I've lived in New Zealand for 2 years now, and in all that time, I hadn't been to the South Island. Many of my friends bugged me about it, and begged me to go.
"Annie, you must! You can't go back to England having not gone!"
So last week, my friend Amy arranged for us to go down to Blenheim on the ferry and stay with her parents.
Now everyone knows this is busy season for me at work, it's that time of year when we work long overtime hours and can't make fun plans, because something might come up which keeps us at work. But we risked it anyway! We booked the Friday night ferry going down from Wellington to Picton and the Sunday night one coming back, a nice little weekend away.
Leaving Wellington Harbour at sunset and most of our worries behind, we enjoyed the deck for a little while and headed inside for the rest of the journey, to be picked up at the other end by Amy's mum and dad and pretty much go home for a cuppa and bed ready to face Saturday.
Stunning skies leaving Welly. funny how one side of the boat had orange skies and one side was blue. And look how I caught that plane below! :)
The next day, we rose bright and early for breakfast, and although it was windy, the sun was shining and the lovely Dave from Highlight Wine Tours picked us up for a day trip.
There were another 6 people on the tour with us, 2 Welsh, 2 English and 2 Canadians and we all got chatty after our first tasting at Drylands. A couple of wines was all it took!
We moved onto Hunters, which I preferred straight away because of the rich family history and stories that go with the wine. It had a cosy atmosphere and I bought the most delicious 2011 Pinot Noir reserve which I've already drunk.
I bought some Hunter's olive oil for Amy's dad as a present as he loves to cook, so it seemed appropriate and it was really delicious! We had some in the evening with his home baked bread. Mmmmmm....
Hunters also had a small gallery, which is why there are a few photos of sculptures, but we didn't have time to go in. We had to rush off for lunch.
It was such a difficult choice, but I haven't had ribs in a very long time, and for some reason they caught my eye on the menu. We ordered and went off for a tasting while our food cooked.
Another vineyard full of family History and it seems all but one member of the family work in this business. Looking at their photos on the wall made me want to be a part of this picture perfect wine family! I imagine big family dinners out near the vineyards in summer with good wine and bread and cute children running around, a fantasy perhaps? They're probably just like every other family!
This is Amy with what I'm pretty sure is a Viogner Reserve and her Duck Curry. We really liked this wine, so much so, that we bought a bottle. It matched my ribs and spicy 'slaw better than her curry though.
Look how delicious they look. My mouth is watering now as I look at the photo and I want them again. The meat just fell off the bone and there was so much flavour. The 'slaw was just the right amount of spicy and fresh on the side.
I tried Amy's curry too, and that was also pretty amazing. I would definitely recommend lunch here to anyone.
After Wairau we headed to Forrest Winery, run by two doctors. The girl who ran our tasting is very passionate about growing (I think she studies Microbiology but I might be wrong!) and took us out to talk about the vines as they are just popping out their first shoots for the season. It was lovely to have someone so passionate tell us about the growing side of things. Did you know that if they get frosts in this Early Spring season when the buds are just coming out, they fly Helicopters over the vineyards early in the morning to ensure that the frosts break from the air circulating. And then it can't damage the vines!
This is all I have for Saturday in my photos. We ate some chocolate, I bought some chocolate, and Dave from Highlight Wine Tours drove us home. I can't recommend his company enough. We had a lovely relaxed day and he set everything at the right tone for a group of our age, enough giggles and silliness and enough of the right kinds of wineries. He asks all about your preferences before setting off, so that he can pick something for everyone.
Once at home, we ate some of the delicious things we had bought, drank some wine with Amy's mum and dad, and had home made burgers with lots of home grown salad. We were so stuffed we couldn't even eat the lovely plum crumble her mum had made. Turns out it makes a delicious breakfast!
Some cups of tea and an early night followed. A perfect day trip round the wineries with the stunning hillside backdrops makes for happy dreams.