Concierge.com's insider take:
Among the North Island's wine-growing areas, one of the oldest and best-known is Hawke's Bay, on the east coast about 140 miles from Tongariro (www.hawkesbaynz.com). The balmy climate is ideal for chardonnay and rich red Bordeaux varietals, and more than 30 wineries have cellar doors open for tastings. One of the best is Te Awa Winery, with its award-winning 2004 Syrah and a terrific lunch restaurant that pairs seasonal dishes with house vintages (2375 State Highway 50, Hastings; 64-6-879-7602; www.teawa.com).
The Martinborough region, about an hour's drive north from Wellington at the southeast edge of the island, is all about pinot, and the notable wineries are almost too numerous to mention. Look for Martinborough Vineyard (Princess St., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9955; www.martinborough-vineyard.com www.martinborough-vineyard.com), a leader in establishing the region in the 1980s; Ata Rangi (Puruatanga Rd., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9570; www.atarangi.co.nz); and Palliser Estate (Kitchener St., Martinborough; 64-6-306-9019; www.palliser.co.nz)—all producers of outstanding pinot noirs and chardonnays.