Archive for the 'Vineyards' Category
Posted by Ruth Atherley on April 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm
If I have said it once, I have said is a “kazillion” times (but who’s counting)… as beautiful and majestic as the New Zealand landscape is (and it is!), as delicious as the food is (and it is!), as wonderful as the wine is (of course it is!), and as many activities as there are to do here (many, many activities) – when it comes down to it, at the heart of the Kiwi magic are the people. At traffic lights, sitting in a café, wandering around in a shop – people talk to you here. They tell you of a great place that only locals know about; they recommend a good restaurant; they help you carry your bags… It is pretty amazing.
And David Hiatt of Canterbury Guiding Company is the king of going local when it comes to the Canterbury region. Canterbury Guides focuses on providing a luxurious, comfortable and unique experience for their guests. David is a fifth generation local, and he knows Christchurch and the Canterbury region inside and out. He also knows the people and provides his guests with unprecedented access to behind-the-scenes, real life experiences that really are the kind of memories that money just can’t buy.
Let me give you an example. David picked us up at our hotel in an incredibly comfortable SUV and took us out to the Waipara Valley. He used to live there as a child, before the vineyards began to appear in the area. Our first stop was Black Estate, which is a family run winery (two twin sisters and their husbands – Alistair, the grape grower and Nicolas, the winemaker). We had a fabulous tasting. Their wines are spectacular – my favourite is the pinot noir, which has won international acclaim. Paul was partial to the Riesling, but I have to say the chardonnay was pretty amazing too. We had a truly lovely lunch. In the wine tasting room and restaurant, Scott, who took care of us there, made it all so easy and comfortable. And then – it got crazy fabulous. David had texted the winemaker (Nicolas) and then David and Scott had a little conversation… and magically, we were going over to where they were making the wine. They had just finished picking the grapes – the night before. They were in the early stages of making the wine and we were going to get a little tour by the winemaker. Now, I don’t know about you – but as a wine lover, this is a pretty exciting thing to have happen. And while we have had the exceptional opportunity to tour some of the wineries here in New Zealand over the past couple of weeks, at Black Estate, we were going to get to be in the room with the winemaker as he created his magic. I was pretty thrilled about this.
Nicholas took us through the process of what was happening and what would happen next. He was so incredibly warm and welcoming and he answered all of my questions – and not once did he roll his eyes or make me feel silly for asking something (which I know he could have; I asked a lot of questions). He really went out of his way for us, even giving us a taste of the grape juice in the early stages of the process. You could see his passion for the wine in the way he spoke with us and in the way he showed us around. He is clearly exceptionally talented at winemaking, but there is more to it. It is obvious that he loves what he does and that he enjoys sharing this with people who are interested. There was a really great energy in that building.
And there is a young woman there who has the job of getting into the vats with the grapes and gently stomping on them (I really want that job!). Our visit was an exceptional experience that I will never forget. It was one that we never would have had, if we hadn’t been with David.
David’s relationship with the people at Black Estate allowed this to happen (and he created the opportunity for us). David not only knows the region, he knows the people. And that’s important. Canterbury Guides focuses on the special details that will make a day in this area memorable – and they are details that are unique to each guest.
David offers a range of “experiences” – not tours. Each one is created based on what the guests are interested in. The time you spend in the hands of Canterbury Guides is memorable. You get to connect with locals and experience things that are off the beaten path and that are unique to you – no one else will have exactly that experience. It belongs just to you. Just like my Black Estate experience is mine, all mine.
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Posted by Ruth Atherley on April 20, 2013 at 8:52 am
We experienced an exceptional wine tasting at Hans Herzog with a very knowledgeable maître d’ – a young man from Berlin whose name I neglected to write down (I blame the wine!). He brought life to the tasting – he clearly knows the wines and the vines, he was funny and charming, and he went out of his way to make sure we got a true and full sense of the types of wines that come from Hans Herzog. He had a map of the vineyard and showed us, row by row, what type of grapes were being grown – it was incredibly informative and very interesting.
Hans Herzog’s family has been growing wine in Switzerland since 1630, so this guy definitely knows how to make wine. He began planting the vineyard in the mid-1990s.
