23.4.3017 Marlborough vineyards Day 3

Wow! Day 3….. And we are loving this.

A 45 min cycle from Blenheim and we were at Whitehaven vineyard chatting to Katrina in the cellar door who was massively knowledgable about wines, the family who started the vineyard and growing and fermenting grapes. We learnt a lot from her, like they prefer to take 40% of their leaf growth off the vines to open them up to the sunshine and ensure ripe grapes for a full flavoured wine. Although Team Roberts had an agreement not to buy any more bottles of wine today, as we are creating our own backpacker nightmare of transporting too many bottles of wine around, we did succumb and buy a Pinot Rose as it was stunning, the best rose ever. Geek fact – it had 2.5 hrs contact with the skins when crushing. 

We walked through the NZ gourmet food section of the shop next door and managed not to buy any gin, vodka or whisky which was also available.

Coffee fuelled wine crawl

Onto Wairau River vineyard next, a very photographic one

The wines were very good, all had deliciously classic flavours and if we saw them in the UK I would definitely buy one. 

Round the corner to Framingham Wines which had the most gorgeous setting, a garden full of sweet roses, purple salvias and music lyrics from Elbow, Bowie, Muse, The Jam, Iggy Pop and more spray painted into the pavement. 

It took us 10 mins just to get to the cellar door as it was so engaging. We ended up tasting 10, yep that reads ten, wines here along with another couple from Nottingham. This vineyard is a Reisling specialist so we had a lot of Reisling. All very different. We bought a fridge magnet, much lighter than a bottle.

Over the road is Forrest vineyard, great name eh, reminicent of the (once mighty) NFFC? We rolled in and were given a menu and asked to choose what we wanted to taste from a great tasting selection and we also ordered a cheese and pate platter. We sat in the warm sunday autumnal sunshine and had a beautiful time. This was real pinch me moment when we realise how ace our lives are. 

Life goes on, and so soon enough we are off to our final vineyard for today, Gibson Bridge who had been recommended from our Air BnB hosts, and it didn’t disappoint. A real vineyard run by an enthusiastic couple, Julie was on cellar door duties and was chatty, knowledgable and so enthusiastic but also pretty realistic about how difficult it is to start a vineyard with her husband, Howard, as that is exactly what they have done. It is the Kiwi way, hard slog and labour and you will get a quality product. And theirs was a really good product, they only have 2 hectares of vines, mostly Pinot Gris with some gewurtstraminer Howard got a few years ago. We bought a dessert wine, yes, a sweet, sticky dessert wine which was dark and delicious. The other 2 ladies in our tasting group both bought dessert wines for $120 a (small) bottle!!

So a quick, wind assisted 35 min cycle and we were back at home, picking up cheese and pate platters from the local supermarket and back to watch MKR for our evenings entertainment. Addictive crap TV.

We also tasted a Villa Maria Arneis white wine, never heard of it before. Light, with honey afters. 

Todays scores on the doors 44 (plus 1) wines tasted from 5 vineyards. 20 miles cycled according to Google.

Tonight was very special as we saw the Milky Way. A glittering belt of white specks across the night sky. Truely awesome to see our neighbours in our galaxy.

22.4. 2017 Marlborough vineyards Day 2

So with slightly tender undercarriages we set off on another days cycling around Marlborough. We rented bikes today, hybrids that made the kms slightly easier. The sky was still blue and the breeze was slight, so we were lucky.

A very Kiwi scene

First stop was a boutique chocolate shop, Makana, we got free chocolates on arrival, so that was a good start to the day. Macadamia nut brittles bought, we went over the road to our first vineyard.

Saint Clair vineyard was where we were served by an Argentine, Renzo, who was really good, chatty, knowledgable and had a lovely Spanish accent. ❤️

Fabulous Shirt

We tasted 12 wines, of which the Sauvignon Blanc Barrique 2015 cellar door release and Saint Clair Cabernet Merlot 2013 impressed us enough to for us to buy a bottle of each.

