A Brief Life Update
New Zealand is really the gift that keeps on giving. It is also a constant reminder to me about how life passes by too quickly. It’s been 2 years since I lived in New Zealand and 6 months since my last post. I wish I could say that the reason I wasn’t writing as often anymore was because my life is fantastic, and full of amazing adventures. But it’s really been very difficult and stressful which makes writing about the better moments sometimes that much harder. Cancer is something that all if us end up experiencing one way or another in our lives, either through care taking or directly battling, but long term illnesses are nothing you can ever prepare. They put a lot of pressure on cracks in your life that maybe you didn’t even know existed.
But life is getting a little more stable as my family recuperates, and I think I’m ready to start creating again. So here goes.
A Relationship with Wine
One of the best things about New Zealand was the wine. I grew up drinking better wine then most Americans, owing to my uncle Kenji’s early investments in our little family wine cellar. While working at Kodak in the 1970s, he began buying wine cases in bulk with co-workers. Our cellar is still filled with 50 years of French wines from Bordeaux and Californian wines from Talley Vineyards. A good wine feels like home to me now.
Going to Marlborough was one of the first trips we took while living in New Zealand. Hiring bikes is pretty much the best way to enjoy all the tasting rooms in the region. A number of companies exist like this one we used. Wine Tours by Bike picked us up at our bed and breakfast (I won’t link here, because I definitely don’t recommend. But that’s another story), and brought us to their bike hire location. After watching us practice riding our bike to confirm that we could safely ride one, they gave us a map and a pick up location for the end of the day. Then we were free.
Tandem bikes are scarier than they seem. I started our journey with white knuckles. Luckily, the tastings slowly gave me more courage through out the day. My only issue was trying to convince Scott to wear his helmet. Why are doctors the least cautious with their own health?
Cloudy Bay was our first stop after a recommendation by friend who had visited Marlborough a few years before. It was also the most popular. The wines were great, but there was a significant crowd. Unlike some of the other wineries, you fight to get the attention of staff. Regardless, there’s nothing like drinking a crisp white wine while swinging in a chair from a tree looking over the vineyards and the mountains beyond.
Our next stop was Allan Scott which was considerably less crowded. In fact, at the time, we were the only guests in the tasting room. It’s fun to have a little more freedom to chat with the staff about the varieties of their Marlborough vintages. At Cloudy Bay you pay for a curated selection of wines. Whereas at Allan Scott, we paid for a select number of tastings and were able to choose from the available wines. We also ate lunch here in their beautiful courtyard restaurant, surrounded by climbing vines.
One of my favourite vineyards was Huia which is apart of MANA, a Marlborough natural wine growers collective. Huia has a smaller number of vintages compared to some of the other local vineyards, but I appreciated careful consideration of flavour into making their organic wines.
Some of the other vineyards we visited, but not pictured here were Hans Hertzog, Waipara Hills, and Whither Hills. It’s worth noting that not all vineyards have cellar door hours every day, so make sure to check which vineyards are open, or stay a few days to make sure you can visit all the places you’d like.
On our second day we only managed to make it to two establishments on our way out of town. The first (not pictured) was the MOA Brewery, the only brewery in the region. This is a fun little craft brewery which offers a refreshing alternative to Speights, one of New Zealand’s most popular beers.
Our last stop was at Brancott Estate, which is home to some of the finest wine in the region. This was the perfect place to end our wine tour, with it’s luxurious wines and beautiful scenery overlooking the region. The staff, who are incredibly kind and knowledgable about the wines and the region they grow in, insisted on taking our picture for us when they saw my camera and gave us fantastic advice for other destinations in the region.
And the best thing about wine tasting in New Zealand? You can do the whole thing in flip flops.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out our store for prints from our travels and more!