The Best Queenstown Wineries And Picking A Wine Tour!
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Queenstown is home to some of the best wineries in New Zealand. Here’s your guide to the best Queenstown wineries and how to visit them either independently or on a guide Queenstown wine tour!
As one of the newest, but best wine regions in the world, Queenstown is now the perfect place to go on a wine tour.
Since beating out the French for the number one ranked Pinot Noir in 2001, the wineries around Queenstown are growing and now internationally recognized.
Queenstown is home to many small wine regions, however, the most famous of them all is the Gibbston Valley. Here, wine tours from Queenstown take you through this popular wine region, showcasing fields of grapevines in the most unusual setting. Vineyards sit next to deep gorges and cliffs, all complete with snow-covered mountains as the backdrop.
While it seems unusual for wineries to exist at such high altitudes and cold climates, the conditions are actually perfect for Pinot Noir.
And besides good wine, Queenstown wineries produce amazing meals, surrounded by a beautiful setting and are a fun way to learn about wine.
Dan and I love wine so it’s no wonder we’ve visited many of the wineries around Queenstown on a few different occasions.
However, there are a few that stand out from the rest and here I’ll tell you about the 5 best Queenstown wineries every visitor should check out for themselves! I’ve also included info on how to visit these Queenstown wineries and the different options for tours or self-driven routes.
About Queenstown’s famous wine region – The Gibbston Valley
For those new to Queenstown’s wine regions, it’s important to know that the Gibbston Valley is Queenstown’s most famous wine region. In fact, all but one of the wineries on this list of Queenstown wineries is located in the famous Gibbston Valley.
The Gibbston Valley is located around a 25-minute drive from Queenstown and is one of the newest wine regions in New Zealand. The first vines were planted in the valley in 1980 by Alan Brady, however, the first commercial vines were not planted until 1983.
During the few years after the first plantation, many people called Alan crazy and said that the region was far too cold to grow grapes. But despite his critics, Allan stood true to his word and in 1987 the first vintage was produced.
In 1990 Alan started the Gibbston Valley Winery and since then the region has grown dramatically and is now considered one of the top three wine regions in the world for producing Pinot Noir.
Because of the Gibbston Valley’s award-winning Pinot Noir, it’s now the must-visit wine region near Queenstown and the place every wine love who visits Queenstown should explore!
The 5 BEST Queenstown Wineries
Around Queenstown you can find lots of different wineries, however, there are a few that stand out from the rest. These Queenstown wineries are some of the most award-winning and boutique wineries in New Zealand.
This means some of the wines you’ll taste aren’t sold outside of New Zealand and for some, outside of the Otago region. Don’t worry though, if you find a wine you love almost all of the Queenstown Wineries deliver internationally to customers.
1. Gibbston Valley Winery
The Gibbston Valley Winery is not only the most famous winery in the region, but it was also the very first! In my opinion, no visit to the wineries near Queenstown should go without a stop at the historic Gibbston Valley Winery.
Aside from producing award-winning wines, the Gibbston Valley Winery is also home to New Zealand’s largest wine cave. Here you can take a tour and taste some wines in the cave while learning about the winery’s history.
The winery is also home to a cheese factory and when paired with the wine tasting, it’s a really great way to get acquainted with the local produce.
Overall, the Gibbston Valley Winery is a really special place to visit both on a Queenstown wine tour or on your own.
If you would like to visit the Gibbston Valley Winery without a tour you can do so either by driving yourself and paying for a tasting at the cellar door (these are $15 but don’t include the wine cave tour) or organize the paid shuttle the winery provides from Queenstown.
2. Mt Rosa
Only 15 years ago you would have found sheep grazing where Mt Rosa Winery now sits. In fact, the owners were sheep farmers but struggled with the stony soil that wasn’t great for pasture. So they sent the sheep to greener paddocks and planted a variety of grapes including Pinot Noir.
Mt Rosa Winery is now one of the largest wineries in the region but also one of the youngest. But even so, they have established themselves as one of the best in the region. Their 2014 Pinot Noir is my personal favorite out all the Queenstown wineries!
