New Zealand’s Emerging Wine Region

Your next Kiwi crush

BY ELAINE GLUSAC — Summer 2018

ungee jumping and pinot noir wines — adrenaline vs. elegance — are polar opposites. The former, and other extreme adventures, headline the appeal of the mountainous Otago region in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. But the latter, produced here in the country’s coldest, hottest, and driest growing districts, aim to share that marquee as a cache of new tasting rooms opens in and around Cromwell, about 35 miles northeast of Queenstown.

The pinot wineries in the scenic Cromwell Basin — bounded by Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River, and Pisa mountain range — flourished over the past two decades and their newly maturing vines are the pride of tasting rooms, aka “cellar doors,” now attracting travelers. Misha’s Vineyard ( its wine lakeside but pours its complex pinot noirs and aromatic white varietals in a new Cromwell tasting room. In the growing district, Domain Road Vineyard (, popular for its long-finishing pinots and quaffable rosé, established its tasting room in shipping containers above the vines. Nearby, Desert Heart Estate  ( now serves pinots and cheese platters in view of the Pisa range. “There is so much excitement around new wineries, and the styles are so diverse that no two tastings are the same,” says Judy McKenzie, a local Abercrombie & Kent tour guide.

Finding Otago wines in U.S. markets is rare, making travel to the region mandatory for pinot fans. In true Kiwi style, make wine tasting an outdoorsy endeavor via the new 4 Barrels Walking Wine Trail in Cromwell (find maps at the town visitor center,, linking four vineyards — Misha’s, Aurum Wines, Scott Base, and Wooing Tree — over 5 miles.


Queenstown, the South Island adventure capital, makes an ideal base for exploring the rural Otago, and new lodgings and adventures seal the deal.

The dramatic new 69-room QT Queenstown from the Aussie boutique hotelier QT Hotels & Resorts hosts Reds Bar, the town’s sundowner destination for cocktails with panoramic lake views. From $590.

Luxury villa rental company Touch of Spice is the go-to for celebrities filming in the area. It books properties such as jeweler Michael Hill’s six-bedroom, art-filled Lodge at the Hills estate with a grass tennis court and audio listening room. New excursions available to guests include heli-e-biking trips on a private ranch across Lake Wakatipu. Villas from $500.


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