It's summertime, the living is easy and the tourist trail is going strong. Nelson Mail wine columnist Neil Hodgson offers some tips for visitors and locals.
If you are a visitor to Nelson I hope you are having a great time and not suffering from over-indulging in the fine things Nelson has to offer. On the other hand if you are a local who has enjoyed too much of a good thing I sympathise, because I have been making the most of summer in Nelson.
The weather may have been a bit mixed. But we have had some stunning days and a few days where we have been out of the sun and wind spending a few dollars in the shops, and taking in the sights and sounds of Nelson - other than those at the beach.
All going to plan you will have avoided a dose of sunburn and have got back into the work routine, unless you are lucky enough to still be on holiday.
If you live in Nelson hopefully you are still talking to relatives and friends who come here for the summer holidays each year, and if you are a visitor or local I have the perfect solution to that, "what would you like to do today?" question: The Nelson region is home to more than 24 cellar door wineries for you to visit and if you happen to be in Golden Bay then there are a couple more.
But first a few rules: Most wineries don't open until about 11am, so make sure you take time to have a decent breakfast. You won't want to be tasting wine on an empty stomach. Secondly, appoint a sober driver and make sure you buy them plenty of juice and coffee during the day. Drinking and driving is never a good thing and you could end up remembering your summer in Nelson for all the wrong reasons.
Next on the list is to make sure you stop for a substantial lunch. Breakfast won't last all day and eating food and drinking water during the day will ensure there isn't too much pain the next day.
The fourth thing to remember is that wineries provide tastings so you can experience their wares in a relaxed, enjoyable environment; they are not bars. Some will charge a small tasting fee to cover their not inconsiderable costs of providing these samples, so don't quibble if you are asked to pay a tasting fee that is often refunded if you make a purchase.
Finally, please respect both the winery staff and other guests. If you have children with you take care of them, because wineries are working industrial sites and have plenty of potentially dangerous equipment. Some wineries have facilities for children, but they are ultimately your responsibility. Winery staff are not babysitters.
The last thing you will need is the Nelson Wineart map of the region's wineries. This has information about location, opening hours and facilities (dining and so on).
If you have your smartphone or tablet with you visit www.wineart.co.nz to find all the information you will need, or you can pick up a printed version of the map at any of the wineries or visitor centres.
While the Nelson region has two distinct wine sub-regions (Waimea Plains and Moutere Hills) and one emerging sub-region, (Tasman) these can be divided even further into mini wine tours. If you check the Nelson Wineart map you will see wineries tend to be clustered in convenient groups of four or five, making it quite easy to spend a day tasting wine without too much travelling.
For a close-to-town mini tour just three or four minutes drive from Richmond, you will find Te Mania Wines, Richmond Plains and Waimea Estates that all have good winery tasting rooms, while Orinoco and Middle Earth Wines have a tasting facility at the Grape Escape complex.
Richmond Plains is the pioneer of organic and bio-dynamic wine production in the region and along with the co-located Te Mania Wines, produce beautifully clean wines that express the true nature of the vineyards. Both Waimea Estates and Grape Escape have good cafes.
Head to the Richmond foothills and Brightwater and you will find Fossil Ridge Wines, Greenhough Wines, Millcrest Wines, Brightwater Vineyards and Kaimira Wines. Fossil Ridge Wines has one of the most picturesque wineries in the region with the tasting room overlooking a delightful lake and tables and chairs are placed at strategic points around the lake and on the decks. It is also a place to enjoy lunch.
Brightwater Vineyards was the first Nelson winery to win a Champion Wine in Show trophy and picked up the accolade at the 2012 Royal Easter Wine Show with its 2010 Lord Rutherford Barrique Fermented Chardonnay. While this wine has sold out, it has plenty of other outstanding trophy winning wines for you to try and buy.
Head towards Motueka and you will find Seifried Estate on the main road at the turnoff to Rabbit Island. The Seifried family is one of the pioneers of the modern winemaking era in the region and is also the region's largest wine producer. The facilities include a large cellar door tasting area and a family-friendly restaurant with a small playground for the little ones; it is very easy to spend several hours here.
Take the inland road towards Motueka and you will drive through the historic village of Upper Moutere or Sarau as it was historically named. There are many wineries in the Moutere Hills and the area around Upper Moutere makes a perfect winery day trip.
Right beside the village you will find a range of award winning wines made on site and also imported from all over the world, as well as the best pizzas in the region at Kahurangi Estate. This cafe is so busy you will need to book a table.
Tucked in behind Kahurangi Estate is another certified organic producer, Sunset Valley Wines, and the recently resurrected Moutere Hills Winery and Cafe. Here you will discover an extensive cafe menu that features lots of local produce.
In the Upper Moutere Village in the Old Post Office Store you will find Harekeke Wines, as well as some homemade jams, preserves and other locally made treats.
About five minutes drive from Upper Moutere village is the Neudorf Vineyards. Regarded as one of the best wine producers in New Zealand and arguably the best producer of chardonnay in the country, no visit to Nelson wineries would be complete if you don't include Neudorf.
It has a small selection of locally produced cheeses and other products for you to buy for lunch, or you can bring a picnic and enjoy it in the winery's delightful vineyard setting. Neudorf will also host some concerts this summer including the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (February 1 and 2) and the Classic Hits Winery Summer Tour featuring Fat Freddy's Drop, Anika Boh & Hollie and The Adults on February 22 and 23.
Another mini wine tour takes in four wineries, including Rimu Grove in Bronte Rd then a short trip inland to Woollaston Estates where you can enjoy a vineyard platter made from locally sourced treats for lunch before your drop in to taste some robust reds, elegant rieslings and aged treasures from the cellar at Glovers Vineyard. This can be followed by a quick hop up the road to Himmelsfeld Wines, whose 1.2 hectares of vines are among the oldest in the region.
The final mini tour takes in some great destinations around the small Tasman settlement. Blackenbrook Vineyards is only open for a few days so it would pay to check its website for details and as none of these wineries have dining facilities, stop in at Jester House for great food and a chance to feed the tame eels. Kina Beach and Kina Cliffs vineyards both have tasting rooms with great views and even better wines.
If you are staying at Kaiteriteri or travelling to Golden Bay, you will find Riwaka River Estate at the foot of the Takaka Hill.
Whichever wineries you choose to visit you will not be disappointed.
Enjoy your time here and please make sure your sober driver drives carefully.