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New Zealand - Wine, Cuisine, History and Culture

12 Days - Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago

February 27 to March 10, 2022 NOW BOOKING

This trip immediately precedes a trip to Australia, such that it will be possible to attend both trips, if desired, with a free day in Adelaide for the NZ contingent prior to the start of the Australia trip.

Register | Price | Itinerary

Imagine summer in the vineyards of New Zealand. With its splendid climate, pure air, pristine environment and magnificent natural beauty, New Zealand is truly a feast for the senses. Join wine personality Steve Thurlow as he leads an excursion of discovery and enjoyment.

Visit wineries days before harvest with the vineyards rich with ripe grapes, marvel at some of the world's most beautiful natural scenery, glimpse whales at play in the Southern Ocean, learn how to prepare dishes the New Zealand way, dine in splendid settings at wineries with their owners, and soak up the hot summer sunshine.

Experience the spectacular scenery of both North and South Islands of New Zealand, explore Maori culture, wander in streets of rural communities and shop for souvenirs.

In February, when we typically experience the depths of a Canadian winter, on the other side of the world summer is most pleasant in New Zealand. Can you imagine the difference between -22°C and +22°C?

Wine for Life presents an accompanied wine, food and cultural visit to New Zealand.

Many people think that New Zealand has managed the Covid-19 pandemic very well. They imposed strict border control early and being an island nation it was relatively easy to reduce the arrival of the virus from oversea. Only New Zealand residents were allowed entry and they had to spend time in secure quarantine on arrival and test negative before entering the general population.

 

The few cases that did occur in the population were not allowed to spread by enforcing local lockdowns, intensive testing and extensive multi-layer contact tracing.

So there have been very few deaths and no outbreak has yet got out of control.

Life has largely proceeded as normal with the exception of most international travel for residents and no external tourists being allowed in. That has been a major blow to the economy.

They are expecting to start vaccinations in March 2021 and hope to have all who want to be vaccinated long before the end of the year.

As a consequence it seems likely that this tour can be operated safely and that restrictions on the entry of non-residents will have minimal impact.

So we will be able explore the leading vineyards and wineries and be introduced to New Zealand's unique cuisine as on previous tours.

New Zealand has over the last 20 years developed a reputation for its white wine grapes: chardonnay and especially sauvignon blanc.

More recently it has emerged as a producer of high quality reds from cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. It is the exciting pinot noirs, however, that are currently gaining international interest the most. This tour will visit most of the major wine regions and will include many of the top producers of pinot noir.

There will be an opportunity to meet leading winemakers and taste their wines. This trip offers a unique opportunity to experience first hand this bountiful wine producing country.

As well as tasting and dining at many wineries, we will find time to visit some of the major tourist sites. We will be staying in hotels in Auckland, Napier, Blenheim and Queenstown.

If all this sounds like too hectic a pace, don't worry. There will be time for relaxing by the pool in the warm sunshine and wandering around some of the beautiful cities and towns that we will visit.

Register for Tour

Email: Steve Thurlow steve@stevethurlow.com and he will send you a registration form.

A deposit of C$800 is required to register for the trip.

It is fully refundable until 120 days prior to the trip when it then becomes non-refundable and payment for the trip in full is required.

Price

The all-inclusive trip price assumes double occupancy and does not include any air transportation.

We meet at the hotel in Auckland and disperse at the airport in Queenstown. Guests are to make all their own travel arrangements (including the internal NZ flights). We will be pleased to advise with air travel if requested.

The price includes all hotels, continental breakfasts, winery visits and tastings, and 16 meals, most with wines. Also included is the cost of the ferry to Waiheke Island and coach transportation, when we are not flying between destinations.

The price for the 12 day trip to New Zealand is C$6585 per person.

Prior to the pandemic, Air New Zealand flew direct to Auckland from Vancouver as did Air Canada on alternative days. There were many connecting flights to Auckland via several US gateways.

