Biking under the influence: The Marlborough Wine Trail

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Countries, Featured, New Zealand | 8 comments

If you know Mike and I well, you know that if there is a wine region to be toured anywhere in our vicinity while traveling, we will find it.  This stems mostly from my love of wine and Mike’s willingness to start drinking at 10 am.  We have explored California wine country (Napa and Sonoma), Italy (Chianti and Brunello regions), Oregon (Willamette Valley), and Argentina (Mendoza).  We have savored every sip along the way and enjoyed learning about each regions’ technique surrounding this ancient art.  It is amazing how much you can learn about a country and its people by spending a day exploring their vines…. California is laid back yet chic, Oregon more simple and relaxed, Italy is big, bold, and steeped in tradition, and Argentina is rustic yet dynamic.  It seems that the personality of a region often shines through in their wines.

When I learned about the Marlborough wine region in New Zealand, I knew that we would have to add this to our itinerary.  After a somewhat busy first half of the trip on the South Island, we decided to slow down and spend a few days at the beach before spending our last full day meandering through Marlborough.

Mike at Cloudy Bay Winery

Mike at Cloudy Bay Winery

In our past wine touring experiences, we have found distinct differences in each region and have therefore explored each area in varying ways:  self driving through California and Oregon, small guided group tours in Argentina and Italy.  When we arrived in Marlborough, we immediately noticed that there were an unusually high amount of wineries in a small vicinity and that the terrain was very flat.  With these two unique features in mind, we opted to rent bikes and pedal our way through the vineyards.


With our  bikes underneath us and a copy of a “Marlborough Wine Trail”  map in hand, we prepared ourselves for a Kiwi wine tour.

The Marlborough region is located in the northeast corner of the South Island of New Zealand.   Wine cultivation began in the late 1970s and has steadily grown.  Now, the Marlborough region accounts for  79% of the country’s wine production.  The contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights help vintners extend the ripening period of their vines resulting in remarkable expressions of their grapes.

Kat at The Vines Village

Kat at The Vines Village

We decided to base our tour in the town of Renwick in the Wairau Valley where there  are dozens of wineries lining the quaint country side streets.  The relaxing bike ride offered views of orderly green vines on either side of you and towering mountains in the distance.  I loved being able to actually experience nature while en route to the tastings; to actually smell the grassy air, hear birds chirping, and feel the warm sun on my face only heightened the experience.   We were delighted to discover that most of the wineries even offered complimentary tastings!  Each vineyard had its own style but the staff were consistently friendly, knowledgeable, and pressure free.  While the Marlborough region is known for producing excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, we sampled several different varietals.

After seven wineries, 5 hours of biking, and a few glasses of vino, we weaved and wobbled back to our campervan on our bikes.  The day was a success and we learned a little more about this glorious country through its grapes.  Much like its people and culture,  New Zealand wines/wineries are laid back, approachable, and down to earth.  Even though Marlboough wine country is probably not the most unique wine country that I have toured, the novelty of being able to experience the countryside on two wheels made our day special and memorable.

If you are interested, I briefly describe the different stops we made on the tour below:

1.  Cloudy Bay Vineyards:  Beautiful manicured courtyard gardens and indoor/outdoor dining.  Complimentary tasting.

Kat at Cloudy Bay Winery

2.  Alan Scott Family Vineyards:  Dining options and $5 tasting.  We enjoyed both the Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc (both of which are available in the states at various outlets).

Allan Scott Winery

3.  Hans Herzog Estate:  Extensive variety of high quality wines.  Excellent gourmet restaurant.  $10 tasting fee that is refunded with the purchase of wine.

Hans Herzog Winery

4.  The Vines Village:  Cute mini village consisting of  a variety of shops offering local foods and wares.  Samples of fudge, gourmet oils, and sauces are abundant and the winery, Bouldevines’, tasting room is on site and open for complimentary tastings.

The Vines Village

5.  No. 1 Family Estate:  Known for its sparkling wines specializing in New Zealand Method Traditionelle.  Complimentary tastings available.

No. 1 Cuvee Winery

6.  Giesen: Beautiful courtyard and food platters available in addition to wine.  We loved taste testing and comparing their 4 Sauv Blancs (one that is uniquely oak barreled).  We also enjoyed (perhaps a little too much) being able to try every wine on the menu at no charge.  Some wines available in the states.

Giesen Winery

7.  Forrest: Owned by a couple of doctors, John and Bridgid Forrest.  Great variety and outdoor eating/picnicking area.  Complimentary tasting.

Mike at Forrest Winery


  1. looks like you guys are having a great time ! Traveling by bikes is great fun too . Finally found your blog on facebook this morning so will have to catch up.

  2. You have also toured the sophisticated southern Michigan wine region!!!

    • This made me chuckle Kase. This looks amazing… my kind of trip! Rob and I did the same through Sonoma – always makes for an interesting outing on a bike!

  3. You make me jealous with all of this talk about wine!! Just a few more weeks until I can get back on the bottle, ha!

  4. Great Post Kat! Love the picture 😉 When is Pally going to get back on the keyboard? Not that I don’t love your posts, I’m just wondering when he is going to pull his weight

  5. Again, thank you for starting my day with a smile and today with a great chuckle. Love you both

  6. Ha Amy. Great comment.

  7. Awesome post, Kat. So detailed! Don’t forget the very high class and upscale wine region of upstate New York you both grew to know so well….that is really where your wine passion started. Miss you guys!

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