|Touring New Zealand 2016 - part 5
We had a delightful smooth crossing with blue sky and sunshine so could not have been more perfect. We reached Spring Creek Holiday Park in Rapaura Road, our usual stopping point from the ferry, at 1900. There was one night in a bunk room in the Lodge then we would be moving tomorrow into proper camping by trying out our new Kathmandu Retreat 80 tent. Prices are very reasonable with the bunk room costing $50 and a large camping slot with power (#28) only $28.
The campervan in #28 departed at 0900 and we set up the new tent. It is always slow the first time but we had it up in 45 minutes before we found the instructions were sewn into the bag - it should be under 20 mins in the future. It turned out to be much more roomy than we expected and the quality is very high, much better than any of our previous tents.
When we are in the Marlborough region we visit our favourite wineries and staying in Rapaura Road is very convenient. The target was to visit Nautilus for their methode champenoise but on our way there we visited Saint Clair. Saint Clair Family Estate was established by Neal and Judy Ibbotson. described in their brochure as "viticulture pioneers in Marlborough since 1978". Grapes were planed in 1978 and the first wines were made in 1994. We wondered why we had never been to visit them or tasted their wines in previous years. The reason for our visit was because they had won the trophy for the champion wine in the category of Merlot, Cabernet and blends. The prize winning wine was the Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Merlot 2014. It is from Hawke's Bay, not Marlborough. Saint Clair also won prizes for their 2015 Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. The cheaper Premium wine won pure elite gold whereas the more expensive Pioneer Block 3 43 Degrees and their Wairau Reserve won pure gold. We liked the Premium wine which was priced at less than $20 and it should be available in supermarkets. Saint Clair joins our list of must visit vineyards when we are in the area. They also have a restaurant. We have now tasted all three of the pure elite gold Sauvignon Blancs (St Clair Premium, Vidal Estate, and The Ned), and one of the two trophy-winning Sauvignon Blancs (Raupara Springs Reserve and Delta Hatters (not yet tasted)).
At Nautilus we purchased their trophy winning Marlborough Brut NV. It was champion wine of the show in 2013 and is consistently of very high quality winning Champion Wine of the Show in 2014 when we first visited them. This is matched by the price of NZ$39 which is at the higher end of non-champagne sparkling wine prices. For contrast the Lindauer range of sparkling wines are for sale at around NZ$10 at Christmas. The Nautilus is excellent and we were persuaded to taste their 2013 vintage limited edition pinot noir Brut Rose. We had already planned to buy some, to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Then it was time to go to Allan Scott for lunch. Allan Scott is our favourite for a light lunch in pleasant surroundings. Their wines are good although we decided that we did not need to do their tasting this time. Their riesling is always good and Pete had a glass with his meal. We also drank our way through 3 large bottles of chilled tap water because of the hot weather. Since our last visit they had further extended their outdoor restaurant area and we were surprised to be offered a table inside and upstairs. We had not realised there were tables in the loft area and table #303 had an excellent view down onto the carpark and the entrance. The restaurant was very full and most people had pre-booked because it was the day after the festival, and a Sunday, and Valentine's Day. Although there were many waitresses working hard the service was slow although it was worth waiting for the food which was excellent. After some garlic bread to nibble the main course, rack of shoulder of lamb, was very good. We then had to wait a long time for our desert, the lemon meringue sundae. It is unusual for people to order desserts and we remember having waited in the past because they are assembled to order. It is however unacceptable to have to wait 30 minutes after receiving the menu and then having to grab a waitress to order. It was however the time that the news of the recent Severe Earthquake hit Christchurch ((5.7 at 13:13) so they may have been listening to the radio reports.
After lunch we visited Cloudy Bay and noticed that they have a much bigger restaurant area in the garden and several options for paying to taste their wines. Most wineries charge for tastings, often a nominal $5, but it is usually refunded if wine is purchased. The cost of a full tasting of 5 wines at Cloudy Bay is now an eye watering $25 with $5 back if you order a bottle. They may drop off our list of candidates to visit, their wines are consistently good and we drink them for some special occasions when choices are limited but there are now many wines available in New Zealand which are their equal and much better value.
Our final visit was to Spy Valley. They have won the 2015 trophy for champion Open red wine, for their Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013. We had already bought the wine in Auckland and visited the winery just to congratulate them on their prize and to taste other wines. They opened the 2010 sparkling wine for us, then we tasted the 2012 syrah, the Gewürztraminer and finally the 2012 iced sauvignon blanc. Many of their wines are available in the UK and we were directed towards Bibbendum, Majestic warehouses, and the Wine Society. In contrast to Allen Scott which was overwhelmed with visitors eating and tasting, and with Cloudy Bay which was busy, Spy Valley was quiet when we arrived. So we were able to talk about the wines and mentioned that we had first tasted the wines on a Cunard cruise when they were presented for tasting on board. As we left a wine tour arrived so we had chosen our timing well.