Oh, and for those who love white wine, they also produce one of the best Pinot Gris to ever come out of the Central Otago region.
The views from the cellar door at Mt Rosa are incredible, and if you are lucky, the vineyard dog will come and greet you as you sample the wines. Overall, Mt Rosa is one of the best wineries to visit in Queenstown and one you should add to your winery tour list!
Kinross is a unique cellar door because they actually offer several different wine labels from the region. The grapes grown nearby are owned by super boutique wineries which means that you can try or buy from six very boutique wineries all in one stop.
Of course, these wineries are so small each having their own cellar door just wouldn’t be viable so they’ve partnered together to create a one-stop-shop for the most boutique wines in the Queenstown area.
In fact, the wineries here are so boutique that it’s almost impossible to find their wines anywhere outside of the region. Some of the best wine labels on offer are the Coal Pit, Hawkes Head and Domain Thomson.
At the cellar door, you can try the different wines from the six wineries as well as enjoy a meal or drink in their gorgeous wine garden or restaurant.
Also, if you plan on staying a while and drinking a lot, consider spending the night at the Kinross Cottages. This beautiful accommodation is located in the winery only a stone through from the cellar door just in case you get thirsty!
4. Akarua Wines
Akarua Wines isn’t actually part of the Gibbston Valley family, and instead they grow their grapes at several vineyards around Queenstown and the Otago Wine Region.
With that said, their cellar door is one of the closest to Queenstown. Located in Lake Hayes only a 15 minutes drive from Queenstown, this beautiful winery is a must-visit while in Queenstown.
Being located so close to Queenstown, Akarua Wines is a great winery to visit for those with less time. The atmosphere here made me just want to relax and stay for the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine!
We tried a few different wines here and they were all very tasty. This is a place I would definitely return to for a drink and some food on a warm summer day!
5. Waitiri Creek Wines/Cargo Brewery
Waitiri Creek is another really good winery located in the Gibbston Valley. The gardens and outdoor entertainment area make this place the perfect spot for a social drink or lunch with friends. Of course, the wines they produce are also amazing and there are a few to sample.
Aside from the winery being amazing, this place is also a brewery! The Cargo Brewery is attached to the winery so you can even entice your beer-loving friends out to Waitiri Creek Wines for some awesome wine and beer tastings.
On the property, there are plenty of games to keep you busy and a really lovely outdoor and indoor seating area! If you get a chance, be sure to try the cider…it’s so good!
How to visit the Queenstown wineries
There are actually many different ways you can visit one, some, or possibly all of the wineries near Queenstown. So for those new to Queenstown, here are the best ways to visit the Queenstown wineries!
1. Traditional Queenstown Wine Tour
The first option (and my personal favorite) is on a Queenstown wine tour. Of course, wine tours from Queenstown come with obvious benefits such as the fact you’ll have a guide and a designated driver!
This means you can sample (drink!) as much wine as your heart desires and know you not only have a ride home and a guide to keep taking you to more wineries, but you won’t have to give your unlucky friend (designated driver) directions after a few too many.
There are lots of different wine tours that leave from Queenstown, but the one I have personally done and highly recommend is this Gourmet wine and lunch tour. The tour visits 3 wineries and includes an amazing lunch.
If that doesn’t sound like your style then you can view a huge range of Queenstown wine tours.
2. Hop-on Hop-off Self-guided Wine Tour
The next option for visiting the Queenstown wineries is on a hop-on hop-off tour. These self-guided tours are great budget options that provide a day of transport so you don’t have to drive.
On the hop-on hop-off tour, you’ll be driven around the Gibbston Valley and dropped off at the wineries you choose on the route. Your driver will give great recommendations and you’ll simply head inside to the cellar door for a tasting.
The bus routes operate every hour and completes the route 6 times each day. This gives you enough time to sample some wines and explore the winery before heading to your next location. It’s the most budget-friendly option for those without a car who want to visit more than one Queenstown winery.
3. Adventure wine tour
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand so of course, there are lots of adventure wine tour options available! These unique tours combine one of Queenstown’s popular activities with a wine tour for a full day of fun.
