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73 Felton Road, Bannockburn, Cromwell, New Zealand
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The Cellar Door and Restaurant at Mt Difficulty Wines share space in a contemporary building nestled high above the winery on Templars Hill in Bannockburn. The venue is known as much for its dramatic views of rugged rock and thyme landscapes as it is for its stylish yet uncomplicated cuisine. On a fine day the outdoor terrace is the perfect spot to experience Mt Difficulty’s unique hospitality. During winter the view can be enjoyed from behind glass, with fireplaces providing warmth and ambience.
The Cellar Door is open daily for wine tastings between 10.30am and 4.30pm. Our friendly staff will share their love of Mt Difficulty and Roaring Meg wines with you, catering to your tastes and level of wine experience. All our wines are available to purchase and we offer both domestic and international delivery options.
The Winery Restaurant at Mt Difficulty provides a fun atmosphere in which to enjoy a casual lunch. Chef Werner Hecht-Wendt produces imaginative regional cuisine which is designed to perfectly complement Mt Difficulty’s wines. His menu showcases the freshest of local produce, offering a choice of substantial fare or platters to share. View the current menu at www.mtdifficulty.co.nz/tasting/menu.html.
Lunch is available between 12 noon and 3pm daily. Seating is limited so reservations are essential.
Mt Difficulty Wines owns some of the oldest vineyards and is one of most respected wineries in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's rugged South Island. In the early 1990’s the owners of four newly-planted Bannockburn vineyards - Molyneux, Manson’s Farm, Verboeket Estate and Full Circle - shook hands and became Mt Difficulty Wines.
Now comprised of twelve separate vineyards in Bannockburn, Mt Difficulty has the luxury of utilising a variety of different terroirs which produce superb regional and Single Vineyard wines. Mt Difficulty is particularly renowned for its Estate Pinot Noir, but also grows and produces Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc under both the Mt Difficulty and Roaring Meg labels.
Matt Dicey, son of original partner and viticulturist Robin, has been winemaker at Mt Difficulty since 1999, and has been assisted by Roger deGrauw since 2001.
Mt Difficulty Wines was named after the mountain overlooking the southern Cromwell basin, around which the road linking Cromwell and Queenstown through the Kawarau Gorge winds. It is the dominant feature above the vineyard, a rounded peak to the west of the winery which provides shelter from the cool winds of the Wakitipu Basin.
The story about the naming of Mt Difficulty gives lie to its benign appearance...
W.G. Rees, one of the original settlers in the Wakitipu Basin, employed a party of six men as drovers to bring a flock of 3000 sheep from Oamaru on the east coast of the South Island. This was an arduous undertaking with many rivers and a number of mountain passes to traverse. Crossing the Cairnmuir Range to avoid the Cromwell Gorge, they reached the Kawarau, but found it impossible to get the sheep up the Kawarau Gorge – the gap between the bluff and the river was too narrow.
The mountain above this bluff they called Mt Difficulty.
As a result they were forced to back-track and take the mob on a long roundabout trip to Hawea, across to where Wanaka now stands, then over the Crown Range and into the Wakitipu Basin.
The road through the Kawarau Gorge can still be precarious with winter ice and rockfalls, but thousands of travellers now drive around Mt Difficulty without any thought of what went before. The more observant of them notice the names of Roaring Meg and Gentle Annie as they pass by two creeks in the gorge, and many stop to take photographs of the power station at the Roaring Meg.
The local legend of Roaring Meg and Gentle Annie is somewhat disputed but makes for a good tale. Robert Gilkison, lawyer and historian wrote:
“It used to be generally told in Cromwell that an early party of diggers took with them two girls from a dancing saloon. When they reached the first large stream they carried the lasses across, and one made so much fuss that they called it after her, ‘Roaring Meg’, while the other was particularly calm and peaceful and the next stream was called ‘Gentle Annie’ after her.”
These days the name of Roaring Meg is seen around the world on the label of Mt Difficulty’s second brand.
Mt Difficulty is a 45 minute drive from Queenstown and Wanaka, 30 minutes from Alexandra, and 5 minutes from Cromwell.
• Driving from Queenstown: Turn right off State Highway 6 into Pearson Road as you emerge from the Kawarau Gorge. Travel three kilometres and turn right onto Bannockburn Road, travel 300 metres to the Bannockburn bridge...
• Driving from Wanaka and Alexandra: Drive into Cromwell onto Barry Avenue (by the Golden Gate Lodge) and through the town. Barry Avenue becomes Bannockburn Road at the industrial area. Travel four kilometres to the Bannockburn bridge...
Once you have crossed the Bannockburn bridge drive up the hill and turn right into Felton Road. We are the first winery on the left hand side of the road, about 700 metres from the turn-off.