There are many reasons you should visit a winery or two this summer. Among them: it is fun, educational and can be profitable. 

The golden rule of wine buying is “try before you buy”. Many wineries offer discounts on purchases of six bottles or more. 

With any luck, you will get to meet the owner and/or winemaker and learn the inside story of the wines you choose to taste. 

In my experience, cellar doors can be a treasure trove of wines you won’t find anywhere else. 

I have chosen two wineries from each of the nine wine regions. Four of those regions feature in this column and the remaining five will be covered in the next column. 

I haven’t checked out every one of this country’s 700-plus wineries but I have visited enough to appreciate the joys of hitting the wine trail.


Man O’War

Clearly the largest Waiheke winery, with arguably the best and most scenic cellar door, this is just a few metres from the gently lapping waters of Man O'War Bay on the eastern end of the island. 

Customers arrive by car, boat or helicopter (but you will need to book ahead if you choose the last option). Book a table if you wish to enjoy a light lunch and wine tasting. 

I recommend a private tasting of the outstanding Kulta wines. It is well worth the cost of $50 a person to taste these unique wines.


Tantalus first opened its doors in 2016 and now offers many attractions for wine enthusiasts, including a classy range of wines, a brewery (visit the Alibi Brewer’s Lounge) and a very stylish restaurant. 

For a special treat, try Tantalus Cachette Reserve Chardonnay, a generously proportioned and complex drop that will put a smile on the face of everyone who appreciates rich, weighty wine. 

Red-wine lovers will appreciate Tantalus Écluse Reserve, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec that combines power and elegance. 


The Landing

In the Bay of Islands, the birthplace of New Zealand wine, The Landing has a nine-hectare vineyard and a newly constructed winery on a spectacular 404-hectare coastal estate. 

They have four secluded luxury residences and welcome visitors for both lunch and a wine tasting, accommodating those choosing to travel by car, boat or helicopter. Check out the different options on their website.

Best known for its elegant chardonnay, The Landing will shortly release two flagship wines, a chardonnay and a syrah, under their Madre label. 

Collectors and investors please note: These limited-edition wines will be made only in outstanding vintages and in small quantities. They are both highly recommended. 

Marsden Estate

Marsden Estate planted their first grapevines in 1993 just a few minutes drive from Kerikeri village. 

In addition to producing a full range of wines for Marsden, owner/winemaker Rod MacIvor makes wine for around 20 local wineries. 

Marsden Estate’s four-hectare vineyard is planted with pinot gris, chardonnay, muscat, merlot, pinotage, chambertin, syrah and tempranillo. 

Visitors should try the Marsden Estate Chambertin, made from a red-fleshed, inky, disease-resistant French hybrid grape variety that perfectly suits the Northland growing conditions. 

Check out Marsden Estate’s restaurant menu on its website. 


Matawhero Wines

This historic winery was founded by the late Denis Irwin, a “fine wine” pioneer and legend who inspired many others to make world-quality wines. 

In 2008, the vineyard and winery were sold to the present owners, Kirsten and Richard Searle, who bravely revived both and kept the Matawhero legend alive. 

Visitors can explore the underground cellar and enjoy a gourmet platter while tasting the latest releases. Newly constructed luxury cabins allow you to stay among the wines.

If I had to pick just one wine from Matawhero’s cellar list, it would be their delicious Irwin Chardonnay. Produced in exceptional vintages only, this bold, complex wine is dedicated to the memory of Denis Irwin and his father, Bill.

Wrights Vineyard and Winery

Geoff and Nicola Wright, a chartered accountant and lawyer respectively, and their five sons win my award for the hardest-working and most dedicated NZ wine family. They released their first wines in 2000 and have continued to get bigger and better at a heady rate.

The Wrights' Natural Wine Co range comprises pure, fruit-driven wines that are fermented using wild yeasts, are low in allergen and do not use animal-based ingredients or fining. Preservatives are kept to a minimum. They also taste good.

My favourite is Natural Wine Co Organic Gisborne Chardonnay – pure, fruit-focused wine that is deliciously drinkable in all four seasons.

Visitors must try the Wrights' gourmet wood-fired pizzas.

Hawke’s Bay

Craggy Range

If I had to pick NZ’s most appealing cellar door, it would be hard to go past Craggy Range. 

Their Giants Winery is in a stunning setting against the backdrop of Te Mata peak. 

Craggy Range restaurant is the country’s top winery dining spot, and their “boutique accommodation among the vines” is hard to beat. 

Bookings are essential if you would like a hosted winery tour or tasting, but both are worth every cent.

This brings me to Craggy Range’s wines. They own top vineyard sites in Gimblett Gravels and Te Awanga in Hawke’s Bay and Te Muna Road in Martinborough so it is hardly surprising that their wines are outstanding.

This month, I tasted the 2021 Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay for the first time and have been thinking about it ever since. It's a delicious wine with lovely purity and a briny connection to the sea, which is not too far from Kidnappers Vineyard.

Church Road

Church Road earns my “must visit” status, particularly if you love chardonnay or syrah. 

Their wines fit every taste and budget, from entry-level to “heroic”. 

They have designed several wine experiences. The TOM Experience involves a tasting of the flagship TOM range in the underground wine museum, where you will discover some of the secrets of premium wine production while you enjoy savoury bites selectively matched to each drop. There's also a more affordable tasting experience of some of Church Road’s unique varietal wines. Bookings are essential.

If you have time only to taste a single wine, I recommend you try the Church Road McDonald Series Marzemino. The grape used to make this delicious red is widely grown in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, and Church Road is the exclusive producer in this country.