Scenic flight and wine tour
There are a few options available and the first is a scenic helicopter wine tour over the Otago Wine region and the Southern Alps before landing in the mountains for a quick photo stop. Then, it’s off to your first winery with an entrance like no other where you’ll meet your guide and be chauffeured for the day to various wineries. Talk about a day to remember!
Jet boating and wine tour
If you’re already planning on going jetboating in Queenstown then why not combine it with your wine tour. Here, you’ll start your day with a 60-minute jet boat ride right in Queenstown before your wine tour starts. Although it’s not necessary to combine these two as you can do them separately very easy, it will save you money!
You can book your jet boating and wine tour online in advance!
9 holes and wine tour
Golf lovers will enjoy this option to pair your wine tour with the ultimate Queenstown golfing experience at the Millbrook Golf Resort. On the tour, you’ll first head off to the course to play 9 holes on one of Otago’s best golf courses complete with TaylorMade golf clubs, golf cart, green fees, balls, and 9 holes.
Then, your guide will pick you up and take you on a tour of the Gibbston Valley wine region!
4. Gibbston Valley Winery Shuttle
Not everyone loves wine enough to spend half a day touring the wineries and spending a lot of money doing it. So, this option is the perfect option if that sounds like you.
The shuttle to and from the winery only costs $35 NZD return and can be paired with a tasting for as little as $48 NZD. The shuttle leaves 3 different times in summer and two in winter.
For more information on this option visit the Gibbston Valley Winery website.
5. Self-drive tour
Of course, if you do have a car and a designated driver then a self-drive tour is a great option especially with the help of me! Above you’ll find an ideal route to drive to visit the best Queenstown wineries listed above.
Here’s how your day could go if you follow the above:
From Queenstown drive out to Gibbston Valley Winery for a tasting and cave tour. Then head down the road to Kinross and then onto Mt Rosa. After sipping wines at Mt Rosa head on down to the Waitiri Creek (Cargo Brewery) for more tastings and lunch!
Finally, make the drive to Akarua Wines for your last tasting before heading back to Queenstown!
Our Recommended Tour Provider
Our wine tour company of choice in Queenstown is Altitude and we would highly recommend them to anyone. The tour was fun and informative, but also well organized and professional.
The mini-buses used are super comfortable and luxurious and at the end of the tour, we got to take a wine glass home with us! Overall Altitude tours are a great choice!
If you would like to book your tour you can choose one of the many Queenstown wine tours available here.
What about the beer lovers in the group?!
If not everyone in your group may be that keen on wine and if you have a few beer lovers then there’s actually a wine tour perfect for you.
The Twilight Craft Beer and Wine Tour mixes both great wines with amazing beer. I really enjoyed this tour because I love sampling craft beers as well as wine. This tour also runs in the afternoon until sunset so it’s perfect for on a summer day!
Gibbston Valley Accommodation
If you love wine that much then you should consider spending a night or two in the Gibbston Valley. There isn’t much accommodation in the Gibbston Valley, however, the few that are there are really amazing. They are:
Mt Rosa Lodge -Beautiful and luxurious accommodation located on the winery. A bed here is rather pricey but one of the more luxurious options available.
Pip’s Orchard -Pips Orchard B&B is one of the most affordable options in the valley and they also have one of the best Booking.com scores I have ever come across!
Kinross Cottages – I would have to say these guys would be my top pick. They are located at the Kinross Winery which is one of my favorites. They have a very social outdoor restaurant and you can try the wines from 6 boutique wineries! They also have really flawless reviews!
Before you go…
Overall, Queenstown is the perfect place for wine lovers! Every wine lover should explore this stunning region while sipping on some world-famous reds – you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read our guide to the Queenstown wineries! I really hope this has helped you plan your trip to Queenstown. If you have any further questions about the wineries in Queenston or on Queenstown, in general, please leave them below!
If you found this article helpful we would love for you to check out all our other Queenstown guides and New Zealand guides as we are sure you’ll find more helpful information! I’ll also leave some related articles below!
March 12, 2020