VinEssence – Marlborough’s Premier Wine Experience, Soak in the views, Savour the wines

One of the highlight’s of my trip to New Zealand earlier in February this year, primarily to attend the Pinot Noir New Zealand Celebration 2013 held in sunny Wellington, was visiting the Marlborough region.

I joined a group of Marlborough winegrowers who had seized the initiative to expand on their pinot noir story; a narration that turned out to be more of an adventure really with a 4WD tour coined the ‘The Marlborough Pinot Noir Safari’ taking us up into the hills of the Awatere and Southern valleys and through the back country routes of Awatere, Brancott, Omaka and Waihopai valleys to discover, in their words, “the special sites that are putting Marlborough Pinot Noir on the map.”

Driving and walking through these cutting-edge vineyards was certainly the best way to communicate a fascinating story of the regions rapid evolution and of a progression to the hills, where this vanguard of Marlborough winegrowers have come to the realization that pinot noir likes its roots in heavier clay soils and on cooler elevated slopes, and not the bony, silts and gravels of the river-flat soils that sauvignon blanc has proven to be so much at home.

One of the pioneers and (unsung) hero’s of the region, viticulturalist Mike Eaton, ex TerraVin and Clayvin vineyard, was instrumental in exploring the Southern Valleys and hills of Marlborough and instigated many of the new plantings. It was fascinating listening to Eaton’s profound chronicle of Marlborough’s pinot noir evolution and his zeal for regions future with this grape as palpable as the succulence of fruit in the wines.

Mike and Jo Eaton  Picture by Kat Pickford

Mike and Jo Eaton Picture by Kat Pickford

Eaton, along with his wife Jo, have just launched VinEssence, a vineyard tour service in Marlborough that brings a dynamic to vineyard tourism that many wine regions simply do not have; an independent vineyard professional that can conduct vineyard visits at the highest (technical level) and drawing on 30 years experience in Marlborough, offering the most comprehensive insight to the region’s diversity, history and future for both wine industry professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Indeed, the Eaton’s have devised two options, Premium Sessions and Informal Sessions, see below for details. And if you are really serious about your wine, I would advise you have a discussion with them on a private tailored tour.

I would also like to highlight that the Eaton’s focus is on organic winegrowers, in tune with their own philosophies of winegrowing and lifestyle, but also a principals that many New Zealand winegrowers are adopting and strategic to the industries future.

You can contact them on 021 555 010 or 021 341 091 Email: and visit  My advice is to make contact well in advance of your visit, Marlborough is after all one of the world’s most well known wine regions with significant wine tourism and a very busy place–on a weekend. I have also written briefly on accommodation in Marlborough click here which does need updating and I can highly recommend the Hotel d’Urville where I stayed.


Premium Sessions

Monday – Friday, l0am – 12pm, Saturday 1pm – 3pm  Cost $48.00pp Bookings essential.

“Jo and Mike Eaton present selected local boutique wines with an over-view of the region, wine styles, winemaking techniques and compare single vineyard Pinot Noir. Walk among the Organically grown hillside Pinot Noir vines overlooking the beautiful Omaka Valley and the iconic Richmond ranges beyond. Taste some of the local flavour sensations that will enhance your wine tasting experience. Tastings can be tailored to meet your group’s requirements. The finest Riedel glassware is used to enhance your tasting experience and ensure that wines are presented as the winemaker intended. Have your many wine questions answered by Jo or Mike Eaton with their in-depth knowledge of the wine industry.”


Informal Sessions

Monday- Friday, 12 – 5pm.  Cost $7.50pp  No bookings required.

“Casual vineyard visit and tasting of a selected range of wines from our favourite boutique Marlborough producers as you look out over the Omaka Valley to the iconic Richmond Ranges. Taste iconic wines of this world renowned region from quality Riedel glassware and spend time walking through the adjoining hillside vineyard as you experience Marlborough at its best.”

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