A short cycle down the road and we were in Hunters vineyard. They showcased, in our opinion, a classic style of wine, the Sauvignon Blanc was grassy, the Chardonnay was woody and creamy, the Pinot Noir was cherry’s and jam, and it stood out because of their consistency.  In a country that is constantly doing something different, amazing, interesting with its wines it was actually quite a relief to have ‘classic’ wines to taste. 

The setting was gorgeous as well with leaves turning to red on the tall vines in the entrance and an artist in residence as well.

Next up we were at Allan Scott vineyards, which we remember being quite good last time we were here. Sadly, this time round it was possibly the worst tasting we have been to, the wines were just OK apart from the last one, 2015 Pinot Noir which was too young. I have never had such a dry, tannic wine, it clearly wasn’t ready to taste so why they out it up there I really don’t know. Still it was short n sweet n cheap….. $4 for 3 tastings!!!! 

Mouths left dry and stripped, we set off for Jackson estate, only to cycle into a pretty opening party and be told they were reopening in a week!!! 

Stock photograph! (Villa Maria yesterday)

We set off to Rock Ferry, a vineyard our hosts had recommended for wine and​ food. It was a stunning setting, as they all are, and so we ordered food and did a quick tasting before eating. This vineyard made Pinot Blanc as a single varietal, interesting for its uniqueness but not that inspiring for me but Guy liked it, they also did a lush tempranillo, the only vineyard to do both grapes as a single varietal. 

The food was amazing, so fresh and tasty.

Feeling hungry we order a delicious desert and slowly roll the bikes the short distance back to Blenheim. 

Todays scores on the doors are 44 wines tasted from 4 vineyards. 19 miles cycled according to Google.

We were planning on a quiet night in, however our hosts had friends round and generously offered us a glass of wine so we ended up chatting with a local councillor and his wife whose son plays for the Hurricanes and is mates with the All Black Ben Smith, and our hosts whose son, Peter, is assistant winemaker at Yealands and other son is in the Americas cup team for NZ, and another who plays cricket professionally. It is an amazing country!!! We listened to Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens and more…. A lovely evening.

21.4.3017 Marlborough vineyards Day 1

First day of cycling round Marlborough and we set ourselves up with a banana each and cranberry and coconut toast for breakfast. 

Our hosts had kindly lent us their mountain bikes for us to tour Marlborough, tyres pumped and we were off. With blue skies and little wind forcasted and we were in great moods. 

The scenery is absolutely stunning, the whole of the Marlborough vineyard region is on an old, massive river bed cutting through a valley. This means that the ground is made up of rocks and gravel instead of soil so great for vines, which like to be treated badly and thrive off low nutrient content.

So we are cycling on a flat riverbed, surrounded by huge, majestic mountains in the distance, the vineyards which are all turning orange and red for autumn and the trees are following suit. It is such a great time to visit, especially as we missed autumn in the UK before we left.

We make our way to Omaka Springs vineyard which is a small boutique vineyard which is making some excellent wines. We bought the Pinot Noir and their Sauvignon Blancs were great (according to Guy).

Next was Highland vineyards, which had a touch of the Tuscany about it and merged with TerraVin 2 years ago. The lass doing the tastings was Canadian, who was knowledgeable. The wines were all very experimental and fascinating, slightly different to what you would normally expect. 

Fromm vineyard was next and we remember this from 2000, it is now organic and makes some natural wines, it is owned by a Swiss guy, and a Swiss guy was in charge of tasting, not the main man but he was really good. His measures were huge and we tasted 10 wines in all.

We tasted some stunning wines there, including a Reisling, which at 7% is not a wine according to EU so cannot be imported to the UK something that might change with the inevitable Brexit, so some good might come of it!

They had not harvested a variety of their grapes because the summer had been so bad. The other thing we have learnt about this season is it has been rainy, wet, cold and so it is a winemakers season i.e. the winemaker really shows their skill when faced with a year of bad weather and challenging grape harvest. 

