The 5 Best Gibbston Valley Wineries and Queenstown Winery Tour Review
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Going on a wine tour in Queenstown’s nearby famous Gibbston Valley is a popular activity for both tourists and locals alike. World-class Pinot Noir and incredible scenery make touring the wineries in the Gibbston Valley and Central Otago a special experience. This blog includes information on what to expect when going on a wine tour and the best Queenstown wineries!
Queenstown’s Famous Wine Region
As one of the newest, but best, wine regions in the world, Central Otago 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 Central Otago wine region has grown as an internationally recognized wine region and many more wineries have started popping up.
Today, a wine tour from Queenstown will take you through the popular Gibbston Valley, showcasing fields of grape vines in the most unusual setting. Vineyards sit next to deep gorges, 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, a wine tour from Queenstown promises views unlike anywhere else in the world!
Dan and I had to check out what all the hype was about for ourselves so the other day we joined a wine tour in Queenstown! It’s safe to say we had a blast (but that was no surprise as we just love going on wine tours!) However, there were a few things unique to a wine tour in Queenstown, things that you should know before you go!
A little bit about the Gibbston Valley
The Gibbston Valley is Queenstown’s most famous wine region and it’s world-class and award-winning Pinot Noir has put this region on the map. For that reason, the best wineries in Queenstown are in this region.
The Gibbston Valley is located around a 30 minutes 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. However, 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.
The 5 Best Queenstown Wineries
There is a huge range of wineries in the Gibbston Valley however many of the wine tours in Queenstown visit the wineries below. They are considered some of the best and most prestigious wineries in the region.
1. Gibbston Valley Winery
The Gibbston Valley Winery is not only the most famous winery in the region but, as mentioned above, was the first! In my opinion, no visit to the Gibbston Valley should go without a visit to the 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 its 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 and but don’t include the wine cave tour) or organize the paid shuttle the winery provides from Queenstown.
2. Mt Rosa
This small winery produces some incredible wines. Located in the heart of the Gibbston Valley, Mt Rosa has been around for 15 years. In that time they have established themselves as one of the best in the region. Their 2014 Pinot Noir was my personal favorite out all the wineries.
The views from the cellar door are incredible, and if you are lucky, the vineyard dog will come and greet you as you sample the wines.
Kinross is a unique cellar door because they actually offer several different wine labels from the region. The grapes grown nearby are used by several different wine producers which means that you can try or buy from six very boutique and world-renowned wineries.
In fact, the wineries here are so boutique 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.
4. Akarua Wines
Akarua Wines isn’t actually part of the Gibbston Valley family, instead, they grow their grapes at several vineyards around the Otago Wine Region. Their cellar door is located in Lake Hayes and the beautiful gardens were the perfect place to taste some wines.
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.
5. Waitiri Creek Wines / Cargo Brewery
Waitiri Creek is another really good winery located in the Gibbston Valley. The gardens and outdoor area here make this place the perfect spot for a social drink or lunch. 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!
Our Queenstown Wine Tour Experience
The most convenient and relaxing way to sample the best of the Gibbston Valley is on a wine tour. While in Queenstown I actually went on two! Here are my review and experience on a Queenstown wine tour!
Learning about Queenstown
Our day started with being picked up right in Queenstown town center. Our guide and driver, Erik, greeted us with a smile and before we knew it we were off on our way to Gibbston Valley to try some wine!
Along the drive, Erik stopped at the Queenstown Hill viewpoint and pointed out some other areas of interest. I knew I had signed up for a Queenstown wine your, but I didn’t know I was also getting a tour of the area – and it was great!
Dan and I have been in Queenstown for 6 months already and most of what Erik told us was new info to us! We learned about the Shotover River and its importance during the gold rush in the 1860s, how the Remarkables mountain range got their name, and about how they tried to dam the Kawarau River where it meets Lake Wakatipu.
I can’t tell you everything we learned, for that info, you’ll have to join a wine tour in Queenstown for yourself. However, what I can tell you is that Erik was sure knowledgeable and passionate about Queenstown and that energy immediately transferred to our group!
After about 30 minutes or so we arrived at our first winery. Following a short tour of the grounds and cellar door, we were sipping wine and having laughs!
Throughout the day we went to four different wineries and tried about 5 wines at each winery. We tried a huge variety of wines including an orange wine, a bubbly, a rose and a wide variety of whites and reds, but at each winery, Pinot Noir was always a constant (which was more than alright with me as I love Pinot Noir!)
At the second winery, we had lunch at their bistro. This was a great opportunity to get to know all of the other people on the tour as well as Erik. After a few laughs, we were off again into another winery.
By the end of the tour, we were a bit tipsy and happy after a good day. I loved that it was a wine tour about more than just wine, it felt like a great general tour of the area as well which I appreciated.
To be honest we love wine tours and we do them everywhere we go so we loved it. My only negative was it didn’t include lunch but the food available to purchase was really good. We highly recommend going on a wine tour in Queenstown to others who share our passion for wine!
General info about our wine tour in Queenstown
- Our tour started at 10 am and we returned just after 3 pm.
- The mode of transport was a brand-new Mercedes minibus complete with free WiFi
- Lunch was available at Kinross for an additional cost and you had your own choice from their menu
- The Wine Sampler tour visits four different wineries and includes hotel pickup and drop off
- The tour costs $189 NZD per person
Our Recommended Tour Provider
Our tour company of choice was by Altitude and we would highly recommend them to anyone. The tour was fun and informative, but also well organized and professional.
We went on their “Wine Sampler” tour and also their Twilight Wine and Craft Beer Tour. 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 was a great choice!
If you would like to book your tour you can choose one of the many Queenstown wine tours available here.
If Not Everyone’s Into Wine
If not everyone in your group is that keen on wine and you have a few beer lovers in the group then there’s actually a wine tour perfect for you. The Sundowner Craft Beer and Wine Tour mixes both great wines with amazing beer. I really enjoyed this tour because I also love sampling 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 luxury 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 book.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 wineries here! They also have really flawless reviews!
Overall, Queenstown is the perfect place for wine lovers! Explore the beautiful area while sipping on some world-famous reds – you won’t be disappointed!
January 4, 2020