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 Filed as : Regional SpotlightNew Zealand

Wine Country Travel

Jul 29, 2011
Wine Country Travel
Where to eat, drink and “do” in New Zealand's pinot noir capital.

central_otagoThe Rugby World Cup gets underway in New Zealand in a couple months. Thousands of visitors from far-flung places will descend on the country for several weeks. Between matches, who wouldn’t want to develop a taste for New Zealand's other passion? After all, it’s wine. Perhaps the best spot to visit is Queenstown, the main city at the heart of Central Otago. This is an outdoorsy, adrenaline-junkie paradise--but for our money, pinot noir is the main attraction.

The top wine experience is found at Gibbston Valley, just outside of Queenstown. The tour is fun and informative, the pinot noirs are delicious, and lunch in the restaurant is delightful. If you have time, make quick stops at two other wineries: Peregrine and Amisfield, both nearby. Don’t forget to save extra time for the scenic 45-minute drive on a winding mountain pass to the resort town Wanaka, where you'll find Rippon--one of the most beautiful vineyards on Earth. The property overlooks Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, and the views are breathtaking. Rippon's pinot noirs aren't shabby either--but they usually need four or five years of aging to taste at their best.

Back in Queenstown, perhaps the most acclaimed restaurant is The Bunker on Cow Lane. It's not the easiest place to find and the atmosphere is darker than it is welcoming, but the food is outstanding. All the produce is locally sourced, and everything--particularly venison and lamb--is prepared to perfection with bold, local flavors. Be sure to make a reservation far in advance.

When you've had your fair share of food and wine, the best thing to do in Central Otago is take advantage of the outdoors. If it's winter, hit the slopes. If you're visiting in warmer weather, the hiking trails in the hills and mountains around Queenstown are some of the best in the country. Whether you want to walk for a few hours or a few days, there's a trail to suit your skill level.

Have you visited New Zealand? Tell us about the best part of your trip below.

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