Part of our logic in moving to New Zealand was that it would give us the opportunity to wander around the country piece by piece (weekend by weekend) rather than doing that 10 day figure-8 around both islands that many travelers try. I am not sure which is more crazy: moving almost 10,000 miles or driving like a banshee on NZ’s curvy country roads. But we are enjoying our choice.
This weekend’s venture: the Marlborough wine region located at the northeast part of the South Island (a four hour drive from Greymouth). We first considered renting a tandem bicycle once we arrived but learned that Forrest Estate Winery was having the annual “Grape Ride“–their big bicycle race on Saturday. It made more sense to take our own bikes. So we booked an AirBnb and off we went.
We donned our hi-vis vests, slurped down some water, and hopped on our bikes. Dan had mapped out a half a dozen wineries to visit. On the region’s wine trail map, there are 34 “cellar doors” (vineyards with wine tasting rooms) and we hear that Marlborough has something like 140 vineyards (but correct me if you actually know the number). We decided to bicycle to the furthest one, then drink our way back. Taste…I mean taste our way back.
As we rode west from Blenheim to Renwick, the Grape Ride bicycle racers were heading east. Our plan was working pretty well. Eventually, when we turned south, a small group of people were standing on the corner. They started smiling, waving and clapping for us. Friendly chaps waiting on a bus or something. We went slightly further. More waving and a little clapping. Then there was more excitement as we neared Forrest Estate Winery. WE WON! Oh wait. We weren’t in the race. We didn’t have fancy bikes and shiny shirts. Oops.
The Marlborough region is best known for its Sauvignon Blancs. I challenge you: look in the Sav Blanc section of any wine seller in the world and you will find no less than one Sav Blanc from Marlborough. Anywhere in the world…(I think).
Drinking only Sav Blanc from Marlborough is comparable to eating only deepdish pizza in Chicago. Don’t do it. You will be missing a lot.
So I’m not even going to try to tell you about every great wine coming out of every great vineyard in Marlborough. Here are a few highlights and the rest are treasures waiting for you to discover on your own. But don’t forget your fancy bike and shiny shirt if it’s the Grape Ride weekend. And act like you won!
Huia Vineyards: be sure to check out their Pinot Gris. It is as smooth as silk and, on top of that, certified organic. And in case you are wondering, a huia is a native bird of New Zealand.
Bladen Handcrafted Wines: Chris and Dave a great fun to visit and they make some outstanding pinots–Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and even a Pinot Rosé. But while you are there, don’t miss their Gewurztraminer or Vinny. You say who is Vinny? A very sweet Irish Setter who is one of the featured dogs in the Wine Dogs New Zealand book.
Nautilus Estate Winery: yes, they have an excellent Sav Blanc (or a few) but we were enamoured with their Chardonnay–and I usually am not a big fan of Chardonnay.
Framingham Wines: as you enter their cellar door and read the words on the stepping stones–not exactly mainstream–you realize that this Winery might just be a little bit different. Go for the Classic Riesling–it is fantastic.
Forrest Wines: yes, they are the Grape Ride folks. They have a wide variety of Wines under several labels but I have to say I love the story and logo for their “The Doctors” brand. Our favorites under The Doctors’ label are Bubble for Beth (a rose colored bubbly) and the St. Laurent. Under the Forrest Label, their Pinot Noir is excellent–among others.
Gibson Bridge: Although this is one of the smaller vineyards, it is BIG–big on taste, big on awards, and big on class. Don’t miss their Pinot Gris or Guy (yep, another Dog superstar from the wine dogs book). We enjoyed our late day wine tasting at Gibson Bridge, the laughter, and Guy’s funny personality. This one may be last on the blog post but don’t pass Gibson Bridge without stopping!
Yep. That is Guy. No. He is not fenced in. He’s just resting his head and wishing Bella would come visit. I showed him her photo and he kissed my phone.