I walked into the kitchen of our holiday park in Manapouri only to find yet ANOTHER older woman flirting with my husband (they love him, those cougars), when after introducing myself, she said “Oh, you're the wino!” (Also not scoring high points). Though a tad harsh, she was harmless after all, but apparently I'd been called out on my appreciation of wine. As many of you have probably heard me gush from time to time, my favorite wines EVER are the Sauvignon Blancs produced in the Marlborough region of New Zealand's South Island. I've found that price doesn't much matter, as the $7.99 King Shag from Trader Joe's (BUY IT if you've never tried it – it's spectacular) is right up there with the $20 plus bottles of Dog Point, Whitehaven, and Giesen, which are three of my favs. But really, I've been hard pressed to find a bottle of the crisp, grapefruity/green apple-y/grassy goodness of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that I don't enjoy. Okay, maybe I am a wino.
SOOO, you can imagine my unabashed excitement upon arriving to the South Island and heading straight for the glorious grape-laden fields of Marlborough. We stayed at an adorable place called Watson's Way Backpackers, right in the heart of the wine region, whose owners were happy to point us toward the wineries offering free tastings, and to the best meat pies in town for soaking it all up afterwards. Our first day out we drove around to the outlying wineries, hills surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye could see on a gloriously sunny day. The scenery was as tremendous as the tastings! Our first stop was Montana (known as Brancott in the States – they don't go by Montana so as not to confuse us with thinking the grapes were grown in the state of Montana – they give Americans a lot of credit, eh? Thought you'd find that interesting, Eleissa – before our niece Leighton was born, Eleissa was very familiar with the likes of Brancott as well!). It was the first time that it's really 'hit me' that we're here....I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that we were wine tasting in MARLBOROUGH!! We hit up 11 different vineyards and met some very entertaining people – including one wine steward who grew up in Portland!
The second day we rented bikes from our lodge and made our way around to several more within peddling distance, stopping at farms for heads of garlic and shallots, and local cheeses along the way. Another lovely warm day welcomed us as we combined our boozing and biking. By the end of the day we were surprisingly steady on our wheels, even after tasting the offerings from 13 different 'cellar doors' – impressive, no?! The headache the next day said differently, however. But with about 50 or so wineries in the area, I'd say we'd done a decent job touring the sights in our two days!
Needless to say we found some amazing wines....some of which we can find at home, but most of which are not exported to the States. We looked into the cost of shipping some home – YEAH RIGHT – the shipping fee and taxes alone cost over $300, NOT including the cost of the bottles themselves. Not quite in this traveler's budget. Ah well. We would have loved to share the joy of what Bouldevines had to offer (my top choice – even the Reisling was fantastic) and especially the Mt. Riley Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc with our Prosecco-loving family, but alas, tis not the season after all. We were able to pick up a few bottles to enjoy on our travels, however, with surprisingly little arm-twisting from wino, I mean wife, to husband!