The Four Barrels Wine Walk around Cromwell in Central Otago, is the day out with everything. First of all, it’s a good walk. Then, with the Pisa ranges on one side and Lake Dunstan on the other, the setting is magnificent. Finally, it takes in four of Central Otago’s best wineries which not only offer the opportunity to taste some wonderful wines but also bring you face to face with some interesting people with fascinating stories. If you weren’t a complete lover of wine before then you probably will be after this.
When we set off on the Four Barrels Wine Walk, the countryside was shrouded in mist. It seemed much earlier than mid-morning. Perhaps it was a little early for wine-tasting?
But at Misha’s Vineyard, overlooking Lake Dunstan and the snow-dusted mountains, the open sign was out and the tasting room was warm and welcoming. Established in 2004 by Misha and Andy Wilkinson on steep slopes overrun by rabbits and rocks, where Chinese gold miners once chased their dreams, the vineyard now produces some of the world’s best Pinot Noir. Misha is the daughter of an Australian opera singer and the influence of her stage side early years is reflected in the names of the vineyard’s wines. The list is a mouth-watering read – Cantata (focused palate of concentrated sweet berries and spice) High Note (sophisticated nose of violets and blackberry). Limelight Riesling (aromas of lemon lime sorbet with notes of apple and cinnamon) Before leaving we redeemed our $10 tasting fee against a case of this.
The mist lifted on bright sunshine and a cloudless sky, as we followed the lakeside path, across the stony river terraces, through vineyards and farmyards to Aurum wines.
Aurum is a family affair. It was started in 1997 by Tony and Joan Lawrence. In 2004, their son Brook and his French wife Lucie joined the team and in 2006, Aurum produced its first vintage.
Lucie, a third-generation winemaker, trained as oenologist at Dijon University. She met Brook when they were trainees at Domaine d’Arlot in Nuit St Georges in Burgundy. Now she’s Aurum’s principal wine maker while Brook looks after the viticultural management of the estate. Aurum’s reserve wines are named after the couple’s daughters, Mathilde and Madeleine.
The Aurum tasting room is located in quaint little cottage in a country garden, shaded by an old-man walnut tree and bordered with natives. It overlooks a grove of Tuscan olives. We began our tasting with the famous Aurum Amber wine. This was a new discovery for me and a delicious one. I followed with the Mathilde Pinot Noir and finished with the Madeleine Pinot Noir.
It would have been easy to while away the afternoon on the sunny verandah, but we had two more wineries to visit and more tasting to do.
Across State Highway 6, high on a steep hill, Scott Base commands a spectacular view of Cromwell, the lake, the vineyards and the Pisa Range.
Established in 1994 as Mt Michael Vineyards, it was acquired by Allan Scott Family winemakers in 2007 and re-named Scott Base. The family donates a percentage of Scott Base wine sales to the Antarctic Heritage Trust which curates Scott Base, Antarctica. They also provide wines to Trust events and activities.
Space at the Base is a cosy and relaxed tasting room, nestled into the lee of the hill. The views are mesmerising. Space at the Base offers a delicious platter of local cheeses, bread, olives and grapes, to accompany wines from the Scott Bass as well as the Alan Scott vineyards. They also offer a selection of craft beers from Moa Beer which was founded by Allan Scott’s son, Josh.
The shadows were lengthening as we re-crossed Highway six and wound around the vineyards to
Wooing Tree Winery.
Wooing Tree Winery takes it named from a famous Cromwell landmark, where since the very early days, sweethearts have sat, whispering sweet nothings and watching the sun go down. It is a popular place for proposals and now for weddings.
Wooing Tree Winery is a family owned and run business. Stephen and Thea Farquharson along with Stephen’s sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Geoff Bews are all committed to producing top quality grapes and wine.
Originally from Central Otago farming families, they did their O.E. in the UK and Switzerland from1998 to 2004. While there, Steve studied viticulture, winemaking, the wine trade and WSET Diploma in Wine at Plumpton College. He then set up a wine import company, Extreme Wines, selling wine in the UK from 2003 to 2004. Jane also studied viticulture at Plumpton College. They all came back to Cromwell to run the vineyard at the end of 2004 in time for their first vintage in 2005.
The Wooing Tree, tasting room is light and spacious, again, it overlooks a beautiful garden setting with views over the vineyards. A taste of 2018, Beetlejuice Pinot Noir followed by a 2017 Pinot Gris, while listening Jane Bews tell the Wooing Tree’s story made the perfect finale to the Four Barrels Wine Walk.