As a guide, total roundtrip airfare in economy from Toronto for all flights, including those internal in New Zealand, was around C$2800 including taxes, fees and surcharges at the same time of the year in 2020.

Both Air New Zealand and United Airlines are a members of Star Alliance so Aeroplan points can be used for travel if Air Canada flights prove not to be available.

The required internal flights to be added to the transpacific schedule will be specified to those registered on the trip.

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Itinerary 2022

Included meals. B= Breakfast, L= Lunch and D= Dinner

Day 1: Sunday February 27, 2022 - Auckland

We meet in the evening at our hotel, the City Life Hotel Auckland, prior to walking to a nearby tavern for an informal first group mingle and meal.

The hotel is in the heart of the city within walking distance of the city's main attractions. There is a gymnasium and an indoor heated lap-pool for guest use.

The program for the first day is light to allow for settling-in and rest after the long journey. (D)

Day 2: Monday - Waiheke Island

 

After breakfast in the hotel we leave at 9:30 to stroll down to the harbour to take a short ferry ride across the Hauraki Gulf to nearby Waiheke Island.

Man O' War winery will host us for a tasting and lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be time for a short tour of the island taking in the spectacular views of the city and the islands in the gulf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late afternoon, we return to our hotel, with a chance for a rest. The evening will be free to explore the many restaurants that lie around the harbour in the heart of downtown. (B,L)

Day 3: Tuesday - Auckland

After breakfast, we checkout of our hotel and leave to visit the spectacular winery and vineyards of Villa Maria close to the airport overlooking Manukau Harbour. The morning will be filled with a visit to the vineyard, a winery tour, then a tasting led by the Auckland winery winemaker prior to lunch in the winery restaurant.

 

 

 

We will sample wines from all over New Zealand selected to show the regional differences from Villa Maria's extensive portfolio.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand's cuisine is a fabulous fusion of Oriental, Pacific and European influences with the traditional Maori.

Over lunch each course will be matched with Villa Maria wines.

After lunch we head to the airport, about 10 minutes away, for our flight to Hawkes Bay.

We will soon be at our hotel, Te Pania, on the seafront in Napier at its centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After settling in to our hotel we will take a short walk for dinner together in one of the town's many restaurants. (B,L,D)

Day 4: Wednesday - Hawkes Bay

After breakfast we depart for our first winery visit in the area. We will soon be at the Craggy Range winery.


Hawkes Bay with its Mediterranean climate and fertile soil is a prime fruit producing area.

The soils in the region are well suited for red grapes especially the Gimblett Gravels area.

Craggy Range sources its wines locally and also from the cooler Wairarapa region further south. We will visit the modern winery and learn some of the secrets about why they have been so successful.

Craggy Range has one of the best restaurants in the area.

We will enjoy lunch in the company of the winemaker with a selection of Craggy Range wines with the splendid view of Te Mata peak

As soon as lunch is over we will drive to the top of Te Mata peak for a splendid view of the Hawkes Bay region.

We will then return to the hotel. The balance of the afternoon can be filled with a visit to the Ocean Spa or maybe visiting the shops in the town or strolling along the shoreline of Hawkes Bay.

The evening will be free for visiting Napier with its amazing collection of art deco buildings or wandering by the sea along Marine Parade, and dining at one of the many quayside restaurants. (B,L)

Day 5: Thursday - Hawkes Bay

After breakfast we checkout of our hotel and leave to visit the nearby C J Pask winery for a tasting and winery visit with the winemaker.

The Pask winery is renowned for its red wines from syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

After the tasting we head to Sileni for a tasting followed by lunch.

Established in 1998, Sileni was inspired by ancient Greek mythology. The Sileni were renowned for their love of wine, feasting and a good time.

The winery is in the sub-region of the Bridge Pa triangle with their grapes coming from different parts of the region.

Some are grown on the hotter plains at sea level which suit merlot dominant Bordeaux blends, and Northern Rhone style syrah, and semillon.  The cooler, higher altitude foothills and coastal sites suit the Burgundy varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir, along with pinot gris and a ripe-style sauvignon blanc.

