Hotel d’Urville is ideally situated in the town of Blenheim, right in the heart of Marlborough – the most widely known wine region in New Zealand. Wine connoisseurs from around the world travel to Marlborough to sample our wines, typically staying for several days in order to take in all that the region has to offer and space out their tastings.
For those visitors who have planned only a day or two in the area, an abbreviated wine tasting agenda will be needed. This guide will help you plan the perfect day and experience our treasured wine region like a pro.
Before we dig in, there are a few things you should know. The ‘cellar door’ is where an estate’s wines can be sampled and purchased (if you’re from the United States, you’ll refer to this as the tasting room). Sauvignon Blanc is the grape that the region is known for, but the region also produces a number of other varietals, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah.
Below we’ve listed 5 nearby vineyards with excellent cellar doors, beautiful properties and tasty wines. All of them are located relatively close to Blenheim town centre – it’s easy to see why so many people choose Blenheim as their base to visit the Marlborough vineyards!
Don’t try to do too much in one day or all the wine will start tasting the same. Visiting three or four vineyards in one day is an ideal number for most people. We recommend that you pick three or four of the five cellar doors we’ve listed below for a great day of wine tasting around Blenheim! Only have half a day? Aim for two of these excellent spots.
If you’re less knowledgeable about wine production, tasting, and the Marlborough region in general, we recommend that you make Villa Maria your first stop. You might recognise these wines –Villa Maria is one of the most exported wines in New Zealand. If you like what you try here, you’ll probably be able to find it back home!
We recommend Villa Maria because you can try a huge number of wines while their friendly and knowledgeable team educates you on Marlborough history and the varietals grown in the region. Once you’ve picked your favourite type of wine, you can compare it to similar wines at other cellar doors and get a sense of each vineyard’s ‘terroir’ (the unique characteristics of the land where the grapes are grown, which give each wine its own personality).
Address: Corner of Paynters & New Renwick Roads, Blenheim
Cellar door hours:
October – May: 7 days a week, 10am to 5pm
June – September: Weekends only, 12pm – 5pm
Brancott Estate is the perfect place to learn about the Marlborough region’s proud winemaking history. Vines used to create the region’s very first Sauvignon Blanc were planted here in 1975. The recently completed Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, perched above the original vineyard, provides visitors with amazing views of the Marlborough landscape. The Centre offers a cellar door, tours, and two premium exhibits showcasing the history of the region and splendour of the natural landscape. Entry to the Heritage Centre is free, but the exhibits carry an extra fee (a tutored wine tasting is included!).
Don’t miss this spectacular wine experience where you can taste and experience New Zealand’s wine making heritage.
Address: 180 Brancott Road, Blenheim
Heritage Centre hours: 7 days a week, 10am – 4:30pm
Your next stop is Cloudy Bay, just 10 minutes by car from Villa Maria. Cloudy Bay is an important stop because it produces a Sauvignon Blanc that is said to be the standard by which other Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs are measured. Essentially, their wine perfectly embodies the characteristics of Sauvignon Blancs grown in this region.
The Cloudy Bay cellar door offers guests a charming experience. In finer weather, don’t miss the outdoor wine lounge. Nestled among vineyards, it’s the ideal place to soak up the ambience of the region – with a glass of wine in hand, of course. On offer are light bites and lunch options, if you’re already feeling hungry. But, maybe you’d like to save your appetite for a fantastic lunch at Rock Ferry.
Address: Corner of Jacksons Road and Mathews Lane, Blenheim
Cellar door hours: 7 days a week, 10am – 4pm
The Rock Ferry Cellar Door and Café is warm and welcoming – the perfect place to have lunch between stops on your wine tour of Blenheim. On this family vineyard, the focus is on organic production. The café serves seasonal, local and (mostly) organic food. There is a simple, down home feel to the café, which helps guests feel right at home as they enjoy their meal.
We also recommend sampling some of Rock Ferry’s wines while you’re there. You’ll learn a lot about how the organic wine production process differs from conventional and come to appreciate the challenges that organic winemakers face.
Address: 80 Hammerichs Road, Blenheim
Restaurant and cellar door hours:
7 days a week: 10:00am to 4:30pm (lunch from 11:30am to 3:00pm)
Named after the famous intelligence gathering facility next door, Spy Valley is home to some of the finest wines in Marlborough and some of the friendliest, most knowledge staff around. Spy Valley is family owned and grows nine varieties of grapes.
Their cellar door was also the winner of the “Best of Wine Tourism” award for Architecture and Landscapes – don’t miss the beautiful surrounding lawns, gardens, and sculptures.
Address: 37 Lake Timara Road, Blenheim
Cellar door hours:
Winter (April 29 – October 18): Weekdays only, 10:30am – 4:30pm
Summer (October 21 – April 28): 7 days a week, 10:30am – 4:30pm
Make Isabel your last stop of the day. This charming vineyard makes some of the best wines in Marlborough and is owned and operated by the Tiller family, who maintain strict standards to ensure the quality of their boutique, top shelf wines. This is the place to splurge on that special wine to take back home with you.
Address: 70-72 Hawkesbury Road, Renwick
Cellar door hours:
Summer (November – April): Monday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm
Winter (May – September): By appointment only
Many of the cellar doors in Marlborough offer free tastings of their wine. Some of the estates charge a small fee (typically between $2 and $10) for the tasting, which is credited if you purchase a bottle of wine. All of the wines tasted at the cellar door should be available for purchase on the spot.
It’s important to consider how you will travel to all of these vineyards. If you have a designated driver or plan to only try one or two wines, you will enjoy the freedom of traveling in your own car.
Many people ask us about renting bicycles to sample wines. This is possible, but it’s important to note that the vineyards are quite spread out. You also need to be wary about the amount of wine you sample, if you’re traveling by bike. As such, we don’t typically recommend touring multiple vineyards by bicycle. But for visiting one nearby vineyard, it can be a good option!
If you’d rather sample more wines and leaving the driving to someone else, you may wish to consider booking a tour. Many of our guests have enjoyed trips with Marlborough Wine Tours, our recommended wine touring company in Blenheim.
For a truly customised experienced, you can hire a private driver or guide for the day. Our hotel concierge can help you arrange a driver, tour, or point you to the closest bike rental shop.
Have you been wine tasting in Marlborough? What are your favourite vineyards? We’d love to hear from you in the comments area below!
Photo credits (CC-BY-2.0)
Tour around Vineyard by whiz-ka
Grape Vines by Nik Gaffney
Cloudy Bay Cellar Door in Marlborough by edwin.11