LOCATION Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand START/END Antares Homestay, outside Renwick DISTANCE BIKED 23 miles TRIP LENGTH Three days DIFFICULTY Easy RENTALS Wine Tours by Bike charges $35 a day (64-3/572-9951; www.winetoursbybike.co.nz) WHEN TO GO Spring (fall in New Zealand) RESOURCES Maps of the region are free from the Marlborough Winegrowers Association (64-3/577-9299; www.wine marlborough.net.nz); or go to www.destinationmarlborough.com
DAY 1: Antares Homestay to Gibb's Vineyard Restaurant, outside Renwick
DISTANCE 4.4 miles round-trip.There are dozens of wineries within a five-mile radius of Antares Homestay (64-3/ 572-9951; www.antareshomestay.co.nz; doubles from $104), making it an ideal base from which to experience the region. Owned by English expats Jane and Ray Adams, Antares is a modern two-room bed-and-breakfast on four acres of gardens, ponds, and orchards west of Blenheim. The Adamses also run Wine Tours by Bike; unlimited use of a hybrid bike is included in the cost of an overnight stay.
Biking out of the B&B's olive treelined driveway gives you a majestic view of the surrounding landscape: vineyards stretch for miles to the base of the nearby mountains. It's a casual 10-minute ride down Rapaura Road, past modest country houses and the occasional fruit tree, to Gibb's Vineyard Restaurant (258 Jacksons Rd.; 64-3/572-8048; www.gibbs-restaurant.co.nz; dinner for two $77), a rustic bistro known for its French-inspired fare. Order a glass of the Nautilus Estate Cuvée Marlborough NV Brut and a plate of the area's green-lipped mussels while you consider the small but superb menu. Co-owner Heidi Gibb, who doubles as a waitress, will help you navigate the allNew Zealand wine list. Don't overdo it, though; you'll need your wits about you while pedaling back to Antares in the moonlight.
DAY 2 Antares to Highfield Estate
DISTANCE 11.2 miles round-trip. After breakfast, set out for two of the region's most renowned vineyards: Allan Scott (Jacksons Rd.; 64-3/572-9054; www.allanscott.com) and Cloudy Bay (Jacksons Rd.; 64-3/520-9140; www.cloudybay.co.nz). Allan Scott's cellar door, or wine-tasting area, looks like an old-world French tavern. The standouts here are a citrusy 2004 Riesling and a subtle Prestige Chardonnay from 2002 with hints of butterscotch. Across the road is Cloudy Bay, one of the first wineries in Marlborough to export Sauvignon Blanc. Now owned by Moët Hennessy, Cloudy Bay is increasingly known for its Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, sparkling wine, and an extraordinary cellar-aged Sauvignon Blanc called Te Koko.
The wide berm along State Highway 6, the busiest road in the region, still makes for safe riding despite the cars that zoom past at 60 mph. (Be sure to cycle with traffic—on the left side in New Zealand.) A few hundred yards south of the route is Kathy Lynskey Wines (36 Godfrey Rd.; 64-3/572-7180; www.kathylynskeywines.co.nz), a boutique vineyard that makes only 6,000 cases of wine annually. Her 2003 Block 36 Reserve Pinot Noir has received gold medals in two U.S. wine competitions; the intensely aromatic 2005 Vineyard Select Sauvignon Blanc is bound to take home future awards.
The ride to Highfield Estate (Brookby Rd.; 64-3/572-9244; www.highfield.co.nz; lunch for two $52), on a hill above the plains, is short but steep. The narrow farm road is flanked by hundreds of vine tresses; in the distance you can see windmills for warming plants on frosty nights. Established in 1989, Highfield is more than a winery—it's also a restaurant and a one-room B&B. Sit on the terrace and try a glass of the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc—a perfect complement to a hearty seafood-and-saffron chowder. After lunch, climb up the estate's Tuscan-style fortress for panoramic views of the entire valley.
DAY 3: Antares to Nautilus Estate
DISTANCE 7.5 miles round-trip.Riding along Highway 6 toward Renwick, you'll pass towering pine and eucalyptus trees and a half-dozen other vineyards before reaching Te Whare Ra (56 Anglesea St.; 64-3/572-8581; www.te-whare-ra.co.nz), the region's oldest boutique winery. Vintners Jason and Anna Flowerday unveil their latest vintages as if they're introducing their children. Gewürztraminer is the specialty here, but the Sauvignon Blanc is also excellent—the peppery flavors of the 2004 have given way to softer herbal notes in the 2005.
Next, swing by Nautilus Estate (12 Rapaura Rd.; 64-3/572-9364; www.nautilusestate.com), which turns out stellar sparkling wine and Pinot Gris. Its tasting area houses a small cheese shop and is styled after an old-fashioned Kentucky barn, but inside, everything is sleek and modern: the stainless-steel bar has blond-wood trim. The vintner, Clive Jones, occasionally makes small batches of Sauvignon Blanc that are not sold anywhere else.
Pedaling back to Antares along sleepy Rapaura Road, you won't see tour buses or even other cyclists. But that may be about to change: several vineyards have recently been bought up by conglomerates, and more people are bound to seek out their wines. It's a good time to be in Marlborough—while it's still blissfully undiscovered.
Our favorite South Island wineries have limited distribution in the States, so stock up while you're there. ?; Allan Scott's 2004 Riesling ($12) has a floral nose and a refreshing finish. ?; Cloudy Bay's 2002 Te Koko ($26) blends notes of citrus and caramel. ?; Kathy Lynskey's 2005 Vineyard Select Sauvignon Blanc ($14) features aromas of gooseberry and lemon-lime. ?; Highfield Estate's fruity 2004 Sauvignon Blanc ($17) has won five gold medals. ?; Te Whare Ra's 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($14) calls to mind passion fruit, red pepper, and grapefruit. ?; Nautilus Estate makes small batches of wine that are unavailable in America.