Whether you start in Picton or Blenheim, ensure you include a wine experience in your holiday.
With over 100 wineries in the Marlborough region, 10% of the population employed in the wine industry, and wine accounting for 20% of Marlborough’s economy, you’re in good company if you like wine. I have my favourite Marlborough wines but you really need to spend a few days here, meet the locals, taste some wines, to decide on your favourite.
Hans Herzog grows some 26 grape varieties on just 11.5 hectares of land in the heart of Marlborough. This is your opportunity for a complete immersive wine experience. Start with a wine tasting and tour (private tours available), check in to the romantic onsite Rose Cottage (they’ll have the fire going if it’s a cold day) and savour the Degustation menu at Gourmet Restaurant. In the morning, enjoy breakfast at the cottage, overlooking the vines (below). Perfect.
The Wine Station is ‘Marlborough wine in one room’. Nobody expects great wine to come from a vending machine, until you visit The Wine Station. These are no ordinary vending machines. Manager, Michelle Osgood, is a local, and she knows wine. Michelle curates the 80 wines available, some from small boutique vineyards with no cellar door so this is the only place you’ll be able to taste (and purchase) them. Match your choice of wine with a local food platter and you’ll be in foodie heaven. The experience doesn’t end there. You can purchase the wines onsite, and they’ll package them up and send them home for you. Your Marlborough holiday will continue, each time you open a bottle, well after you’ve unpacked your bags.
Join a Wine Tour to make the most of your time in Marlborough. I like active holidays, my favourite wine tasting is done on a bike tour in Marlborough. On a bike you can stop and learn about the grapes, the vines, and the soil and there’re no other tourists around. There are guided or self-guided tours on bikes or by car (you’ll need a designated non drinking driver) or join a small group or private tour. I’m in contact with the local operators all the time so when it’s time to plan your Marlborough visit I’ll be able to suggest what’s right for you!
The Marlborough Farmers Market motto ‘Fresh from farm gate to dinner plate” says it all really. It’s where Marlborough folk go on Sunday’s to support local food producers, buy the freshest seasonal produce, and catch up with friends. You know you’re in the right place when you smell the freshly roasted coffee and hear the sweet sounds of local musicians entertaining. I can recommend Cranky Goat’s Feta!
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is where one of New Zealand’s favourite sons, Sir Peter Jackson (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong) houses his collection of World War 1 & 2 aviation memorabilia. More than ‘just an aviation museum’, Sir Peter enlisted contractors to his company, Wingnut Films, to recreate the war scenes while Weta Workshops created the life size mannequins to bring these war time scenes to life.
A highlight of my visit was the Stalingrad Experience. Computer generated imagery, laser projectors, surround sound and lighting effects place you in the middle of the battle. It’s loud, and there’s a lot of action!
For a birds eye view of the patchwork Marlborough landscape take a joy flight from the Omaka Aviation Centre in a 1930’s biplane, previously used as a training aircraft by the US Army. They have the gear to dress up for the flight too!
The annual Marlborough Wine & Food Festival is held on the second weekend in February. It’s a fun day when some 40 wineries and food producers come together at Brancott Estate (where Marlborough’s first Sauvignon Blanc was born in 1979) to showcase their wares – quite a party. The Festival started in 1984 and remains a favourite with Kiwis – tickets are on sale now for February 2021. If you miss the Festival, call in to Brancott Estate for lunch on your travels and enjoy lunch with a view of the vines or a tasting tour, wine tastes even better when you’re tasting amongst the vines on Brancott’s wine tours.
Cloudy Bay is a globally recognised iconic Marlborough brand, one of the pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry.
Enhance your Cloudy Bay wine tasting experience on a private tour of the vineyards in their 4WD, with your Cloudy Bay Ambassador, and learn why Cloudy Bay wines are what they are today. Follow up with a tailor made tasting or epicurean experience (private 3 course lunch paired with Cloudy Bay wines) to complete the day.
To combine The Marlborough Sounds and Cloudy Bay wines, go sailing. Spend the day on board an elegant 54 foot yacht and enjoy lunch matched with Cloudy Bay wines. Maximum 6 people may well be the best way to appreciate the natural beauty of Marlborough.
For The Ultimate Marlborough experience, go foraging. Spend the day with your Cloudy Bay Ambassador and you’ll go to places you didn’t know existed, be introduced to authentic artisans in the region, and have a complete bespoke exploration of the wine and food Marlborough offers. At the end of the day your private chef designs a menu according to the day’s finds and accompanied with Cloudy Bay wines – this will be a day you’ll never forget!
And that’s it, the end of my blog, the beginning of your New Zealand holiday. Creating memorable holidays in New Zealand is what I do, ensuring my clients make the most of their time in Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud.
I’m a Kiwi Melbournian, born in NZ, living in Melbourne. As a New Zealand Tourism accredited Gold Specialist Travel Consultant, I know New Zealand. I invite you to get in touch to ensure your New Zealand holiday is the best it can be.