NZ Epicurean Extravaganza 2014 – Itinerary

Tour Leader David Rowell and some of his fellow New Zealanders.
Tour Leader David Rowell and some of his fellow New Zealanders.

Join with me and a small select group of fellow Travel Insiders on this food and wine focused tour of New Zealand in Oct/Nov 2014.

Here are the details of what we’ll do each day during this wonderful experience.

Pre-Tour Option to NZ’s South Island – click here for details

Main Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Friday 24 October)

If you are not doing the pre-tour option to the Queenstown area of New Zealand’s South Island, today is probably the day you’ll choose to leave the US to fly to Auckland, NZ’s largest city and main international gateway (or perhaps you might leave a day earlier so as to have a day spare in Auckland just in case of missed flights or luggage delays, etc).

Most flights leave LAX or SFO mid/late evening and travel non-stop to Auckland.

Day 2 (Saturday 25 October)

Your overnight flight crosses the international dateline and we skip over this day entirely.  But you’ll be compensated – on our return back to the US, you’ll repeat the day and arrive into LAX (or SFO) earlier than when you left Auckland.

Auckland and its beautiful harbor.
Auckland and its beautiful harbor.

Day 3 (Sunday 26 October)

Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand.  Your flight probably arrives early this morning.

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and located on the shores of a beautiful natural harbor.  We’ll give everyone the morning on their own, and then in the afternoon we’ll provide a city sight-seeing tour, including a ticket for the beautiful scenic ferry ride across the harbor to the sleepy town of Devonport on the other side (remember it is NZ’s spring so hopefully you’ll enjoy a nice warm sunny afternoon).

Due to different people having different energy levels, we have nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, but will be on hand to assist with dining recommendations and reservations as needed.

One of the many geysers in the Rotorua geothermal area.
One of the many geysers in the Rotorua geothermal area.

Day 4 (Monday 27 October)

We hope you’re well rested after a good night’s sleep.  This morning we leave Auckland and travel to Rotorua, stopping on the way at the Waitomo Glowworm caves.

Rotorua is a center of intense geothermal activity, with boiling mudpools, geysers, natural hot pools for bathing in, and also a region full of much of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people and their culture.

It is David’s birthday today, and so he has arranged a distinctive surprise event – food, wine/beer and entertainment, for dinner this evening.

Day 5 (Tuesday 28 October)

Today we go ‘off the beaten (tourist) path’ and head to the small city of Gisborne on NZ’s East Coast.  Almost entirely overlooked by international tourists, Gisborne is one of the country’s prime wine going regions, and the third largest in the country.

Day 6 (Wednesday 29 October)

Today we go ‘off the beaten (tourist) path’ and head to the small city of Gisborne on NZ’s East Coast.  Almost entirely overlooked by international tourists, Gisborne is one of the country’s prime wine going regions, and the third largest in the country.

Gisborne produces a broad varietal mix and diversity of wine styles, reflecting the different soil types and meso-climates of the region.

Revered as a top Chardonnay-producing area, Gisborne also has a celebrated reputation for Gewurztraminer. This goes back to the 1970s, when Matawhero was making New Zealand’s first benchmark Gewurztraminers.

More recently, some fine Viognier, Pinot Gris and Chenin Blanc wines have emerged, along with sparkling wines. Reds are also becoming increasingly popular, with excellent Merlots, Malbec, Pinotage and even the occasional Syrah being produced.

We’ll visit a winery for an in-depth tour and tasting, and spend one night in Gisborne.

The exterior of the County Hotel - our dream boutique hotel in Hawke's Bay.  They've agreed to dedicate all their rooms exclusively to us.
The exterior of the County Hotel – our dream boutique hotel in Hawke’s Bay. They’ve agreed to dedicate all their rooms exclusively to us.

Day 7 (Thursday 30 October)

We continue on the relatively short distance to Hawke’s Bay, which will be our home for the next four days.

Hawke’s Bay is the oldest wine growing region in New Zealand, and also the second largest.  With a climate similar to that of Bordeaux, it is no surprise that red wines dominate, with over 80% of NZ’s plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes to be found in this region.

The area also produces rich and complex Chardonnays.

Hawke’s Bay is also sometimes referred to as the ‘food bowl’ of New Zealand, due to the wide variety of orchards and market gardens that provide a huge diversity of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, and produce of all kinds, blessed by soils and a climate conducive to excellent growing.

Add locally raised meat products and coastal/river fishing and the area is abundantly overflowing with local foodstuffs allowing for a wide range of locavore type taste treats.

There’s still more to Hawke’s Bay than ‘just’ food and wine.  The city we’ll be staying in (Napier) was devastated by an earthquake in 1931; the city-wide rebuilding that resulted was predominantly in the then prevalent style of Art Deco, making the city now into a gracious and extraordinary living museum of this style.

We’ve managed to get the city’s most distinctive boutique hotel to give us all their rooms for our stay, which changes our experience from merely being guests in a generic hotel to having our own hotel for ourselves; a much friendlier and more special experience.

We drive straight to one of the region’s better known wineries, where the owner has offered to give us a personal tour and tasting.  We also have lunch in their highly regarded on-site winery restaurant.

The balance of the day is free, and you might wish to visit the NZ Wine Center, located directly opposite to our hotel, and with interesting exhibits and tasting opportunities galore.

NZ celebratory chef Ray McVinnie serving people at FAWC 2013.
NZ celebrity chef Ray McVinnie serving people at FAWC 2013.

Day 8 (Friday 31 October)

Happy Halloween.  Hopefully there’ll be no tricks today, but treats a-plenty.

Today marks the start of Hawke’s Bay’s annual Food and Wine Classic (FAWC) Festival – the ‘anchor event’ of our Epicurean Extravaganza, and perhaps the country’s finest wine and food festival, with over 50 featured events in 2013, and it is expected as many as 60 events will be offered during the ten days it will be held in 2014.

FAWC runs over two weekends and the week inbetween; and while there are events every day, the key events occur the first weekend, which is (of course) the weekend we are present.

You’ll have already selected the events you will attend, almost surely including the launch part this evening.  Earlier in the day, we’ll offer a chance for a lovely leisurely lunch, or you can enjoy any of the many non food/wine type activities available in the area too.

Day 9 (Saturday 1 November)

More FAWC related events today.

There are a wide range of activities scheduled for today – lunchtime, afternoon and evening events.  Pick and choose the ones which have most appeal.

What a shame you can’t be in two (or three!) places at once.

Day 10 (Sunday 2 November)

Another wonderful line-up of gourmet food and world-class wine events for Sunday.

Day 11 (Monday 3 November)

Although FAWC events run all this week, we are moving on and continuing our exploration of New Zealand, its local food, and its wonderful wines.

Today we travel down to the Wairarapa area, home of some lovely very small wineries and great restaurants.

Although the Wairarapa wine producing region is small in size, it is huge in style, and characterized by a multitude of small boutique wineries.  Wines are acclaimed for the intensity in their flavor and are described as old world style with new world flair.  Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are the main varietals, but Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riseling, the Cabernets and Merlot are also grown.

Day 12 (Tuesday 4 November)

We travel on to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

Although also set on a wonderful harbor, it has almost nothing in common with the feel and ambience of Auckland.  Which is better?  Decide for yourself!

Day 13 (Wednesday 5 November)

Our main tour comes to an end today.



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