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Kingsley Wood on Tour - Central Otago - Part Two

There are numerous sub regions making up the wine areas of Central Otago. I split up the main ones over two days – Cromwell/Bannockburn/Wanaka then the Lake Hayes/Gibbston area. The weather was ideal for visiting wineries, cold, wet, miserable in every respect – perfect.
 
We may have been lucky with our trip over the Crown Range as the snow at the top had turned to rain, lots of it, as we crawled our way down. We drove past several very recent slips and later that day the road was closed – for the next 2 days.
 
We started our day at fabulous Amisfield. You hear various comments about their experiences at Amisfield but there is no question that this place would rate in any of the world’s greatest wine regions. They charge $10 for a tasting of any 5 wines, including the Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir that retails for $120. And they use Riedel tasting glasses – it’s a class act.
 
Travel a couple of kilometres along Lake Hayes towards Arrowtown and you find the restaurant and tasting room (container) featuring the wines from Akarua. They have a reasonably substantial restaurant – serving breakfast and lunch and it was fully booked out on this day of miserable weather. They charge $5 for 5 wines.
 
Drive back to Amisfield, go up the hill and you find “Wet Jacket” – owned, run and named by Grey Hay – ex Peregrine. This is an old stone shearing shed – some of the shearing set up is still in place, but next door you can sample the local wines for $5 on the days they have the food truck outside. The Whitestone Cheese room, part of the complex, is well worth a visit. It was great to catch up with Greg Hay – our first encounter was around 35 years ago when several teams from Central Otago travelled to Dunedin for the Wilson Neill Wine Options competitions.
 
Our next visit was Chard Farm and we can tell people the entrance road has not changed. I cannot believe we once persuaded a driver to take a full-size bus into that winery. There’s a big range of wines to taste at Chard Farm and you pay a donation to do so – there is no set fee. No food – no fixed tasting fee. Rob Hay was our host at Chard Farm.
 
The Peregrine winery has not really changed since my last visit – some 14 years ago. The winery was new then, the winemaker was Michelle Richardson and there were only a few barrels in evidence – it’s now full. There is no charge to taste 4 wines at Peregrine and they are open from 11 am to 6 pm.
 
On the region’s wine map we noticed there was a Gibbston Tavern located on Coal Pit Road. This road is only a few hundred metres from Peregrine and we decided to check it out for lunch. The Tavern looks like a little old rustic building, and we are told it was made from containers – but you wouldn’t know it. The wood-fired pizza with a glass of Peregrine Chardonnay was very agreeable.
 
Travel up Coal Pit road, turn along Gibbston Back Road (which runs parallel to the Gibbston Highway) and you arrive at Brennan Wines. Open from 11 – 5, you pay $15 for a tasting of their wines, which are all made from locally grown Gibbston fruit.
 
Back on the main road we discovered Kinross. There’s a lot on offer here. Open 7 days, 8 am – 5 pm, they have boutique accommodation, a bistro, cellar door ($15 for 5 wines) and you can taste wines from Valli, Hawkshead, Coal Pit, Domaine Thomson and Wild Irishman. Kinross was packed with tourists and we thought this was a place to include on your visiting list.
 
Our last stop in the Gibbston Valley was to Waitiri Creek. They open 7 days 11 – 5, they have a busy kitchen (at least 3 people working in there) and for $12 you can taste 4 wines – or 4 craft beers. They have a lovely garden setting, somewhat inappropriate on the day we called in.
 
Heading back to Wanaka we decided we had to revisit Archangel which had been closed on the Tuesday. It’s closed every Tuesday. You will find Archangel at Queensbury – approximately 20 minutes out of Wanaka. This is a new complex, there is a food menu and every Sunday the Food Truck arrives. It’s $3 to taste each wine – rebatable if you purchase 2 bottles. Nothing to do in Wanaka or Cromwell, it’s worth the drive – but not on a Tuesday.
 
So that was my whistle stop trip around a lot of Central Otago wineries – 25 were open, 5 closed and while we tasted wines at only a few places, if you were planning on plenty of tasting you would need about 4 days to get around so many venues.

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