Mike Yardley, Newstalk ZB’s resident travel writer, shares his top picks for wineries to visit in Cromwell this summer:
The Cromwell Basin has arguably become Central Otago’s most important wine-growing sub-region. The warm, semi-arid climate, schist soils and seasonal temperature extremes, conspire favourably for grape-growing and the industry is flourishing. Neighbouring Bannockburn is so spectacular, it’s deserving of its own standalone article, which will be upcoming. But here’s some other Cromwell wine destinations, that I’d recommend adding to your dance card. I love Rudi Bauer’s Quartz Reef winery. Bauer, who was raised in Austria, is one of New Zealand’s pioneers of organic and biodynamic winemaking, co-founding Quartz Reef in 1996 and planting vines in Bendigo. While Quartz Reef is best known as a sparkling wine specialist – the only one in the region that is biodynamic – the pinot noirs are also superb.
Aurum Wines’ cellar door is housed in the estate’s original weatherboard cottage at Lowburn, open daily for tastings. Just past Aurum is Domaine-Thomson, which has vineyards in Pisa as well as in France’s Cote-d’Or, producing pinot noirs that skew to the Burgundy style. The setting is magical. Domaine Thomson’s spectacular elevated site above the valley floor has 360-degree views of the Cromwell Basin and Lake Dunstan, framed by the Dunstan and Pisa Mountain ranges and the St Bathans Mountains further beyond. The 14-hectare vineyard’s gentle slopes overlooking Pisa Moorings lakeside settlement have been planted as four distinct blocks – each with its own special characteristics. Right across the road from Cromwell’s iconic fresh fruit sculpture, River Rock Estate vineyard is hyper-boutique, with the Cellar Door operating in the upstairs of the barn with dreamy views across the Cromwell Basin. They offer wine and honey tasting, with great olive oil on sale too.