I step up into the helicopter, pull on the headphones and wait quietly as Richard, our Heliview pilot, does up the safety buckles. With everyone safely inside and strapped in, we take off. The blades of the helicopter roar to life above us and my curiosity gets the better of me, so I slip off my headphones and realise very quickly that, yes, it really is as loud as I’d imagined and the headphones are absolutely necessary. I put them back on.
Richard guides the helicopter up and away from the ground and we all beam big smiles at his wife, Jolanda, who is waving us off. The ground moves further away from beneath us as we pull higher and higher into the sky, with Central Otago laid out beneath us. We’re soaring over land and water, mountains adding to the dramatic scenery, smiles plastered on our faces.
As we fly over the area, Richard talks us through everything we’re seeing. Anna, one of the owners of Mount Michael Wines, gives us information on the local area, the different wineries we’re seeing and expert rundown as we cruise above Mount Michael Wines, even spotting a few staff members among the vines.
Just when it feels like the moment couldn’t quite get any better, the sun bursts through the clouds that have been looming on the horizon all morning, threatening to dump rain all over our party. The weather could not have turned on the charm at a better moment, it’s as though Richard and Anna have secretly conspired with the clouds. (Maybe a few bottles of red were promised, in exchange for clear skies?)
We come into land atop Mount Michael, climb out of the helicopter and stand for a moment, completely awe-struck by the entire experience. Our feet find a mix of soft snow yet to melt in the warm sun and brown earth adorned with small shrubs. Before us, mountains on mountains, some snow-capped, others bare, but all of them beautiful, with a gentle blue haze sitting over the area.
Anna finds the perfect raised rock and places one of the most spectacular cheese platters I have ever seen atop it. Next, she unwraps wine glasses and produces three bottles of Mount Michael Wine for our tasting. It’s a sensory overload. The stunning vistas New Zealand is throwing up, the gorgeous weather, the wine, the cheese and the helicopter… it’s a surreal moment.
With a glass full of Pinto Gris and a lot of cheese in my mouth, I listen as Anna talks us through the story of Mount Michael Wines, where it came from, how she, her partner Tim and her family came to own it and their plans for the future. Her knowledge of the area is amazing and, what’s incredible, she’s not selfish about business, openly sharing tips on other great spots to visit and wines to try.
We work our way through the Pinot Gris, onto a Rosé and finishing up on one of the best Pinot Noir’s I’ve had in a long time. It’s at this point I realise we’re not really experiencing a tasting, so much as a very generous sampling of some fabulous wines, while expert Anna talks us through everything we’re drinking. Combined with the cheese and insane views, I feel like I’m close to achieving spiritual enlightenment. I am the chosen one.
It feels like we’ve been on top of Mount Michael for 15 minutes, but without even realising it, 2 of the best hours in the world have just flown by. We’ve talked, laughed, drunk, feasted and learned a heck of a lot about the area and the wine in the process. We climb back into the helicopter and head back to meat Jolanda, say our fond farewells and head back towards Queenstown feeling pretty damn pleased with ourselves.
So, what is this magical experience?
This incredible travel experience was organised entirely by Anna at Mount Michael Wines and it’s a heli-wine-tasting, one of the most magical things you could ever hope to come across in your entire wine-loving life. Simply put, you enjoy a scenic helicopter flight, land atop Mount Michael and take in the spectacular views while eating cheese and sampling fantastic wines from Mount Michael Wines. And yes, it really is as good as it sounds.
Where is this heavenly place?
You’ll find Mount Michael Wines in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island, in Lowburn. This puts it just shy of an hour’s drive from Queenstown and about 40 minutes drive from Wanaka. This makes it an absolute must-do experience for anybody visiting Queenstown, Wanaka or anywhere within driving distance to Lowburn.
Yeah, but, why is it worth doing?
We’ve all done a wine tasting before and we all know they’re great, but this experience is something completely unique, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime, tell your friends about it, never forget it kind of experiences. I’m still talking about it and it happened weeks ago! It’s one of those surreal experiences where you really, truly get to do something absolutely amazing. It’s what being an adult is all about; spending your hard-earned money on unforgettable travel experiences that will stay with you forever!
The wine is exceptional, the food delicious views stunning and the whole thing totally enjoyable and, honestly, almost unbelievable, it’s that good. I definitely chalk it up as a travel memory that will stay with me for a very, very long time and easily the coolest damn wine tasting of my life. No joke.
I loved it. I absolutely, hands-down, freaking loved it. The whole thing was just… cool. Everything about it was enjoyable and it’s going down in the record books as my favourite wine tasting. I really think it’s perfect for anyone who loves adventure, wine, amazing foods and doing really memorable things when they travel. It’d be especially wonderful for honeymooners, romantics, anyone celebrating something special or even a great place to propose! It’s definitely a must-do for visitors to New Zealand’s South Island.
Useful travel resources for your trip to New Zealand
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Agoda – our go-to site for booking hotels
Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
RentalCars.com – great search engine for car rentals
Booking.com – another go-to site for booking hotels
TourRadar – great search engine for tours
Uber – our go-to transport option