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Pedal the Pino Trail – a daily motivator

Cycling around Alexandra Basin and stopping at picturesque, locally owned vineyards is a delightful way to explore in any season.

Although Central Otago winters are often blue skies and snowy mountains, we chose to pedal the Pino Trail in summer at the end of January this year.

The 25 km trail opened in October 2020 and offers a map to navigate the loop around the basin, walking at your own pace and stopping wherever you want.

The tour can start or end in Alexandra or Clyde, and bikes can be hired in either town.

The Clyde is also a departure or arrival point for the more established Central Otago Rail Trail and the exciting new Lake Dunstan Trail.

The Alexandra Basin is a sub-region of Central Otago and is one of the southernmost wine regions in the world.

Pedalers with a penchant for Pinot and other wines will enjoy beauty, exercise and five family-owned vineyards along the way.

Those not keen on wine tasting can pack a picnic to eat along the way or stop off at the excellent cafes of Alexandra or Clyde to refuel.

My wife Kelly and I drove from Clyde, a charming former gold mining village located below a 100 meter high hydroelectric dam.

Pedal for Pinot follows the Otago Central Rail Trail between Clyde and Alexandra, or Alex as southerners call it.

Fascinating Pedal Pino trail map that cyclists can use via brochure or Facebook. Map: Magdalena Stanucci

Our first stop was Dunstan Road Wines, off an independent, gravel bike path. When I called the phone number, no one answered, so we moved on.

Across the track, vintner Lucien van der Wall was at home in the Immigrant Vineyard – and soon made us feel right at home in the spectacular surroundings.

She and her husband Roland and son Michiel built a beautiful slate house with beams made from old decaying wood and a light, airy, European feel.

As we sipped wine in their dining room, we listened enthralled to Lucien’s stories about life since he and Roland left the Netherlands in 1986.

Outside the vines were planted in a vineyard overlooking the majestic Clutha River and the Elder Ridge.

The couple owns 19ha: 16ha planted mainly to Pinot Noir grapes and four hectares to Pinot Gris and small amounts of Geurztraminer and Chardonnay.

They hand-pick the fruit, which is labor intensive, and have been producing Ruru wines since 2015.

Lucien (left) and Roland van der Wall at their immigrant vineyard home on the Bike Wine Trail. Photo: Richard Brimer

Warmed by Lucien’s welcome, we cycled some more and stopped under a tree to eat sandwiches.

Then it was Judge Rock, another attractive vineyard that has been around for a while now. His wines have won many international and national awards.

We sat outside in the shade and sampled rosés and various pinot noirs alongside two southerners who were driving by.

Afterwards, we hopped into the Alex and had a coffee at the humming Industry Lane Eatery, which is right on the railroad tracks.

Clutha Crossing

We then crossed the mighty Clutha and headed up the Clyde to the Alexandra River Clyde which follows the river upstream.

This rougher terrain suits mountain bikes, although on road bikes we preferred the smoother Earnscleugh Rd.

Soon we stopped at Legacy Vineyard, where flowers surrounded 140-year-old stone stables. It was picturesque, although the owners were away when we called.

The trail brochure notes that all five vineyards are run by owner operators who may work outside. Calling ahead is definitely recommended!

By the time we reached the Three Miners Vineyard along the road, I had had enough of the wine, though Kelly was still interested.

Paul and Kirstin Wright own this 19ha, which is surrounded by gold-bearing gravel that was scooped up by hundreds of miners during the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s.

Kirstin was friendly and knowledgeable, so Kelly chatted and tasted their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling while I enjoyed the atmosphere.

A tranquil Three Miners vineyard on the banks of the Clutha River in Alexandra Basin. Photo: Three Miners Vineyard

The trail is estimated at four or five hours for the experience, including the tasting rooms. Depending on the vineyard, tastings are free or cost $5 to $10 per person.

Cyclists who buy bottles of wine can carry them on their bikes, pick them up later or have them delivered.

It was a bit hot at this point and we were tired of the taste buds so we decided to head back to Clyde where we were staying. Dunstan Road Wines returned and we arranged a visit the next morning.

Sarah Reynolds and Mark Hatfield own a two-acre vineyard where sheep roamed among the vines while the couple’s children and chickens roamed the fields.

Most of the other vineyards we visited work with winemakers in Cromwell or Alexandra, although Dunstan Road produces them on site.

Freshly picked grapes at Dunstan Road Wines, one of five vineyards for the Central Otago Pedal Pinot Trail. Photo: Dunstan Road Wines

Mark was our host and for over an hour we discussed everything from winemaking to what was then the prospect of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Such genuine hospitality was one of our standout pedals to Pinot, and the stop was the perfect end to a stunning recreational bike ride.

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For additional information:

Pedals for the Pino Trail web page and Facebook. Note: Most vineyards close in winter or are open by appointment only

Roberts Village Market fruit and vegetable stall On Earnscleugh Rd sells delicious, real fruit and berry ice cream!

Pedal the Pino Trail – a daily motivator

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