Our first stop in central Otago was Chard Farm, a charming tasting room on a hill above the highway. Just across the road is a old suspension bridge with bungee jumpers over the Kawarau Gorge.
Andrew was a great host and we really enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
Our next stop was Amisfield which is mainly a bistro with an attached tasting room. Avi was our host and he was very friendly and let us try a variety of open wines. There was a large group coming in just as we were leaving so we got lucky on timing. The tasting room isn’t very big and would be crowded with more than a few groups. While we liked the Riesling the best, they were running a special with free shipping in the US for a mixed case of any combination of their 2011 Pinot Noir, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (nice acidity, grapefruit) and 2013 Pinot Gris so we ordered a case.
After getting a wine region map from Avi, we decided to backtrack past Chard Farms to Mt. Rosa Winery and on the way stopped for cheese and bread (Kawarau Blue and Nevis Maasdam) at the Gibbston Valley Cheese Shop.
Due to a local wine festival that evening in Queenstown, Mt. Rosa was closed, so we drove across the street (literally) to Brennan Wines. I don’t know how good Mt. Rosa would have been, but Brennan wound up being our favorite winery on the south island! Dave was our host and we had him mostly to ourselves for the half hour tasting. Eric liked the Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris the best while I was really impressed with their unusual Tempranillo and range of Pinot Noirs. We bought a glass of the Gewurztraminer and Tempranillo to go with our cheese and bread picnic lunch with a view.
On our second pass through the valley several days later we tried to stop at Rockburn Wines but they were closed (we found out later due to a local holiday) but Mt. Difficulty was open. Eric liked their Rieslings but I was not impressed with the Pinot Noirs. The only one I actually enjoyed was over $100/bottle so… no. However, the setting was absolutely gorgeous with panoramic views so instead of trying another place and chancing it being closed, we decided to stay and split a bottle of Riesling on the deck.
On our way back to Wanaka we stopped by a produce stand and picked up a wonderful package of dried apricots from Jackson Orchards which we snacked on for the rest of the trip.