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Where to visit Cellar Doors

in Central Otago

A World of Flavour

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article written by Alexia Santamaria

Exploring the cellar doors of New Zealand is a wonderful experience, but if you’re new to the Central Otago area you might get a shock when you realise there are more than 50 of them! A little prior knowledge can be helpful when working out where you might like to go in this incredible wine region, synonymous all over the world with excellent pinot noir.


The Central Otago wine region is made up of four sub-regions so where you are staying and playing may determine your direction from the get-go. Here’s a brief summary of each.


The vineyards of Bannockburn are lucky enough to be on some of the hottest, driest sites in Central Otago, meaning the grapes are sometimes ready almost a month before other sub-regions. Vineyards tend to be smaller, and the well-draining dry soil and summer days with high temperatures make for perfect grape growing conditions and a high percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards. Bannockburn is so distinct it is now also formally registered as a geographical Indication sub-region.

Well-known cellar doors include Mt Difficulty, Felton Road (by appointment), Domain Road, Akarua, Te Kano, Terra Sancta, Carrick and Desert Heart.

Explore some of Bannockburn's Cellar Doors along Felton Road. Pictured - Gate 22 vineyard looking towards Mt Difficulty

Cromwell Basin

On the western side of Lake Dunstan and on the edge of Cromwell township, you’ll find the vineyards of Cromwell, Lowburn and Pisa. Many vineyards in this sub-region are located on the lower terraces and valley floor running parallel to the snow-capped Pisa mountains .

This area can be a great place to stop if you’re short on time - the cellar doors for Quartz Reef, Misha’s Vineyard, Wooing Tree, Pisa Range Estate, Wild Earth, Matt Connell Wines (by appointment) and Scott Base are all a stone’s throw from each other, and the wines are all exceptional. 

Further afield as you head north towards Wanaka you'll also find the cellar doors of Domaine Thomson with its wines from two hemispheres and Nanny Goat

Pisa Range Estate Cellar Door, Cromwell

Wild Earth Wines Cellar door is found at The Stoaker Room Cromwell

Mishas Vineyard Tasting Room Cromwell | credit Image Central

Rudi Bauer at Quartz Reef Cromwell | credit Image Central

Bendigo, tarras and Northburn

Northeast of Cromwell, Bendigo’s vines grow on gentle north-facing slopes. The pinot made from these grapes is richly-flavoured with strong tannins, considered some of the most full-bodied wines in Central Otago. This sub-region has the largest vine plantings of anywhere in the region.

Prominent Cellar doors include The Cloudy Bay Shed, Mondillo (open by appointment) and Maori Point.

The Cloudy Bay Shed at Northburn

Mondillo Wines hosts wine tastings by prior appointment

Alexandra Basin

The most southerly sub-region, the climate in Alexandra is dry and runs to extremes of heat and cold. The daily temperature variations right up to harvest create aromatic, finely structured wines.

A wonderful feature of this region is that vineyards can be smaller and more personal - you may well find yourself tasting wine on the outdoor furniture in someone’s beautiful backyard or in purpose-built room attached to their home.

Cellar doors to visit include Three Miners, Como Villa, Judge Rock, Ruru, Dunstan Road and the newly opened Monte Christo Winery where an intrepid Frenchman, Jean Désiré Féraud first planted vines and made wine in the 1860's. 

Dunstan Road Wines is easily accessed from the Otago Central Rail Trail | Credit Image Central

Judge Rock hosts tasting on an outdoor terrace overlooking the vineyard | Credit Image Central

Neighbouring Regions


As you head out of Queenstown, along the breathtaking Kawarau Gorge, towards the heart of Central Otago you’ll hit the cellar doors of the Gibbston Valley. Its cooler climate and north-facing hillside vines ripen later than neighbouring sub-regions, giving lighter, but still full-flavoured wines.

This is a very popular region to visit just after landing or after completing your holiday in Central as it’s not far from the airport you have to arrive and depart from.

Wanaka is cooler and slightly wetter than the rest of the region which makes for a different style of wine.  Stunning Lake Wanaka provides a warming effect, often protecting the grapes from late frost other regions battle every year. This sub-region is home to iconic Rippon Vineyard, one of the first wineries in Central Otago.


Need guidance?

If it seems easier to have someone else choose where to go there are some good tours available. Local favourites are Cromwell based Classic Car Wine Tours or Roaring Wine Tours (they also operate out of Queenstown, Alexandra and Wānaka). There are of course a number of Queenstown based tour operators who visit the region too.

Not a tour but a good source of unbiased info is Pinot Junction, which recently opened in Cromwell's Heritage Precinct. Kate Barnett has over 30 years in the industry in the region and will be more than happy to point you in the direction of the kind of cellar door experience you’re looking for.



You’ll find food options at many vineyards and cellar doors, ranging from snacks to platters to multi-course world-class dining.

If you’re looking for exceptional food Mt Difficulty, the Cloudy Bay Shed, Carrick and Desert Heart all have great reputations.

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