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Sideways in New Zealand’s Wine Country

It’s thin-skinned. Temperamental. Ripens early. Miles Raymond, struggling writer in Sideways

New Zealand wine. It’s supposed to be all about sauvignon blanc, right? Really grapefruit-ty white stuff from the Marlborough region is liquid I’ve long classified UNDRINKABLE. The only New Zealand wine I sort of like is Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay, and only because it’s unoaked. So, forgive me for having low expectations of New Zealand’s adult grape juices when we landed.

I never knew New Zealand had multiple wine regions.

new zealand wine regions

On this eight day jaunt to the South Island, MTM and I visited two of them: Canterbury and Central Otago. And not once did we get schnockered on sauvignon blanc. I think I finally understood Miles Raymond, Paul Giamatti‘s character in the movie Sideways. His failure as a writer and his worship of pinot noir.

Because New Zealand makes some amazing pinot noir. And other stuff that’s not sauvignon blanc. Here’s a rundown of some of the stuff we drank.

French Peak 2013 Pinot Gris, Canterbury region, South Island, New Zealand

french peak pinot gris

The Banks Peninsula is the spur you see in the Canterbury section of the New Zealand map. It’s a collapsed volcano with a throat full of water and some of the blackest soil I’ve ever seen. The French were the first white settlers in the area. At French Peak Winery, our French hostess Heidi guided us through their adaptation of French wine making methods to the New Zealand climate. Their Pinot Gris was our favorite, though they also produce a lovely pinot noir and a French rose.

Kim Crawford 2013 First Pick Rose, Aukland region, North Island, New Zealand

kim crawford rose


We couldn’t resist a Kim Crawford, even though it wasn’t from a region we were visiting. The unoaked chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are available in the States, but this rose was the perfect picnic wine. Not to jammy. A little dry. A truly lovely rose.

Wooing Tree 2010 Pinot Noir, Central Otago region, South Island, New Zealand

wooing tree pinot noir

Okay. I admit it. We stopped at Wooing Tree’s cellar door because 1. It was open; and 2. I thought the name was funny. No expectations. Certainly not that the walls would be spangled with awards for their very fine wines. We plonked down serious money for a bottle of their award-winning pinot noir, and it didn’t last two hours after we opened it. A nuanced, velvety, very yummy wine.

Shaky Bridge 2012 Pinot Noir, Central Otago region, South Island, New Zealand

shaky bridge pinot noir

We bought a bottle of Shaky Bridge at the supermarket. It was cheap ($10 NZD) and highly rated. AND DIVINE. We sucked the bottle down on a rainy washout of an afternoon. It was perfect with a wood fire and some cheese. Not to mention cuddles.

Wooing Tree 2012 Tickled Pink, Central Otago region, South Island, New Zealand

wooing tree tickled pink

Okay, what woman can resist a wine that’s called liquid lipstick? Tickled Pink is a dessert wine, but it doesn’t assault the drinker with cloying sweetness. It’s a grown-up, girl-knows-how-to-get-what-she-wants kind of wine. Even if that girl is MTM.

And, on that note, I’m headed back to finish off our stash of New Zealand wine before we fly out in the morning.

Have you ever visited a place that overturned your expectations? Tell us about it in a comment today.


For photos that have nothing to do with sucking down wine, go here: Andra Watkins Tumblr 1 and Andra Watkins Tumblr 2

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mmmm. Wine.

    June 9, 2014
    • It’s been lovely. MTM and I were talking tonight about meeting up with you. I will email you re: place and day. We are still very unstructured on the end of the trip. 🙂 But we liked the places you suggested. Just need to verify the date. We’re looking forward to meeting you.

      June 9, 2014
      • Awesome! And don’t mind me, i am free all weekend so you can just give me a few hours notice if you would like! Haha.

        Just so you know, the wine bar is only open from afternoon to evening and the winery is only open from lunch to afternoon tea. However you’re always welcome to choose a completely different place!

        And i am very much looking forward to meeting the both of you! I feel like i am meeting celebrities.

        June 9, 2014
      • We will be around there on the 13th. I will email you regarding location. We’re always inclined to take local suggestions. 🙂 Looking forward to meeting you.

        June 9, 2014
  2. Now you have me craving wine. At 6:25am!

    As for unexpected places, that would be Boston. Went there a few years back expecting to hate it. Planned on hating the traffic, the snooty New Englanders / Yankees, the northern food, the crowds, the accents, the … you name it. And fell in love with the place. The people were warm and friendly, it is a great city for walking and the mass transit works well, the food was fantastic, and the it was all just grand. So much a joy that I went back within a year or so.

    We fell in love with Boston. If it wasn’t for the cost of living, and possibly the cold, we would move their in a heartbeat.

    June 9, 2014
    • We also really like Boston. Actually considered moving there several years ago. Glad things worked out the way they did, though. 🙂

      June 9, 2014
  3. I’ll be checking my UPS notifications for a box of lovely NZ Pinots. YUMMMMM!!

    June 9, 2014
  4. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    I love rose in the summer and . I am always looking for new varieties to sample. Thanks for that recommendation. It looks like y’all are having a blast!

    June 9, 2014
  5. I’ve never been a fan of NZ wines, either. But now with these suggestions in hand, maybe I’ll give them another try. One can never have knowledge of too many good wines, I feel. However, it’s 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning here, so maybe I’ll start my wine quest later in the day. 😉

    June 9, 2014
  6. i’ve never had a nz wine, but i did spend some quality time in the margaret river region of australia. and most of it i even remember….) sounds like a great wine experience, andra )

    June 9, 2014
  7. Between Debra and her California vineyards and you with this tantalizing New Zealand wine tasting, I’m itching to watch “A Walk in the Clouds” once again, try some of these labels if I can find them, or . . . maybe dip into a glass of Illinois wine 🙂

    June 9, 2014
  8. tarakianwarrior #

    Well those bottles sure look pretty. I’m not a fan of wine…yes, fail on my part, wish I were a wine drinker as most of my meditation scenarios have me with a glass of wine in my hand. 🙂

    June 9, 2014
  9. I love the name Wooing Tree!! 😀 I’d be up for a rosé.

    June 9, 2014
  10. Expectations? Some friends of mine have a band called the Freak Mountain Ramblers. I always expect great music from them and they always exceed my expectations. They go quite well with Oregon Pinot Noir.

    June 9, 2014
  11. Lance #

    Hope y’all are having a good time.

    June 9, 2014
  12. I love the look of the last one. My sister lived in NZ for several years and would often rave about the wine. Your trip looks like it has been wonderful!

    June 9, 2014
  13. This would be so much fun! I do enjoy making comparisons, and there aren’t too many NZ wines for us to choose from in California so the sampling is limited. We will be up in the Central Coast in a week and one of our favorite wineries in Paso Robles is Croad, owned by a New Zealander who makes some comparisons between his vineyards and the ones “at home.” But of course, that’s a generalization. What an excellent wine tour! Thank you!

    June 10, 2014
  14. I quite like the Kim Crawford pinot noir. Their merlot is pretty good too.
    Good wine is a fantastic remedy for a washed out vacation day.

    June 11, 2014

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