Cycling was a bit wobbly after Fromm measures but we were back on the wheels and off on the homeward road, via Villa Maria, the huge conglomerate which we all know so well in England. To be honest we were not expecting much but we were blown away with the wines there. We got to taste some single block vineyard wines which are not available outside of NZ and they were stunners. A really good cellar door experience.

One last vineyard before we go home, Wither Hills where we try their standard tasting flight.

Fabulous Shirt

Once home we left our haul of bottles and went for a curry which was uninspiring but still a curry and settled in to watch tat TV in our room. 

Todays scores on the doors were 36 wines tasted from 5 vineyards. 19 miles cycled according to Google.

20.4.3017 Wellington to Blenheim

Early morning to Wellington train station via bus, with all the commuters staring at us, and us staring back thinking ‘shit, that will be me in 3 weeks time!’.

Anyway, our ferry crossing was flat and calm, a relief after the last couple of cyclones passing through Oz and NZ, especially as I was feeling a little jaded (alright, hungover) from the night before. Mince and cheese pie was eaten, tea drank and cheese scone munched (without the cream offered by the kiwi attendant??!!)

Calm seas
This is such a beautiful country

Onto our Intercity bus which was waiting for us at the ferry port. This travelling lark​ is so easy here.

30 mins later and we are in Blenheim. Easy, although our Air BnB place was the other end of town, so a 1km walk was required, hardly difficult though. 

Our new home…..in our dreams and air bnb land

Our new home is fabulous, seriously fabulous. No one is home so we let ourselves in and out, dropping stuff in our room. The decor is stunning, the cookbooks are Ottolenghi, the bed room is spacious and so comfy. I do not want to leave, especially when we find out they have chickens and a veg patch.  All this in the middle of a wine region……..

We explore town.

Good pantry name

It is walkable and has plenty to keep you here a few days. Guy buys some socks.

We have a comfort dinner of fish and chips and pint.

Orange food

We go home, watch tat TV and I am asleep by 8.30. 😴😴😴

19.4.2017 Wellington and it’s Club

Seen on walk into town.


Cuba street looking cool.

Hipster enough for you?

We treat ourselves to brunch at Fidels in Cuba street. It has had queues outside it most times we have passed by. There is no queue so we dive in and share a vegan and a Spanish breakfast, decent coffee, and are fuelled up for the​ day.

Non vegan option…..ummmm butter…
This is all vegan…and lush

We wander down to the waterfront, to look for a bar me and my friend Colette visited last time we were here. We had come back from the south island on the ferry and dived into a posh bar and drunk proseccos like a couple of ladies that lunch.

I think this was it???
Cool piano

We then have another trip down memory lane and go into the Wellington Club, where we waitered back in 1999/2000. The woman on reception was Rochelle, and she was also there when we worked there, so she was happy to show us around, tell us what had happened to our work bosses and colleagues, Yurgen, Dominic, Gail, and give us an update on the changed that have gone on. Jeans are allowed! It was so kind of her to do it and we so enjoyed our trip down memory lane.

Wonderful memories

Next was a bus journey around the bays on No 24 bus which runs every hour, just like the No 10 bus used to from Rudd to Bridgford!!! We killed half an hour looking for hokey pokey ice cream and getting a sweet creme egg gelato instead.

Hipster with gelato

The views around the bays on the bus were beautiful, we even got commentary from the bus driver when going past the old prison. 

Unfortunately we were not able to make the whole journey as there was a gas leak near the end, so our lady bus driver had to reverse a long bus back down a steep, narrow road, do a 3 point turn and head back over the hillside. It was amazing to see.

We stopped for cake/sausage roll and wine at Peter Jacksons cinema in Miramar, a gorgeous 1920’s restored building which was just stunning. 

Afternoon tea Guy style
Stunning 1920’s foyer
Some wizard….

Bus back into town and we stopped at Noble Rot for a wine or two.

White wines tasted
Red wines tasted
Posh French wine, still not convinced it is worth it

Then back to ours for tat TV.

