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Gisborne Wine & Food Tour

Poverty Bay2
The vista from Gisborne City across Poverty Bay to Young Nick's Head.

Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun each day and experience the energy of that first light. Famed for its long, golden-sand beaches, in Gisborne, there is a restful sense of authentic, provincial New Zealand that is often obscured in our larger cities. 

Marinated Tarakihi with coconut, wild rice, cucumber at The Works Restaurant & Bar

Gisborne's climate is dominated by the coastal winds lifting off the Pacific Ocean to the east and the large mountain ranges to the west that form a barrier against westerly rains. It's hot and dry and an easy environment for many fruits and vegetables to flourish. Local restaurants and cafés offer diverse menus of regional foods including locally-caught fish, beef and lamb.

Gisborne Wines

Gisborne MapAM
Map of Gisborne with key wine sub-regions.

Gisborne is currently New Zealand’s third-largest wine-producing region although the total area under vine has declined in recent as growers have replaced their vineyards with more lucrative kiwifruit and apple trees. 

Today, Gisborne is recognised for Chardonnay, often displaying tropical notes of ripe rockmelon and pineapple, peach and nectarine, with caramel, vanilla and toffee imparted by oak. Historically, Gewurztraminer was widely grown but more recently has been overshadowed by Pinot GrisAlbarino and Sauvignon Blanc.

Millton Vineyards

James Millton
At Millton Estate with Rosco Chalmers, James Millton and Bobby Clark.

The Millton Vineyard, owned by James and Annie Millton, and is located south of Gisborne city in the sub-regions of Manutuke. It was the first vineyard in New Zealand to gain organic certification and has gone on to gain Demeter Bio-Dynamic certification in recent years. James Millton has been the leader in this movement among New Zealand wineries since the 1980s and eloquently describes Annie's and his motivations:

'To enhance the life quality of the land we are responsible for and in doing so leave it in an improved condition for future generations...We are merely the caretakers of the fruits of our labours,' says James Millton.

Millton Naboth Vineyard2
Looking down from the Naboth Vineyard toward the Chenin Blanc plantings below.

Millton is best known for its Chenin Blanc, made in a number of styles and premium Chardonnay from the Clos de Ste Anne estate located on a steep north-east facing, Naboth's Vineyard. Millton’s Libiamo range uses natural wine techniques: indigenous yeast, skin contact, unfiltered, unfined and representing an innovative interpretation of their terroir.

Wright's Vineyard

Wrights Geoff winemaker
Geoff Wright from the organic winery, Wright's Estate.

Geoff and Nicola Wright are living the self-sufficient dream, in their cob house and organic vineyards up the Ormond Valley, along with five lively sons. Ormond, north of Gisborne City is where the first commercial vineyards were established and today is still home to some of the best vineyard sites producing single-vineyard wines. 

The Wrights Vineyard cellar door and tasting room is located in Manutuke and the Wrights have established the Natural Wine Co as an accessible, well-priced label to reflect their low intervention philosophy. Wines include organic Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. They also make a Blanc de Blanc methode traditionelle from Chardonnay and their Wrights Chardonnay Reserve is their flagship wine. The Wright's also produce a very aromatic Chardonnay Verjuice - popular with the chefs and available through Sabato.

TW Estate

Paul Tietjen shares his wines from TW Estate with the Golden Slope in the distance.

In 1998, Paul Tietjen and Geordie Witters combined the grapes from their adjacent vineyards, along Back Ormond Road, under the brand of TW. They call this area, the Golden Slope, an elevated strip running across the lower hills of the Ormond, Waihirere and Hexton areas. The Golden Slope has produced many top Chardonnays including the Matawhero Irwin Chardonnay. 

At TW they offer three main styles of Chardonnay from the Platinum to the Reserve, made with a lighter toast to the Estate with no oak but a delicious palate of ripe peaches and nectarines. Grapes include Malbec and Carmenere which winemaker, Anita Ewart-Croy, has been able to transform into fragrant, ripe brambley dense wine, with a red capsicum tinge.


Kirsten Searle from Matawhero Winery

Matawhero, the estate of Kirsten and Richard Searle was established by local Gisborne identity, Bill Irwin in the 1960s and continued by his son, Dennis. Today the wines are made by Kim Crawford. The Irwin Chardonnay draws on this legacy and is a full-bodied wine from Mendoza grapes predominately drawn from the Tietjen vineyard located in the Golden Slope. The Irwin shows aromas of ripe rockmelon and pineapple with a rich, vanilla, butterscotch and toasty finish. The Matawhero single-vineyard Chardonnay is made with some malolactic fermentation but no oak and offers a refreshing soft peach and pink grapefruit palate.

Spade Oak

Spade Oak Steve Voysey
Steve Voysey from Spade Oak

Steve Voysey, has a long history of making wine in the Gisborne region for Montana, later Pernod Ricard. Spade Oak is his family label. In the past, he experimented with Petit Manseng (white grape from South-West France), Viognier and Syrah but today he still focuses on Chardonnay, Viognier and an oak aged, Pinot Gris. The Prospect Chardonnay is their flagship wine. 

Where to eat

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A hearty breakfast of Rancheros baked eggs, cannellini beans Chorizo, Hollandaise, house ciabatta can be enjoyed at Flagship Eatery, Gisborne. They also offer contemporary interpretations of Eggs Benne, Grilled chicken with quinoa tabbouleh, toasted almonds & lemon tahini & yoghurt dressing.

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon

Marina Restaurant

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Marina Restaurant has been the inspiration of Caroline Philp, a graduate of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine and Chef Stephane Dussau since 2005. They offer a more formal, gastronomic experience drawing on Stephane's French heritage. The menu draws on local seasonal ingredients and a wine list that celebrates Gisborne wines.

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Marina Restaurant's John Dory, asparagus risotto, crunchy buckwheat, orange & ginger beurre blanc

2duck confit
Confit Duck Leg, sauté potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, Szechaun pepper sauce from Marina Restaurant.

 The Works

Catch of the Day

Catch of the day: local Tarakihi and hand cut chips at The Works Restaurant & Bar


Millton Wines 

The Crawford Road Kitchen offers delicious meals and is a great place to taste a selection of Gisborne wines.

Find out more

Learn more about the Gisborne Wine Region.

Visit Gisborne website.


Chardonnay flowering, Gisborne.

Celia Hay

November 2019 


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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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The School

Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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