FiNZ 29 – Would you like cheese with that wine?

I’m currently curled up on the couch, very happy for my apartment flat and hot water. It’s been a pretty epic 3 days on the Routeburn track. In order to get that post up later this week (look for that soon – fabulous photos warning!), lets back track to our weekend of wineries.

My coworker asked me for advice on going up to Blenheim to visit the wineries. I had to exclaim that despite living in New Zealand for, now, over a year total, I had never been wine touring in Marlborough (the home of original New Zealand wine). I may have then continued invited myself and Keith along to the trip.

Five of us packed into the Toyota Corolla Saturday morning and drove to Watsons Way Backpackers in Renwick. If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay around wine country this place was great–clean, small, hammocks and bikes for rent. We ended up renting bikes from “Wine Tours by Bike”–they helped us plan our itinerary and gave us lot of recommendations throughout the area.

01a

Wine Country

After getting settled with our bikes, we headed out to Forrest Winery (great Sauvignon Blanc…although that doesn’t mean much in Marlborough where everyone seems to have an amazing Sauvignon Blanc).

02

Gorgeous day for wining, dining and biking

For lunch we went to Wairau River. I wasn’t a huge fan of their wine or food, but the setting was gorgeous. Gave us a good opportunity to take a group TT photo with our perfectly different colored wines.

03

TTers and our Wine Spectrum

04

Bikers Extraordinaire

We then headed across the street to Nautilus. I loved this wine and their manager of the day. The person behind the counter really makes a difference on the wine-tasting experience! Where to next? Ah yes, Eradus! Eradus is owned by a lovely Dutch family and they had some great pinot noir–one of my New Zealand favorites. At this time we realized we could probably sneak in another place before our last stop; therefore, we made an unexpected stop at No1 for some classy sparkling wine. Our last stop was our first and only organic vineyard–Huia. We were told we were the first visitors of the day (at 4:30pm!). I have yet to make it to Napa; but after going on so many laid back New Zealand wine tours where I’m used to being a part of the only group in the cellar door, I don’t think I’d like the crowded hustle and bustle of Napa.

05

Huia Vineyard Group Shot

After our tour we headed to Dodson Street for pre-dinner drinks (because wine touring wasn’t enough?…). Dinner…was at GRAMADOS. I capitalize because it was so good. Why is this place in Blenheim!? It needs to be in Christchurch–closer to me. All of us ended up ordering different dishes, they were all great. I can easily say it was the best meal, and dining experience, I’ve had in New Zealand. Part way through our meal, the owner (Saulo), came over and asked if we liked spices. He came back, sat down at the table with us, and laid out an assortment of spices for us to try with our meal. Later he got us a bottle of his favorite beer to taste. THEN, at the end of the night he came over and asked if we wanted dessert. Because we were all stuffed we said no, but he brought some over anyways on the house. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so used to the lack of service in New Zealand (it lacks a bit compared to the US since you don’t tip here, or at least I assume that is the reasoning), but I was blown away by this place. I highly recommend it to anyone who randomly ends up in Blenheim in their life and wants a bit of Brazilian flare in New Zealand.

Sunday morning we went to Cloudy Bay. Cloudy Bay is basically the vineyard founder of Marlborough–one of the first wineries to put New Zealand on the international wine map. With an owner like Louis Vouttin, I guess that’s normal! If/when I come back to the Marlborough wine region, I would seriously stay here all day. There’s a lovely outdoor space with raw bar, and tree swings. I sat down in a swing and wanted to swing all day.

06

Cloudy Bay Vineyard

After Cloudy Bay we made an unexpected stop to Moa Brewery, where our bartender was a Kiwi from Seattle. The brewery was a fun detour off the wine path.

Then we were on our way back to Christchurch. Not without a typical epic looking pit stop–starting to become the normal on weekend road trips like these.

07

Kaikoura Beach

08

Over the next few days I’ll be collecting my Routeburn track photos together and gathering some from my companions. It involved a lot of varying temperatures and precipitation which just made for a very epic time. Until then!

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