18.4.2017 Martinborough vineyards

Early morning and we are on a bus, getting a train to Martinborough, a region that is renowned for its Pinot Noir, so Guy is really excited.

Guy with his happy face 😁 

I have spent months trying to convince Guy I would behave if we hired a tandem bike, he finally relented and we had ordered one for today.  We got to Martinborough via a local wine tour bus. This was because the driver of the local bus was sick so the wine tours were doubling up as public transport, I love this country. On realising the furthest vineyard was just 2km away we cancelled the bike and had a spot of sustenance then set off to the furthest vineyard and crawled back.

Bacon and egg pie, asparagus and cheese quiche

Te kairanga was our first stop for the best Chardonnay we have tasted so far. John Martin Reserve, who knew the guy could play guitar AND make stunning Chards?

Reds at Te Kairanga
Me at Te Kairanga

Poppies vineyards next, started by Poppy who worked at Dry Rivers vineyard which is over the road. We paid for tasting as the wines were expensive but they were great, had they had sold out of most. They do not export. 

Further along the same road was Ata Rangi where a friendly North American lady served us their delightful tasting flight.

Schubert vineyards was just down the road and was stunning. Small and compact their Pinot Noir was a massive hit with Guy.

Note…they use corks!!!

Margrain vineyard was fab, we tasted loads!!!

Nuff said

Martinborough was next and we remember this from before and buying a very expensive Pinot Noir there. This time we enjoyed the wines but managed not to add to our backpack wine mountain.

Me waiting for a next swig of wine

Pallister was our last cellar door and as we fell through the door we spotted our local bus driver and negotiated a lift back. Result. Therefore we cracked on with the tasting.

And again

We achieved a new Personal Best of 48 wines tasted from 7 vineyards ……. Lordy!

Posh photo montage of the wines and views from today 

We had some food before getting the bus then train home.

It is tiring tasting this many wines…..
Wellington at sunset

17.4.2017 Wellington

A first today, I really didn’t want to get out of bed as it was cold. We found the heater and turned it to max, within 10 mins we were toasty and warm, after 15 mins we had to turn it down. Able to cope, we got up and went for a walk up Mt Victoria again, with much better views and weather than the day before.

View from Mt Victoria 

A very steep decent off the mount and we were down on Oriental Parade, the posh part of Wellington admiring the architecture of the local houses.  

Which one do you want to live in?

And eating a home made sarnie.

Cheesy grins please 

We didn’t eat the local mushies (mushrooms to us Brits).

How dangerous does that look?

We found an Asian food court and lots of sales on warm clothing which we took advantage of and I am now sporting a new, breathable jacket, bliss.

Arty shot of Wellington

Dinner was Japanese again, different restaurant but just as good dumplings.

Okonmyaki and seaweed salad
Dumplings in a box
Sashimi don buri

We get home to have a Skype call with our nieces and nephew to tell them we are coming home, they were very, very excited.

Red wine and watching the next installment of The Bachelor and What really happens in Bali, which is very different to our Bali experience 18 years ago!!!

16.4.2017 Easter in Wellington

Our morning hike was Mt Victoria and a little more than a 15 mins sprint uphill and we were at the summit. It was a refreshing and breathtaking walk as it had to be done quickly as there was a southerly coming in. 

Pre Southerly photo.
Southerly inbound photo

You could see the wind and rain approaching and within 5 mins of it starting we were drenched to the skin and wishing we had got our arses out of bed earlier!!! Still we are waterproof, and at least I hadn’t choosen to wear skin tight white jeans like some poor lass had, she was caked in mud by the time she was at the bottom of the hill.

Dripping wet we trudged through Courtney Place alongside other tourists who had been similarly caught out in the rain and stumbled across a VW campervan and Beetle show. I happily peered through all the windows and started dreaming of our next adventure. 

Statue next to campervan.

Teeth chattering we went for some food at a Japanese restaurant, a bowl of miso soup has never been hand hugged so much. We ordered hot sake just to keep us warm, as it was a public holiday there was great discussion as whether we had ordered enough food to warrant the alcoholic sake. Jeez!!! 

