Marlborough Wine Country in a Day
We packed our co-worker, Tony’s 1991 Ford Falcon station wagon with our backpacks and left for Marlborough with the parting words in his best Kiwi accent: ‘it doesn’t lock, but don’t worry, do what I do – whenever I bring my kayak out, I just back up to a wall so no one can steal it.’
We were getting Gewurtztraminer on March 26th. This gave us 12 days of freedom to explore the South Island.
We arrived in Blenheim (BLEEN-m) two and a half hours later, took a quick spin around the cute town, emptied our Falcon, and headed out to the Marlborough wine country.
Stop 1: Wairau River, a beautiful winery complete with restaurant. With a surprising number of winery-restaurants, New Zealand must not have the codes and loops to jump through with permits and legalities like California – but then again, who does? Ok, here goes, first New Zealand tasting (our Country Wine in a box from Australia didn’t count). Lovely wines, lovely people. Nice experience all around.
Stop 2: Giesen, yes a very large winery, but we wanted to taste some of their smaller production wines, and gain a broad scope of the different size wineries — but, we found their basic Sauvignon Blanc, a blend of 40 blocks ($16!) was so refreshing with some great complexity. We also tasted their organic SB which had a great creamy yogurt and herbaceous profile.
‘New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’ has become a household name all over the world in rapid speed and with seemingly foreseeable characteristics: cat pee, grassy, gooseberry, but the truth is, there are some incredibly creative things going on in Kiwi winemaking land, even introducing malolactic fermentation — gasp! — to lower the acidity and create a more rounded, uniquely creamy Sauvignon Blanc.
Stop 3: Cloudy Bay. We didn’t know what to expect visiting this big exporter of Sauvy (pronounced Savvy by the Kiwis) and Pinot Noir, but we were very pleasantly surprised! First thing I noticed was the bubbles. I can’t help it! Johannes immediately made fun of me. The 2007 Blanc de Blanc blew me away with brioche and creamy natural almond paste.. They had several different Sauvignon Blancs to taste, but we went straight for the Te Koko, ‘a funky alternative style.’ Barrel fermented, 100% Malolactic, with flavors and aromas of creamy coconut, pineapple, almond.
Stop 4: Auntsfield, on the other side of the spectrum, is a truly family-owned (by two brothers) operation. We stopped into their cellar door and were thrilled with all the wines! This is a must stop for anyone looking for a more intimate experience in Marlborough Wine Country.
We ended the day with a few beers and a cocktail or two…and then some more beers…in downtown Blenheim. We were surprised how quiet it was until about 10:30, when much of the harvest crew started to filter downtown. We turned in late only to start early the next morning. Next stop: Pegasus Bay and Central Otago!