds Connection, 10 London Quay, Picton (tel. 0800/742-866 in NZ, or 03/573-8843; www.soundsconnection.co.nz), has half-and full-day tours from NZ$65 to NZ$150. Its groups are smaller than some larger companies, and you can choose the vineyards. If you want some exercise while you see the wineries, call Wine Tours By Bike, 191 Bells Rd., Blenheim (tel. 03/577-6954; www.winetoursbybike.co.nz), which will take you on an exploration of its favorite cycling roads, scenic spots, vineyards, wineries, arts, crafts, and olive or fruit farms. Stop at a vineyard for lunch (extra cost) and soak up the quiet calm of this divine area. A tour of up to 4 hours costs NZ$45 per person; from 4 to 8 hours costs NZ$60 per person. You can find five leading Marlborough wineries represented in one handy cellar door location at the Wine Room, SH1, Grovetown, Blenheim (tel. 03/570-5490; www.thewineroom.net.nz). It offers blind tastings, sells gourmet products like chocolate and olive oil, and will organize shipping of any wine you purchase.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.