They also produce Marlborough sauvignon blanc from their our own vineyards in that region that we will see later on the trip.

 

 

After lunch our bus will take us to the airport for the transfer to Blenheim in the Marlborough wine region at the top of the South Island.

 

 

We arrive late afternoon and will soon be at our hotel for the next three nights, the Chateau Marlborough in the town of Blenheim.

Marlborough is New Zealand's largest wine region with around 50 wineries closely grouped together.

Soon after checking in we will leave to visit the nearby Wairau River Estate for a tasting and supper. (B,L,D)

Day 6: Friday - Marlborough

After breakfast in the hotel we will continue visiting wineries in the Blenheim region.

We will go first to Greywacke which is named after the local sandstone. It is a small boutique winery founded by the Judd family in 2009. Kevin was a major player in one of the area's founding wineries, Cloudy Bay, that put this region on the map 30 years ago. Greywacke is making some of the best wines in Marlborough.

By the way, Cloudy Bay, after which the winery is called, gets it name from the sea colour which sometimes in the right light looks a milky white due to the meeting of cold and warm water in this location.

After a brief tour and tasting we return to Blenheim for some shopping and a chance to wander around the town finding a bite to eat.

If there is time, there will be a side trip for those that are interested to the Omaka Heritage Centre on the outskirts of town which has a remarkable collection of airplanes from the early days of aviation.

We will then make our way to the Villa Maria winery to collect the winemaker who will take us on a tour of the region stopping at several of their vineyards in both the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, tasting at each stop wines produced from each vineyard.

 

 

We will start to understand the influence of climate and geography on the finished wine.

After a few hours on the road we will return to the winery for supper and tasting of more of the wines from their extensive portfolio. (B,D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Saturday - Marlborough

Today we will visit the Pernod Ricard winery that produces the wine for Stoneleigh and Brancott wines. We start with a viticultural tour of their vineyards in the Wairau Valley led by a senior viticulturist.

 

 

After the vineyard tour we head to the tasting room to meet the winemaker for a tasting of the wines.

He will join us for lunch with a spectacular view over the vineyards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we leave to visit another boutique winery owned by some more of the pioneers of this wine region.

Dog Point has a major connection with Cloudy Bay Vineyards that was established in 1985 by David Hohnen and is the winery that put Marlborough on the world map back in the late 1980s. The style of sauvignon blanc for which the region would become famous was developed by winemaking team of Ivan Sutherland, James Healy, and Kevin Judd. Much of the fruit for Cloudy Bay’s celebrated sauvignon came from Sutherland’s personal property at the convergence of the Brancott and Omaka Valleys in the southern part of the region, which he and his wife Margaret purchased and planted in 1979.

Sutherland and Healy stayed at Cloudy Bay until 2003, when the pair left to launch Dog Point Vineyard. Today, their 100 hectares, including some of the original plantings, are farmed organically and hand picked (a rarity in Marlborough). Some of the fruit still goes to Cloudy Bay, but according to Sutherland and Healy, they (sensibly enough) keep the top, hillside vineyard fruit for Dog Point. The style is intense and edgy, with lots of lees contact and wild yeast complexity.

Dogpoint is today making some of the best wines in New Zealand from sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.

The Marlborough wine region depends on river water for irrigation. Vineyards are often located close to rivers with free draining old river bed soils.

 

 

After the tasting we return to the hotel. The evening is free for enjoying the town of Blenheim. (B,L)

 

 

 

 

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Day 8: Sunday - Central OtagoIn the morning we leave for the airport for our flight to the alpine resort of Queenstown.

Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this small town was founded in the gold rush years of the 1860s. It is now the starting point for all kinds of adventures and has more cafes, bars and restaurants than the capital Wellington.

Early afternoon we arrive in Central Otago having had the chance to have some lunch at Wellington Airport as we transferred to the flight to Queenstown.

We will soon be in Arrowtown which is only a few mintues drive from Queenstown airport.

