At the foot of The Remarkables mountain range near Queenstown, Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa is nestled in the peaceful valley from which it takes its name. Grapevines dominate here, with several winemakers dotted around the area, which has a particularly stellar reputation for pinot noir.
Thought of as one of the founding vineyards in the area and the first to release a commercial vintage, Gibbston Valley Winery was created in 1983. The five-star lodge and spa opened comparatively recently in December 2019, an easy 25 minutes’ drive from Queenstown and just over 10 minutes from Arrowtown.
The accommodation consists of 24 self-contained villas that look out over the vines, a short walk away from the main lodge. Each villa is elegantly designed and extremely comfortable – it can be difficult to leave when you’re ensconced in your own private lodgings, lounging on the plush sofa in front of the fireplace. You can dip into the minibar selection of wine-infused chocolates, cheese and crackers – and a variety of Gibbston Valley wines, of course.
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It’s also tough to venture out when the deep waters of the porcelain bath await, as does the cosiness of the king-size bed with views across the living room out to the private deck. You can see rows of grapevines stretching towards the craggy Crown Range without having to go outside – but should you choose to, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
The property is located along the Gibbston River Bike Trail, with bicycles available for hire. The flat, dedicated cycle trail leads to a number of other wineries with cellar doors, and along the way you’re treated to spectacular views looking down onto the turquoise Kawarau River.
Aside from any wine-centric activities, it’s only a 45-60-minute return walk to Kawarau River Suspension Bridge, which you can book to bungy jump off.
Upon your return – or at any time of day – you can relax in one of the hot tubs. Tucked among gardens, they overlook the villas, lodge and hillsides beyond – a view that changes colour with the seasons. A few steps away and adjacent to the 24-hour gym, the spa awaits. Book in for body wraps, facials, massages and vinotherapy treatments using grape extracts – all accompanied by a glass of bubbles or locally made herbal tea.
Beneath the soaring ceiling of the open-plan communal lodge, the magnificent, central fireplace is a drawcard on a cool winter’s day. Get lost in a book from the corner library or simply enjoy the landscaped grounds and valley vistas beyond from the conservatory, outdoor patio or restaurant.
The restaurant menu centres on seasonal, local and organic produce (such as a heavenly beef roast) and, if you’re at a loss as to which wine to drink with what, there’s a wine-matching service. For the ultimate treat, you can settle in for a five-course degustation matched with Gibbston Valley wines in the lodge’s private basement wine cellar.
From the villas, take a path through landscaped gardens to the Gibbston Valley Winery – home to a restaurant, cellar door, cheesery and deli. And, an impressive wine cave that you can take a tour of. Blasted into the schist mountainside hemming the 1000-acre property in 1995, this is one of only two wine caves in New Zealand (the other is in Marlborough) – and it is also the largest.
A tour begins outside at the original vines – pinot noir, riesling and gewurztraminer – which were planted in 1983 by Irishman Alan Brady. Carrying on into the dimly lit cave, you’ll see hundreds of stacked French oak barrels aging pinot noir. You can also view the “wine library”, an alcove lying beyond an iron gate. It contains dust-covered bottles from every vintage at Gibbston Valley since the first was produced in 1987. This includes the 2000 Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, which won the Gold Medal Trophy for Pinot Noir/Burgundy at the 2001 London International Wine Challenge – the first time anywhere outside Burgundy, France had won the award. It makes sense when you learn that Central Otago sits on the 45th parallel circle of latitude, with a similar climate to pinot noir’s Burgundian birthplace.
If you’re into pairing cheese with your wine, you can take the Wine & Cheese Tour; held in another alcove within the cave, cheeses from Oamaru’s Whitestone Cheese are paired with each glass. Consider yourself an aficionado? Go for a vineyard tour and three-course lunch at the winery’s restaurant.
The writer stayed at Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa as a guest of the lodge.