Raman, gyoza, tempura veg.
Hot, hot sake…..

Much, much more walking later we found a wine bar that allowed drinking and eating in reasonable quantities. We tried Kiwi wines and had an excellent meat platter and had a really enjoyable few hours. 

White wines
Red wines.
Guy before drinking wine

20 mins walk home and a chat to our host and we were in our room watching The Bachelor and My Kitchen Rules (MKR) cosy and warm with red wine and some excellent Kiwi chocolate biccies.

More red wine
Kiwi biscuit selection, closest we got to an Easter egg

15.4.2017 Wellington reminiscing

Arrival at 5.30am in Wellington was a little early, too early for buses, so we walked 3km, with the last km being uphill to our Air BnB place. Luckily Anne, our host, was ok with us getting there early and didn’t call the police thinking we were breaking in.

We caught some zzzzzz’s before having spiced apple hot cross buns.

Supermarket hot cross buns with lashings of butter and honey

We then set off on a day reminiscing around Wellington. 

Bay Hotel where were spent NYE 1999

We had lived here for 9 months over 1999/2000 and loved it so much we applied for residency only to be one point short. Still, no regrets as we cannot complain about the past 17 years and where we are now.

We walked through Courtney Place, noticing the Irish bars we used to frequent, and dance like mad drunk leprechauns on small dance floors, had sadly disappeared. The kebab shops are still there though and Cuba Street is as cool and hip as before. 


Water buckets on Cuba Street. Tourists always take photos of these.

We drank a craft ale which was gorgeous (and should have been for £8 pint)

Expensive craft ale…..is there any other type?

A restaurant which did different dumpling fillings caught our eyes, we were seated and another craft ale in hand before you could say ‘Cuba Street hipster’.

Seafood dumplings in a thai coconut broth
Beef and carrot dumplings in consomme
Beef brisket with sourdough, mustard and pickles

We may have had another beer to watch the Hurricane’s vs Blues rugby match and may have had a kiwi kebab on the way home, just as delicious as 18 years ago, and this time I didn’t get it thrown at me……

Me ordering kebab, hoping it doesn’t end up whizzing past my ear.

Then we were home for an early night.

14.4.2017 16th Wedding anniversary….. Auckland to Wellington

We had packed and vacated the room early as a jet lagged English couple had landed after an overnight flight from Japan so needed the room more than us!!

We have really enjoyed staying at Mt Eden and Richard’s house, and today when we went for coffee and the sprightly Italian owner said ‘the usual’ we were dead chuffed. Coffee was swigged along with a small shot of amaretto as a ‘happy anniversary’ present from my wonderful husband. 

Amaretto, the slightly more obscure 16th anniversary gift

We sauntered up and down Mt Eden one​ last time. As it was Good Friday there were many more people that the previous few days and Cyclone Cook was a distant memory, the views were fab.

Just to prove I did make it to the top

We finished all our food off in one massive brunch style dish and decided we didn’t need to eat ever again after that.

We had picked up a horned melon from the local fruit and veg shop, $3.99 each, and all of us who tried the fruit agreed it was a one off experience, not to be repeated. Fresh, green tasting with lots of seeds, not sure you would sprinkle it on a pork chop….

Spikey little fruit
Green pips inside…..from the cucumber family

Our final overnight bus journey of the trip is tonight, so we have another day of killing time. We dropped bags off at Britomart station and wandered down Auckland downtown with the intention of having a leisurely pint or glass of vino to celebrate 16 wonderful years of marriage. However we had not taken into account the stringent public holiday drinking laws here. Unless we had a full main course meal each then we cannot be served any wine. Wow! What do you do on a bank holiday weekend if it isn’t meeting your mates in the pub for a sesh? 

We couldn’t face any more food so wandered, chatted, wandered some more.

The overnight journey was quick, with food stops at 11.30pm and 3am. People got off and ate on the 3am stop!!!