 

This small town was founded in the gold mining era. Today it is a great shopping destination with several cosy pubs and cafes in addition to a museum which recounts its history.

There are many well preserved buildings, used by immigrants from Europe and China, that date from the gold mining days of the town.

Gold was found in the Arrow River in 1862, and a township of 1,000 miners soon sprang up. At the high point of the gold rush the population of Arrowtown rose to over 7,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of hours wandering the small town we leave for the 30 minute drive to Queenstown.

So late afternoon we will arrive at the Crowne Plaza Hotel where we will stay two nights.

 

The hotel is close to the town centre with spectacular views from the rooms of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be time for exploring the town, its shops, bars and cafes before we gather for a group dinner in town. (B,D)

 

Day 9: Monday - Fiordland and Milford Sound

Today is a free day with no included activities until the evening to allow those that wish to cross the coastal mountains to visit Fiordland and Milford Sound.

It is about a 4.5 hour drive by coach to get there. The route back is along the same roads and takes a similar amount of time. On arrival in Milford one boards a boat for a 2 hour scenic cruise out to the Tasman Sea and back in company of a guide who provides detailed interpretation. Dolphins, seals and penguins are often seen.

Coach in and coach out is the least expensive way (~C$200) to visit the pure wilderness of New Zealand's largest national park, but it takes 12.5 hours in total leaving at 6:30 am and getting back to Queenstown at 7:00 pm

However you can also fly in and fly out on a small plane from Queenstown which cuts the trip duration to 4 hours including a 2 hour cruise to the mouth of the sound as above. The cost of this is around C$400, which is worth it in my opinion for such an amazing experience.

Milford Sound Scenic Flights is one of several companies that organizes tours to Milford Sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Te Wahipounamu, a world heritage site, is one of the greatest wilderness areas left in the southern hemisphere. There one finds the highest mountains, largest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers, most rugged landscapes and deepest lakes.

 

Milford is one of the wettest places on earth with an annual rainfall of 6.43 m falling on 182 days of the year, so be prepared for it to rain.

 

For those that choose to give Milford a miss, there is much to see and do in Queenstown.

Some will opt to take a cruise on TSS Earnslaw across the lake to visit Walter Farm and others will take a more restful day enjoying all that the town and the hotel have to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we will gather at a pub on the wharf for our group evening meal. (B,D)

 

 

 

Day 10: Tuesday - Central Otago

We head off this morning after checking out of our hotel, for a spectacular drive over the mountains to Wanaka.

 

 

We will visit the Maude winery for a tasting followed by lunch with their wines.

 

 

We then head south to the Cromwell region to visit Quartz Reef before checking in to Carrick Lodge where we stay for the next two nights.

Late afternoon we head to the Wild Earth winery for a tasting and BBQ in their vineyard in Cromwell. (B,L,D)

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Wednesday - Cromwell


We will have a late start this morning leaving for a tasting at nearby Felton Road. This famous vineyard and winery has been producing top quality wines for decades. Its first vintage was in 1996 and ever since it has received critical acclaim for its wines especially pinot noir

 

 

 

Winemaker Blair Walter who has made every wine since 1996 will take we take us on a brief tour of the winery followed by leading us in masterclass on his Central Otago wines.

 

 

 

 

Then it is on to Mount Difficulty just in time for lunch.

 

 

 

Here Matt Dicey, who founded the winery and produced its first vintage in 1998, will show us around before leading us in a tasting of his wines before we sit down together for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both these wineries in the Bannockburn area are producing excellent Pinot Noir in addition to other varieties.

We will be back at the hotel mid afternoon with some free time before the evening activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early evening we leave to visit Tarras Vineyards in the Bendigo area about 15 minutes north of Cromwell.

Tarras sits on top of a hill with a splendid view of the valley floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Founder Heyden Johnston bought the land in 2002 and established vineyards before more recently building the tasting room and event space.