It was still only 1500 and we had no more tasting plans but we had been so impressed with our new tent that we decided to go to the Kathmandu shop in Blenheim and purchase the add-on "Wing" which was discounted in their sale. We were lucky. The town was deserted and we found a parking outside the shop door. They had a wing in stock and it was the last day of the sale so the price was still reduced. The 'Wing' can be used as an add on extension to shield from rain or sun, a join between compatible tents or stand alone. We were very glad of it as a sun shield when we got back.
We still had to eat a light meal this evening. The 4-Square shop at the corner of Rapaura Road is always useful in emergencies and had our standby food - a smoked cooked chicken at $12.
It was a very peaceful night and cool enough in the tent to need the new duvet. We awoke to the sounds of birds then later were inspected by the local ducks for scraps for breakfast. It took a little while for the tent and the new 'Wing' to dry as we were in the shadow of a huge camper van which loomed over us. We went into Blenheim to stock up with fuel and food for the next three days before leaving for Te Mahia.
We stopped at Lake Chalice to try their wines -they won the overall Trophy for the I-O New Zealand Reserve Wine Champion of the Show as well as the Trophy for Champion Chardonnay. Lake Chalice is a small family business and is only open to visitors Mon-Fri from 1100-1600. It was 1115 when we drove into their gate to be welcomed by their labrador. We approached from Renwick but it is much easier to approach from Rapaura Road. Unfortunately the trophy-winning reserve chardonnay, 2014 The Raptor, was sold out. This was not surprising since it was only a limited production and priced at $27 was going to sell well. However the good news is that the 2015 is reported to be excellent and is due to be available in March and their other 2014 chardonnay, The Haast, is very good and won a silver this year. It shows"white peach, fig and restrained spicy oak on the nose". We tasted it and then bought the bottle. We were then offered to taste the late harvest riesling 2010 Sweet Beak which is a delicious sweet wine. Our reception and the information provided was excellent. Lake Chalice are also very consistent award winners with 4 AirNZ Awards this year and a Trophy and Champion Open Wine of the Show in 2014 for the Pinot Gris 2013 and a Gold for a light Riesling in 2015. Note the awards cover four different grape varieties in three years in blind tastings. They move into our must visit list. We plan to have lunch at Seifried in Nelson later in the week and it will be interesting to compare the Lake Chalice Sweet Beak with their trophy-winning Sweet Agnes. Leaving the winery we noted that there were big round stones heaped all along the roots of the vines and a quick look at the web site showed this to be a feature of several of their vineyards.
It was then on to Te Mahia for one of our few periods of luxury - we had booked into the Te Mahia Bay Resort for three days. We have used it as a base in the Marlborough Sounds several times, in fact that is an understatement as I have been back through the web site and found a picture of Te Mahia in the 1997 picture gallery before we used to write up so fully and it was 'an old favourite' by 2002! They have a small number of units on Kenepuru Sound. We always remember the first time we came - after a while we went back to reception and said "you forgot to give us the key" - the answer was the key had gone missing 3 years before and nobody ever locked anything up anyway - and its still the same! The 'heritage units' in the old building, which we prefer, are actually rambling suites with several bedrooms kitchens, lounges bathroom etc - the first time we thought all the interconnecting doors were open but were told it was all ours. There are seven heritage units, four on the first floor (labelled A, B, C and D) and three on the ground floor (G, E and F). We had booked at short notice and only G was available. It is on the end and does not have direct entrance onto the deck but there are super sea views from the main lounge and one of the bedrooms. It is more expensive because it has accommodation for 9 people, in three rooms each with a large double and a single bed, and it is priced to let for a minimum of four people. G is good because it has access from their garages through its kitchen for luggage and is the entire side of that part of the house with a separate door into the original entrance hall. We were told that it is out of alphabetic order because E and F were original units and the owners lived in what is now G. G is also the only unit with a proper old-fashioned bath as well as a shower in its large bathroom; the rest only have showers. Everything is provided, from fridge freezers and stainless steel thermos bodums in the kitchen to big baskets of towels covered in fresh rosemary in the bedrooms. It is very much like being in somebody's home with old pictures on the walls and flowers in the vases.
The Te Mahia Bay Resort in fact goes back to 1900 and they have a large number of pictures showing the history although they have nothing in writing. We quizzed the owners Jann and Trevor and found it was extended to have a double level set of rooms in a large wing in 1930 and the main residence gained an extra floor in 1948. There are some good pictures of it in that configuration and in excellent condition taken in 1955. It then got very run down and the end block was deliberately burnt down. More recently a luxury motel block has been built slightly further back on the site of the old tennis court and there are 2 even more luxurious apartments where there used to be a few caravan and tent sites. We have had a chance to look inside the new apartments and they were very impressive and luxurious with everything one could think of to make ones stay comfortable and life easy including washing machines, driers and even a DVD player. Te Mahia translates as "indistinct sounds" which is very appropriate.
