Today we make our penultimate journey of this trip, it will be a mixed bag of transport, taxi, teeny plane, bus, ferry, bus.
We have booked an internal flight with Air New Zealand as it was cheaper than the bus and it saved us an overnight in Auckland.
So, on our last Monday away, as everyone at home was having a bank holiday lie in we were up early. We packed and left our glamping tent, which had been battered by wind and rain the night before, and got on our way to the small but beautiful Napier airport.
We checked in our bags, as they had bottles of wine carefully packed throughout we asked that they have the fragile tags put on. They were duly tagged.
Breakfast was pastry based with Hawthorne coffee to wash it down. We watched as the baggage handlers threw our bags into the baggage hold on our plane. Fragile tags duly ignored.
The wind had really picked up so it was with trepidation that we boarded the small, propeller driven plane. It was bumpy on the way up but once up it was a breeze.
55 mins later we are in Auckland and on our way into town for the ferry to the beautiful island of Waiheke, where we had booked a bit of luxury for our last 3 nights of the trip.
The 35 min ferry journey was stunning, many photos were taken.
Landing on the tiny island we got a bus the 2km into Oneroa, luxury, and got into our Air BnB to see what we have for the last time. Washing machine and dryer are the essentials as I don’t want to go back to Mum and Dad’s with a bag full of washing. Mum never did my washing when I was a student so I doubt it will be gratefully received on Friday!!!
Our place has views front and back to the seaside. How ace?
We got some fancy items from the posh Island Grocer and essentials from Four Square and went back to the flat to do washing and cook up some lamb merguez sausages for a late lunch.
Guy cooked a stunning evening meal of lamb meatballs, couscous and adds green leaves for health.
It was accompanied by 2 very fine Pinot Noirs for which we were grateful to be drinking due to Guy’s diligent packing and not the Air NZ baggage handlers. We watch The Bachelor and MKR.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The storm which raged outside all night hadn’t left town and heavy rain greeted our sleepy ears. An ocean of rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm today though and we happily munched down watermelon and read through our vineyard tourist leaflets. Mornington has a cool climate (really?) so is renowned for the Burgundy grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Other grape varietals are grown though as winemakers experiment.
At 11am the Your Shuttle bus pulled up outside and we dashed from our porch, through the rain, into the comfort of the dry van. Our driver Chris welcomed us and we chatted away and in no time were at our first vineyard, Ten Minutes By Tractor. The cellar door and restaurant were undergoing redevelopment, so tastings were relocated in an old shed which had a cosy atmosphere, especially with the noise of the rain on the corrugated roof. We were warmly greeted by Jasmine who talked us through the wines available that day, the history of the vineyards and gave us loads of information on winemaking and the regions vintages. We really enjoyed our time there.
Their Chardonnay was very good but we loved their 2015 Pinot Noir. Red fruit and almost peppery. Alison didn’t used to like Pinot Noir which meant I got a bottle to myself but she is coming round to it. I guess I’ll have to share.
Five minutes on foot was next doors T’Gallant and Jasmine kindly lent us an umbrella, checking for spiders first. T’Gallant has a large cellar door and after the intimacy of Ten Minutes By Tractor it was an initial shock to encounter large tour groups. The staff took us through their wines though and kept an eye on us. They had pioneered Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio wines (same grape) and had a delicious sweet and slightly fizzy pink moscato. Our favourite though was their 2015 Romeo which was a mix of Shiraz from a vineyard at Heathcote and Muscat from a vineyard at Rutherglen, so neither from Mornington! The aroma reminded me of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, one of our Christmas favourites.
Thirteen tastings in, we enjoyed some fresh air outside and were picked up and driven down the road to the scenic Eldridge Estate which we had chosen as it grows Gamay grapes, one of my favourites. The beauty of our Your Shuttle tour with Chris is that it was bespoke and she was able to take us to the vineyards we wanted to visit.
The owner was loading cases of wine into a car and he said hello and left us with Dan who talked us through the wine tasting, giving us info on vintages, wine styles and winemaking. I loved their 2016 PTG, a mix of Pinot Noir and Gamay and Al loved their 2016 Fume Blanc which is barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc.
Next up was Montalto, recommended to us by Kathy our Airbnb host in Melbourne. They had a kitchen garden which provided veg and herbs to their restaurant and a sculpture park around their vines. A great day out if the sun is shining. Al wanted to eat here but we visited the cellar door first where we tried their delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also a Shiraz and a sweet Moscato.
I think we were both glad to get some food into us and what great food it was. Aubergine with chickpeas and herbs to start and then a garlic, chive and ham pizza.
We had a wander round the veg garden.
Then the beautiful vineyard.
Then we walked next door to Tucks Ridge our fifth vineyard. After four vineyards and garlic pizza my palate was a bit cloudy and my head was in a very happy place and on this wave of euphoria alongside the friendly, informative and interesting conversation from our cellar door host I forgot to take any photos. Here is a tree outside.
Suffice to say, their wines were great and we learnt loads including the difference between their single vineyard Chardonnay and their estate Chardonnay which amazingly didn’t escape my tired palate. Our favourite wine was their 2014 Shiraz which tasted of white pepper.
Back out in the rain, we happily walked up a muddy track to our sixth and final vineyard of the day, Red Hill Estate. We tried their Chardonnays, Pinot Grigio and Muscat but we both loved their 2015 Pinot Noir. Alison was finally converted. She was at one with Miles from the film Sideways.
As if by magic, Chris appeared and we were taken to the poshest food deli I’ve ever been to. A cave of specialist cheese, meats, dips and wines from all the local vineyards. To round our day off in style we bought a tiny piece of blue cheese and some crisps and a glass of wine each. Finally a full glass! This meant our final score was 38 different wines tasted and 2 smiley faces in probably the best Tuesday of our lives! We had loved our tour of the small, boutique and bigger, slick vineyards and the contrasts of our experiences in them. We had also learnt about some winemaking techniques and increased our appreciation of what it takes to fill your glasses.
I know what some of you are thinking. “What about the umbrella you were lent?”
Well, Chris bumped into the owner of Ten Minutes By Tractor in the deli so it was safely returned. As were we.