He will lead us in a tasting of his wines followed by a light supper as we watch the sun set. (B,L,D)

 

Day 12 - Thursday March 10th, 2022 - Alexander

After breakfast we will checkout of our hotel. On this, our final day in Central Otago, we will visit the viticitural area of Alexander. Two Paddocks Estate is owned by New Zealand actor Sam Neill and it specializes in pinot noir.

On arrival at the estate we will take a walk through Sam’s beautiful property that incorporates organic vineyards, orchards, cattle, sheep, saffron and lavender.

We will also see some of the conservation activities and we will no doubt meet some of the estates odd pets. It is most unlikely that Sam will be there, due to his busy worldwide filming schedule; but one never knows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the tour we will taste the wines before leaving for the airport. Our drive will take through the beautiful Kawarau Gorge.

 

 

 

 

Shortly before arriving at the airport we will stop for lunch at the Gibbston Tavern.

We will arrive early afternoon at Queenstown airport. It will be time to say goodbye to bus driver and to check-in for flights.

Some will be continuing their travels with Steve to Australia. While others will be heading home.

The group traveling to Australia will take a connecting flight to Adelaide via Melbourne. Food will be avaialble on the flight to Melbourne plus there will be time to get some supper in Melbourne airport.

We arrive late in the evening in Adelaide and will soon be at out hotel on the beach at Glenelg. (B,L)

 

Register for Tour

Email: Steve Thurlow steve@stevethurlow.com

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the age range of the group?

These tours appeal to a wide range of ages, since we can love wine, food and travel at all stages of life. Typically the range is from 30 to 70 though we have had some older and younger than this join in the past.

Do you need to be a wine/beer connoisseur to participate?

Absolutely not. These are tours of discovery and enjoyment, of the beer, wine, food, culture and history of the region. You will certainly return home with a greater appreciation of wine. I have been told it is impossible to spend 12 days traveling with me without learning more about how wine is made and enjoyed with food.

Is the trip price really all-inclusive?

Almost all costs other than souvenirs, an occasional cup of coffee and maybe a slice or two of pizza are included and a few meals. I frequently hear that there is too much wine and too much food such that, during free periods, people don’t need to eat or drink anything else.

These trips seem to be very reasonably priced, what is the catch?

I only run on average one or two trips per year to places to which I would be going anyway; so why not take a few others along with me? These trips are not a fundamental part of what I do in life and so I price them reasonably so all can afford to join. Additionally I receive sponsorship subsidies from airlines, wine regions and wineries who are keen to show off to my guests their splendid products and services in the hope that they will spread the word.

We have never traveled with a group before; will there be enough free time?

I used to dislike traveling on buses with groups and also found I needed time away from the group. Consequently we have frequent stops to do stuff when we are traveling by bus plus the schedule has lots of free time built in. Moreover nothing is compulsory, people sometimes take a day off to enjoy life away from the group.

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Conditions

The above itinerary is as planned. However we reserve the right to make adjustments depending upon weather, and other constraints, to substitute visits to alternative wineries and to arrange accommodation at hotels of similar standard in the towns mentioned.

The all-inclusive tour price includes all provided ground transportation in New Zealand, all hotel accommodation, all breakfasts (continental) and 16 meals (most with wines selected by Steve Thurlow) but does not include any costs associated with the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) or the NZ International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL).

The price also includes the ferry to Waiheke Island. The price is for double occupancy in twin and double rooms. Single supplement price on request.

This price is correct at present but could change as a result of major currency variations, taxation changes or other circumstances beyond our control. It is unlikely for there to be an increase and you are guaranteed that, if necessary, it would be less than 7%.

Other conditions apply. These are detailed on all Uniglobe Wine for Life invoices and can be supplied on request prior to booking.

In accordance with the Ontario Travel Industry Act, below is the registered name, address and registration number of the provider of the travel services:

UNIGLOBE Enterprise Travel Ltd.
34 Britain Street, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 1R6

Agent: Steve Thurlow

TICO Registration Number: 1810380

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