We were cruising around New Zealand on the Holland America ship Noordam. Previously we had always booked excursions through the ship and this was to be our first try at going it alone. We were a little apprehensive but we certainly didn't need to be. After transferring by shuttle from the port of Picton to the i-site tourist information centre we had no trouble finding the Marlborough Wine Tour vans. There were just eight of us plus our guide/driver Katrina.
Our first stop was at Whiehaven Wines. We tasted 7 of their wines. Next stop was Omaka Springs, a lot smaller operation owned by a former British Airlines pilot. Amongst others we tried 2 vintages of Sav Blanc a 2014 and 2015. We also sampled a Gruner Veltliner (Austrian grape variety) and the olive oil they produce. Next up was Spy Valley wines. This winery gets its name from the satellite monitoring station further down the road. A large operation with a very modern cellar door. We tasted 7 wines in total. As you can imagine the conversation was flowing just like the wine by now. We went to St Clair Winery for lunch and another tasting. The wines here were considerably more expensive compared to the previous wineries we had visited. Whereas most Sav Blancs were under $20 here they were $30 +. The lunch (our expense) was excellent, My wife and I both had a warm lamb salad. This was supposed to be our last stop but Katrina our driver took us to No. 1 Estate. They only produce sparkling wine of which we tried 4. Lastly we visited a handmade chocolate shop and had a couple of samples. On the way back to the ship Katrina took us to a viewing area overlooking the Noordam. Going by this excursion we will certainly be looking at more independent tours in the future. I would have no hesitation in recommending this tour to anyone on a cruise ship. If there is a delay in disembarking they will wait for you and they also guarantee to make sure you make it back to the ship. There is no doubt this tour was excellent value for money compared to tours booked through the cruise line. We tasted far more wines, we were a group of 8 compared to perhaps 30 plus on the ships tour. Katrina was an excellent no nonsense guide and this along with great company made for a very enjoyable day.
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