Ten Minutes with Emma Chisholm of Alpine Wine Tours

Have you always worked in tourism?

I worked in tourism in Australia in my early 20s working at resorts and have worked in tourism in Queenstown since 2017. I have grown up with tourism in my blood. My grandmother worked on the Earnslaw and Skyline Gondola back in the 1960’s and my parents worked in tourism and hospitality for most of their lives.


What motivated you to found Alpine Wine Tours?

It was founded to offer wine tour experiences which were more boutique and personalised, with smaller groups, all inclusive and  exclusively for adults to ensure guests can relax, unwind and enjoy themselves.


Why Queenstown/Central Otago?

It’s the amazing place I call home. It also has some of the best pinot noir in the world and our vineyards are only a short drive from Queenstown.


What do you most love about the work?

We are so proud to showcase the amazing boutique wineries in the region. I first fell in love with Central Otago pinot noir after experiencing a magical Peregrine Pinot Noir at my dad’s 50th birthday celebration at The Bunker back in 2005 which went on to sell out after being featured in the New York Times.


Emma Chisholm and Ben Bayley at Aosta.
Emma Chisholm and Ben Bayley at Aosta.


You’re so passionate about the industry, do you have a central philosophy?

It’s a fun and exciting industry to be in, however it has been challenging post-Covid. I took the time to really look at our philosophy which is all about offering our guests an incredible experience with Kiwi hospitality, and how we can really deliver more. The silver lining since the outbreak has been the opportunity to partner with some of the best restaurants in town including Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan, Amisfield Bistro, Aosta and Eichardt’s Private Hotel.


What, in your opinion, makes the vineyards in your area some of the most special in the world?

The Central Otago wine region is so incredibly special with its amazing scenery and terroir. The magic of the wine reflects all the amazing people involved in the winemaking process who truly do this for the love of it and have such an affinity with the place. It represents that Kiwi can-do attitude and the pioneering spirit of legendary winemakers Alan Brady and Grant Taylor.


What fills you with pride?

I’m proud of all our stunning new restaurant partners and for launching the region’s first Queenstown Progressive Dinner Tour which showcases amazing locations around Queenstown.


Tell us about your team?

Our amazing local wine guide Vicki is a long time local, she is so passionate about the region, our wines, meeting everyone and showing them such a wonderful time. Vicki is also studying towards her Level 2 Award in Wines by the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) which is a globally recognised qualification.


And your customers?

Our guests are food and wine lovers from all over New Zealand and the world. Whether they join us for a special celebration such as a birthday, honeymoon or wedding anniversary. We even had a beautiful couple get engaged on a wine tour with us.


The highs and lows of being a tour operator?

There have been a few lately. The highs are definitely when we hear back from our guests that it was the highlight of their trip and they had such an amazing time with us, as well as  delivering more incredible tours with the new amazing restaurant partners. Also, collaborating with Winter Pride to offer the first dedicated ‘Pride Wine Tour’ and of course, tasting all the new releases and older vintages it’s part of our job not that we call it work!

The lows are those unpredictable and uncontrollable situations like Covid. Being a small local family business means you don’t have the large teams like some of the larger businesses so you juggle a few hats while working on finding that work life balance.


Lessons learnt these past few months?

There are definitely a lot of lessons learnt and I probably need to spend some time to reflect on it in more detail. The main lessons so far are the importance of looking after staff, and how important it is to your success; having a better ‘rainy day’ fund; and being able to adapt fast and implement changes.


The magic of the wine reflects all the amazing people involved in the wine making process who truly do this for the love of it.”


Besides Alpine Wine Tours, your recommendations for experiences not to be missed while in and around Queenstown?

An epic helicopter trip to Milford Sound with a landing on the majestic Earnslaw Burn with Heliworks. I also recently had the best massage of my life from Michelle at Indulge Mobile Massage & Spa. I love exploring like a local, around the lake, a short walk at Bob’s Cove and a wonder through Arrowtown.


Your personal top three dream destinations?

I absolutely love to travel and spent time living in both Melbourne, and London, UK. My wish list is to visit the other top Pinot Noir wine regions in the world, Burgundy in France, Oregon in the USA and after lockdown, I’m dreaming of a tropical holiday which could be any of the Pacific Islands!