Easter Sunday 2019
After a 300km+ car journey and the best ‘Fish and Chips’ lunch ever in Kaikoura we had made it to Wine Country – Marlborough.
Named after General John Churchill, 1st Duke Of Marlborough, its dry climate and stark contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights have turned the region into the Silicon Valley of New Zealand Wine. Almost 3 out of every 4 bottles of NZ Wine produced is from this region. It is also the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc.
We were staying in the largest of 3 towns – Blenheim. Named after Malborough’s most famous victory over the French and Bavarian forces during the Spanish War of Succession in 1704.
Not being amateurs at this we loaded up with a huge breakfast first to keep us going until lunch time. We were picked up and after a short spin out to nearby Renwick we were ready to begin our adventure.
Our first stop was at Forrest Estate Wines. We were able to order a tasting of wine as long as we had a cheeseboard with it. Easter Sunday rules apparently.
Uh oh. It was only 9.30 am and we had already had a huge breakfast – would we need to do this another 3 or 4 times today to drink more wine? We decided to carry on – the heavens had opened up and the rain was lashing the windows of the cellar door.
The wine was ok. They had a range called the Doctors which tasted nice given it was only 9.5%. The owners John and Brigid, both doctors, had pioneered this sharp tasting lower alchohol content wine.
Our first winery completed. The prospect of more cheeseboards awaited us. We donned our plastic ponchos, consulted our map and made the short cycle across to Framingham Wines. Boasting some of the oldest Riesling vines in the entire Wairau Valley. The setting was great; a huge courtyard garden with motivational quotes on every other stone tile and a cellar door filled with oak casks and a cacophony of sound. It was quite busy.
But it was quite busy for a reason. The Easter Sunday “food with drinks purchases” rules were open to interpretation. If you didnt charge for tastings you could give as many away for free as you liked – sans Cheese Boards 🙂
We tucked in and made a few purchases.
Our last winery before lunch was at Nautilus – an ultra modern sleek cellar door with a good selection.
Lunch was booked for across the road at Wairau River Wines and Restaurant. Located on the riverbed of the Wairau River – this is an ideal spot to grow grapes. Although wine has not always been the main item produced here. Before that in the 1970s it used to be Lucerne – high quality fodder – for export to Japan. The owners here are the Rose Family – Chris and Phil (no relation!) and another rose – Caroline is one of the chefs at the restaurant. She gained her stripes at China Doll in Sydney.
Lunch was really really good and took us out of the rain and cold for a good respite.
Our first stop after lunch, and the furthest point in our cycle – the wind had really started to pick up now was Huia Wines. A Certified Organic winery with a great value range called Hunky Dory Wine. (You can get this at Dan Murphy’s btw!).
Our last stop was a at Bladen Wines. The Cellar Door was like a pop-up stand at Warringah Mall, but what it lacked in a door and walls it made up for in character and great tasting wine. The guy there was the prodigal son returned to help out the estate.
We made it back to the bike rental place in one piece, unlike our map which had disintegrated from all the rain. All of our wine bottles still intact in the bicycle baskets.
However, we were soaked from the outside with all the rain and the inside from all the wine. It was a good time to make it back to our accomodation. There was much more heavier rain looming over the Richmond Range mountains to the north.
That night dinner was a picnic. We had waaay too much wine consumed to try and walk into Blenheim CBD for dinner in the dark.
Our journey was not that long the next day but the windy road to Te Mahia would require all our concentration.