Nelson is one of the country's prettiest and most relaxing places to live or visit. It moves at its own pace, boasts copious sunshine hours, has stunning beaches, arts, crafts, cafes and restaurants and just feels like a pleasant place to be.
And we haven't even got to the wineries yet. While Nelson does not have the high wine profile and reputation of Marlborough, Hawkes Bay or Central Otago, it is beginning to stretch its considerable collective muscles.
In the past it's been left pretty much to Seifried Estate and Upper Moutere's much lauded Neudorf Vineyards as the regions chief flag-bearers, but there has been a flurry of new winemakers recently who are helping Nelson's image as a serious wine region.
The area does not hang its hat on one style like Marlborough does with sauvignon blanc, but has versatility and temperate climate and soil types that are conducive to a broad range of wine options. This can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand you're seen as not being especially good at anything and average at just about everything.
The truth is that Nelson producers are capable of some of New Zealand's finest wines. Neudorf's Moutere chardonnay is a case in point, as are Te Mania and Waimea Estates, with ranges of great-value wine.
Between them a host of varietals are covered including pinot noir, bordeaux blends, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling, gewurztraminer and a stunning Te Mania Ice Wine.
The wineries share a common goal: to produce quality wines that reflect their sense of place. They are also realists. They understand there's a lot of wine out there and the consumer is overwhelmed with choice and a variety of prices. The wines are consumer-friendly, both from quality and affordability. Vine age and ongoing viticultural nuance and sensitivity mean that the end product is as good as it can be.
These are wines that enjoy a strong following especially from discerning consumers constantly on the lookout for a bang for their hard-earned buck.
Te Mania and Waimea Estates are doing their bit to raise the Nelson wine region flag even higher.
2010 Te Mania Pinot Gris, $21-$22
For those wanting a pinot gris with some backbone and expressive fruit. Concentrated flavours with lots of pear, baked apple and spice. A lovely silky texture with a mouth-watering finish. Good price, great value.
2009 Spinyback Pinot Noir, $17-$18
You'll be struggling to find a pinot noir that tastes like a pinot under $20. This one does. A remarkable wine from a great vintage with lots of fresh fruit flavours and a sweet, spicy finish.