Finally, the South Island! We bid farewell to the rest of our travel group as soon as we were off the ferry, and made our way separately to a place called Blenheim. This was slightly easier said than done, as the lack of public transportation in Picton on a Sunday is truly astounding. But we made it nonetheless.
Sadly by this time, the flu-like symptoms which I had tried to fight off since the infamous River Valley had heavily set in, so I didn’t fully appreciate the beautiful scenery as much as I would have liked to. We stayed one night in a place called ‘The Grape Vine’, where we just rested and I have to say, my friends, this was quite an odd place. They had a map in reception where past travellers had stuck pins into their home towns, which I thought was pretty impressive as there was barely any space left unpinned. The majority of people staying in this hostel were there long-term, and we didn’t really feel welcome with our snotty noses and aching limbs. Hey ho.
The following day we moved to ‘Copperbeech’, where we both mostly slept for two (much needed) days. Copperbeech was a godsend. We finally had a double room to ourselves after months of sharing, and it was bliss. Not even a shared bathroom for us, we were living like kings! Very sick kings, but kings nonetheless. Again the residents here were mostly long-term boarders who were working locally and didn’t really appreciate us, but we were pretty happy in our own little
quarantine recovery bubble.
Blenheim is known as the sunniest place in New Zealand (which is always good to hear), but we had decided to visit Blenheim for the wine. The Marlborough region in New Zealand produces some of the best wine in the world, and has always been my glass of choice back home – so we fully intended to taste as much of it as possible! Unfortunately, we had to hold off until our last day until I could finally taste again.
There are many ways to go wine tasting around the Marlborough region, but we opted for a self-directed cycle tour with a company called ‘Bike 2 Wine’. Typically, up until this point, there had only been glorious sunshine. But because we were cycling, it absolutely poured with rain. Regardless, off we went! We were determined!
We hopped onto our tandem bike and attempted to cycle off to the wineries. Let me just say that tandem bikes are a lot harder than they look. Bizarrely things got easier the more wine we sipped, though that was potentially because I started just pretending to pedal. There was also a serious incident surrounding potholes and puddles which I would rather not relive!
There are 36 wineries on the wine trail, and we managed to make it to 8 of these in a day. Each place was very unique in itself and we would have loved to have explored more of them, if only we had pedalled a little faster ;). Below is a little breakdown of the ones we did see (in order), I hope it’s a little helpful for anyone considering the tour.
1. Gibson Bridge
A small husband-and-wife owned vineyard. They specialise in Pinot Gris and it is mighty fine stuff. The tasting room is beautifully decorated, and the couple is so friendly. For just $5 you can taste their whole range as the pair talk to you about their process and history. Alternatively, you can taste just two or three for free, the choice is yours.
2. Forrest Wines
I’m a Sauvignon girl myself, and this place has two very different options for you to try. The grounds are exquisite here, perfect for sunny wanderings.
3. Framingham Wines.
Here they offer some of the oldest selection of Reisling’s, as well as a special edition ‘Select Reisling’ which is not to my usual taste but was absolutely delicious (sweet, fruity and oh so refreshing). Whilst this was the only place we felt under pressure to make a purchase, the impressive wine cellar downstairs makes up for it.
4. Wairau River
More beautiful gardens to make your way through. You can even sit outside whilst enjoying some lunch from their mouth-watering menu; this also includes recommended wines for each dish. After enjoying a fantastic burger (and lining our stomachs), we had a lovely tasting here.
5. Nautilus Estate
One of the only two places where we offered a choice of sparkling wines, yum yum. Possibly the best Sauvignon of the day, though rivalled by another we sampled later on.
6. Giesen Wines
I must admit I abstained from the tasting this time as we had ingested a lot of wine by this point! Plus the lady working here was not the most friendly of the day, so I didn’t really feel inclined.
7. No. 1 Family Estate
Bubbles only!! What more could you want – can you tell I love the sparkling stuff?! The lady working here was so amazing, she was so kind to us despite the fact that by this point we were drowned rats dripping in her beautiful mirrored tasting room. She very proudly shared with us the history of the company, which really made them stand out to me. Not to mention, the bubbles were sublime.
8. Whitehaven Wines
It is only $4 to samples the fantastic wines here. At Whitehaven, we found the other best Sauvignon of the day, the perfect way to finish things off.
We did manage to make our way over to Allan Scott Family Winemakers, but sadly it had closed already. The venue looked stunning though so I’d love to hear if you have visited? We also stopped off in the distillery en route, which wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing place of the day, but Mike said the beer was good so I suppose it’s worth the detour if you enjoy a brew!
Overall, we had such a fun day. Other than the prices I mentioned, all of the tastings were free, which is truly incredible. Naturally, they hope you will purchase a bottle or two on your way out, so do bear that in mind. Sorry, there aren’t pictures of each place, we didn’t want to risk the camera getting as soaked as we were!