Exploring Central Otago: Day Two
Lonely Planet's latest edition of Wine Trails Australia & New Zealand has essentially become our wine, food and travel bucket list. We’ve already ticked off day one, now it’s time to continue our epicurean journey from morning to night. Let’s tuck into day two…
09:00 – Breakfast at Yonder
There’s a great energy about this place. It’s been thoughtfully designed to cater for all occasions from breakfast through to late at night when the dining area out the back is transformed into a stage for bands. There are plenty of gluten and dairy free options but if you’re into big breakfasts, the Full Yonder breakfast board is epic. There’s a dedicated working space too if you’re needing to pretend you’re going to do a couple of hours work. This place is great for an afternoon drink in the front courtyard. They’ve thought of everything, and manage to pull it off well.
11:00 – Tasting at Akarua
Just out of Cromwell on your way to Bannockburn, look for the sign that welcomes you to the ‘Heart of the Desert’. Turn off here and you’ll soon arrive at the Akarua winery and cellar door. The winery is the result of Sir Clifford Skeggs’ love of chardonnay. He was quite partial to the variety and the region so wanted to make his own, can’t blame him. As it turns out, the vineyards here also produce world class pinot noir.
If you get a chance to chat to either winemaker Andrew Keenleyside or Mark Naismith – the vineyard manager and vine whisperer, make sure you do. Both have fascinating stories to tell. And try the ‘Koro’ pinot, it’s brilliant. If you can’t make it out to Bannockburn there’s the Akarua & Kitchen by Artisan collaboration at Lake Heyes for you to drink the wines in the context they’re meant to be enjoyed – with beautiful food.
12:00 – Lunch at Carrick
You could say this about most wineries in Central Otago, but I don’t think there’s a better spot to grab a glass, a cheese platter and spend an hour on the grass in the sunshine.
A second lunch might be a stretch at this point, but you should at least try the Bannockburn Game Board – featuring rabbit rillettes and braised hare cigars which are accompanied beautifully by the Excelsior pinot. Winemaker, Francis Hutt is doing great things with this vineyard and his energy and enthusiasm for this region and its wines is captivating.
2:00 – Aurum
Before you head back to Queenstown, stop by Aurum. Founders Joan and Tony Lawrence first planted vines in 1997 and have been championing the region and organic viticulture ever since. Their son, Brook (viticulturist) and his wife Lucie (winemaker) now run the place. Certified organic, the wines are fascinating, rich and full of fruit – the pinot gris and chardonnay are especially good.
16:00 – Skyline Queenstown
If you do one thing in Queenstown, do this. It’s a short walk from anywhere in town and the views are incredible. You can bungy jump and paraglide from up here depending on how extreme you’re feeling. At least do a couple of hot laps on the luge – it’s more fun than you think.
18:00 – Smiths Craft Beer House
On your way down the hill from Skyline, stop in for a palate cleanser at Smiths. It’s upstairs and has great views and more importantly, a well curated range of locally brewed craft beers. If you’re looking for something to eat to ruin your dinner, food is tasty and suits the joint – think po’ boys, burgers and sliders.
20:00 – Dinner at Botswana Butchery
There’s something indulgent about having carpet underfoot in a restaurant, it feels plush, luxurious. With open fireplaces and private dining rooms upstairs, this is the kind of place where you get comfy, lose track of time and linger. Service was some of the most warm and friendly we experienced. As the name would suggest, it’s all about the meat with enough options to appease the most ravenous of carnivores – think red deer, pork, lamb, goat, rabbit and all the steaks. Meat ‘from the butchers block’ is sold per 100g and if you’re overwhelmed by choices, the Cardrona Merino Lamb shoulder is a good place to start.
22:00 – Live Music, and one more drink
It’s been a big day, let’s celebrate – after all you are on holiday! There are plenty of bars that have live music and no cover charge. Most will have a covers artist on early but by this time, the Ballarat Trading Co. will be pumping with a live band. Also try the World Bar or Yonder.