They have lots of Kayaks if you want to go exploring or fishing and a comprehensive library if you want to do nothing. Unfortunately the last regulations preclude them offering the tinnies they used to have for hire. The shop has a sensible collection of food and they do a series of gourmet meals which are frozen and ready to microwave and they have also offer Stone-ground Pizzas. Normally there is no real need to leave for provisions during a stay, although you can take a water taxi if you fancy eating out. Many groups return every year at the same time and they rarely need to advertise (over 70% is repeat business or direct referrals) so they can be difficult to find unless you pass by although sometimes their new luxury apartments are featured in the AA guide. In the last few years all the balustrades on the heritage units have been replaced with new glass ones and the decking extended with lots of new tables and chairs. The building has obviously been repainted very recently outside and many of the heritage units have been redecorated. There is also a new sun deck for casual visitors as well as the table inside - they now do a lot of teas and I can see why when I looked at the cakes.
We spend most of our time just relaxing, thinking about swimming, reading (they have a huge library of classic/heritage, non-fiction and fiction books), writing up the journal and, in Pauline's case, thinking about painting. The fishing gear is unpacked as there is a wharf at the end of their private beach for water taxis. Many of the houses in the Sounds are only accessible from the sea so water taxis are an essential part of life. The fishing gear was all in perfect condition thanks to some magic gunk we had sprayed everything with. A couple of years ago we caught a good size Eagle Ray from the wharf but we usually only end up with some salted bait fish. This time the rain started before we had time to get to the wharf and it never let up till the morning we left but we had no better place to be in for a couple of wet days. It gave a chance to write up the journal and just catch up with life and try a couple more bottles of good wine.
The weather improved on the morning we left and fortunately there were no problems with the roads other than the odd branches down. We booked ahead and had a cabin at Kaiteriteri which is about 15kms north of Motueka. Tomorrow we plan to go back to Motueka and then across to the West Coast. Leaving the Sounds the first small town is Havelock, with its range of cafes. There is also a Memorial to Rutherford and Pickering. Rutherford is world-famous but Pickering is less well known. They both had links to Havelock.
Sometimes we stop for shopping at Nelson, which is a large and useful centre for supplies, but we were eager to get to Richmond in time for lunch at Seifried Winery. They do excellent lunch platters and we had a meat platter and a fish platter. Both are served on staves from oak barrels. The excuse for visiting Seifried was that we wanted to purchase some of their Winemakers Selection Sweet Agnes Riesling 2015. It had won the AirNZ trophy for Champion Sweet Wine. The Sweet Agnes Riesling has always been a prize-winning wine and we always visit Seifried when we come South in order to try other wines.
After lunch we went in search of the other two trophy wines from the Nelson area, both were new wineries to us. The first is Waimea which won the trophy for "Other White Styles" with their Albarino. The albarino grape is unusual and we first tasted one in NZ when Coopers Creek in Kumeu won the trophy with their albarino. For the future, Waimea also do lunches. The albarino was available for tasting and we also tasted the Sauvignon Gris, which is a new style for us, and purchased both.
The final tasting was at Brightwater. Their leaflet states "We are dedicated to producing individual, well crafted wines that display true fruit character, elegance an fine balance in a style that is distinctly Nelson".Brightwater has also won NZ Winemaker of the Year and Nelson Tasman Supreme Business of the Year. They have two range of wines: the Brightwater vineyards and the Lord Rutherford liimited production and ultra premium wines, They had won the trophy for Champion Pinot Noir and were very proud that it was the first time that a wine from the Nelson region had won the Pinot Noir trophy. However the trophy was for their cheaper 2014 Nelson Pinot Noir whereas we preferred the style of the more expensive 2012 Lord Rutherford Pinot Noir. It was interesting that the judges have chosen the cheaper wine here, and also at Saint Clair. We discussed our perception that the style sought for trophy sauvignon blanc wines was changing, with an increase in grapefruit flavours to replace the classic grass and gooseberries of previous years. This is said to be due to earlier picking of the grapes and led to our tasting of the 2015 Lord Rutherford Barrique Sauvignon Blanc which we bought and plan to taste alongside the Cloudy Bay Te Koko.
The Nelson area is famous for its orchards and we remembered just in time to pull in to Richards' Orchard Fruit Stall near Bronte Road to buy a bag of apples. Another useful shop is the Smokehouse at Mapua Wharf, but we already had too much food. Next time we must plan our shopping or eat more!
We drove through Motueka and then turned down the road towards Kaiteriteri. The Kaiteriteri Holiday Park has a large site, generally full of caravans and family tents, and the beautiful golden beach is just the other side of the road. There is always space to put up a tent but for only one night we decided to have a cabin. As well as the row of cabins there is a separate row of nice ensuite cabins but they were all occupied. The enlarged shop next to the Kaiteriteri Holiday Park was well stocked and the combination of that and the restaurant means that there is no need for campers to drive to Motueka for supplies. We have previously taken one of the Able Tasman boat/walking trips from Kaiteriteri but the forecast was not going to be good enough to spend a second day and get onto the water.