Helloooooo South Island!!! Yesterday, after a very rough 3 hour ferry ride across the rocky waters of the Cook Strait and an hour winding along the Queen Charlotte Road with gorgeous views of the Marlborough Sounds (only photos taken with the mind’s eye since I was driving), we arrived in the small town of Havelock for lunch. Havelock is known for their green-shelled mussels and, despite our slightly nauseous state from the above, we thoroughly enjoyed them. After that, we took at brief 1/2 hour drive to the little town of Renwick, right in the heart of the Marlborough wine country. We arrived just in time to visit 2 wineries that were within walking distance: Mahi, which had a really good Pinot Noir, and the Gibson Bridge Wines – a small family owned (the owner poured our wines) 6 acre winery specializing in Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer (thankfully auto-fill on my iPad works for that word). A great way to start off our wine tasting adventure.
Today, while Fanny took a rest day, I joined a winery tour that took us to 6 wineries. They were:
Cloudy Bay Vineyards – Their Te Koko wine (a variation on a Sauvignon Blanc) was amazing!
Hunter’s Wines – Owned by Jane Hunter, who’s a local wine legend
Drylands Winery – Actually owned by Americans (the nerve!), this winery produces several lines of wines, all surprisingly good (Nobilo Icon, Kim Crawford, People’s) despite being corporate owned.
Wither Hills – A winery with a beautiful view and a nice reasonably priced Sauvignon Blanc.
Grove Mill – With a very nice, complex Riesling.
Yes, I had to write these all down, because after visiting 6 wineries, things get a little fuzzy. Surprisingly enough, I’m coherent enough to write this blog! (Or maybe not, I’ll find out tomorrow…)
Things I learned about the Marlborough wine region and differences from home (Napa Valley/Sonoma County):
-Wine tastings are FREE. That’s right…FREE. My tour guide was shocked when I told we pay $20-40 tasting fees in Napa Valley. And you get to taste at least 5 wines, with some places giving up to 7 or 8 (I lost count). AND…there’s absolutely no pressure to buy – though I did anyway…
-Marlborough mainly specializes in white wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay. They also do Pinot Noirs, though I found that it tended to be on the lighter side, and more fruity.
-Most of the vines grow on flat land, which usually to be covered by the river. Under the surface, the roots dig deep into smooth river rocks, which give the wines their minerality.
All in all, this was a day very well spent. The next problem – how in the world am I getting all these wine bottles home?…