Hans Herzog offers a complete wine and food experience – there is a world-class gourmet restaurant, a garden bistro and, of course, an excellent cellar door. We also had dinner at the restaurant and it was delicious. Fresh ingredients, paired with fabulous wine – it made for a memorable experience.
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Posted by Ruth Atherley on April 20, 2013 at 8:22 am
While I didn’t quite sleep in the vines at Vintner’s Retreat, it was pretty close. Just outside our lovely villa was a vineyard. And beyond the grapes sat the Richmond Ranges. It was a fabulous view right outside our back door – where there was a nice patio, equipped with a barbeque and a patio table with chairs so guests can sit and enjoy the moment.
Vintners Retreat is private and unique. The four-acre grounds house 14 villas, which are self-contained and serviced daily. They have fully equipped kitchens, living areas and laundry facilities. It’s like having a home away from home – in the middle of some of the world’s most fabulous wineries. It doesn’t get much better than this. The nearby Wairau riverbank provides an excellent opportunity for cycling, walking and running, and there are bikes for guests to hire.
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Posted by Ruth Atherley on April 20, 2013 at 4:41 am
Cellar door and winery visits are one of the big draws of the Marlborough Region. (They are not the only draw since there is so much to do here, but a big one.) There are so many options to choose from that you could spend a month here and not see everything there is to see when it comes to wine. I think we did quite well. Within a 24-hour period, we visited and tasted at five very different wineries. And at each one of these, I thought “this is the best place ever!” (Not sure what would happen to my happiness level if we were here for more than 24 hours! It would be through the roof.)
Brancott Estate Heritage Centre
Our first stop was for lunch and a tasting at Brancott Estate Heritage Centre. The property is beautiful and it overlooks the site of the first-ever Marlborough sauvignon blanc planting. For a wine lover, this is a pretty amazing place to experience. The beauty of the land and the building is matched by the fabulous wines and delicious food.
Auntsfield Estate Tour and Tasting
There is such winemaking history in the Marlborough region. Auntsfield Estate Cellar Door Manager Jan Whillans took us on a tour of the vineyard, which included meeting their pet pig who got so excited to see us that he (she?) ran around its pen, wagging its tail!
This vineyard is the home of Marlborough’s first colonial vineyard and winery. The original vineyard was established in 1873, and the original cellar and other remnants of its history remain on the property and have been carefully restored.
Auntsfield Estate specializes in producing handcrafted sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir (and they are all fabulous). All the wines are made from grapes grown on the family owned estate vineyard and you can clearly tell from the fabulous wine, the surroundings and the passion that Jan brings to her job – that there is heart at this winery. This is the kind of place you wish you could never leave. Incredible wine, interesting story behind the winery and a comfortable environment with people who make you feel welcome. This is one of those “do not miss” experiences in this region.
Giesen Wines is yet another fabulous winery. Owned by three brothers (the Giesens), this winery is a state-of-the-art facility that has stayed true to the winemaking roots of the region. The tasting room is spectacular and the passion of Victoria Lewis, Cellar Door Manager, and Roscoe Johanson, Brand & Hospitality Manager, is obvious in everything they do – from making visitors feel completely at home, to showcasing their wines through tastings – adjusting how they explain the wines to the level of knowledge of the taster. I learned a great deal from this tasting – never once feeling like the “newbie” that I really am to understanding the complexities of wine. The team put out a beautiful spread of seafood pâté, cheeses and meats.
The Yealands Estate is New Zealand’s largest privately owned vineyard. It is a showcase of environmental sustainability and innovation. Many of the vines here are planted on the hillside, which isn’t typical in this region. Owner Peter Yealands is, from what everyone has told us, quite a character and he loves to do what “can’t be done.” In fact, on the website, the tag line is: Think boldly, tread lightly and never say it can’t be done. And he has done exactly that. (And I might just adopt that as my own personal tag line!)
Not only does Yealands produce exceptional wines – award winning wines (and they have only been around for a few short years!) – but they are doing incredible things in the areas of sustainability and making change in the very traditional world of wine. I have to say that visiting this winery has added something to my bucket list that won’t be the easiest thing to fulfill: I want to sit down with Peter Yealands over a glass of wine and just listen to him.
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