Kaikoura, New Zealand
Day 16 – Kaikoura to Blenheim
Today we have a huge trip, a whole one and a half hours drive. As we depart Kaikoura we pick up a Baguette and a bottle of Champagne as we are planning a stop at the legendary Nin’s Bin some 20 km north.
We meander along the coast road and sight many seals on the rocks and soon round a large bay where we spot a blue and white caravan (Nin’s Bin) perched on the edge of the water . We pull up and it’s open for business so we step inside and the guy behind the counter tells us he has good and bad news. We ask for the bad news (he only has two crays), the good news (he caught both this morning). We choose the bigger one for NZ $70 and he cuts it in half for us and serves it on a large plate with lemons, salt & pepper and seafood sauce. We sit on a picnic table overlooking the sea and spot one solitary seal perched on a rocky outcrop 20m away. Verdict ………..the Koura was delicious and certainly did not disappoint but were now crayfished out (if there is such a thing) as we headed into Marlborough Country.
The country side changed it’s scenery once again as we pass mile after mile of rolling green hills and the grape vines start to appear. It wasn’t long before we arrived at Blenheim and the istore to pick up some local knowledge. They suggested a nice place called the Marlborough Vintners Hotel situated on the golden mile of the wine trail about 10k out of town. We checked in and got a very spacious apartment overlooking the adjacent Stoneleigh Vineyard, 100 m behind us. In fact we noticed the whole Marlborough Wine Area is one vineyard after another with no breaks, it is very compact.
To fill in the rest of the afternoon we decided to drive to Picton to check out it’s pretty harbor and then drive to Sir Peter Jackson’s, Knights of the Sky Exhibition at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. This centre is claimed to be “the best museum in the world” by the Sydney Morning Herald, and has a large collection of Peter Jackson’s own WW1 aircraft and artifacts. He also had his own crew at WingNut Films create many of the sets. This place did not disappoint and the Red Barron display was excellent. I would recommend a visit to anybody who finds themselves in Blenheim.
Day 17 – Free day in Blenheim
Last night at dinner we chatted to a waitress (who’s daytime job was a Wine Tour Operator) and told her we did not want to visit the big wineries as we already knew their wines. She recommended a number of wineries we should visit and wrote them down for us . Armed with a tour map and the Navman we hit the road at 10.30 and first stop was No1 Family Estate who only sold bubbly, we thought this would be a good place to start. Moving on we dropped into Hunters Wines who had some excellent Riesling, next was Rock Ferry who also had some lovely wines and a red that Debi actually liked. We then headed to Wither Hills for lunch but didn’t like the menu so we moved on and stopped at a very quaint winery called Seresin Estate who also had some exquisite wines as well as some yummy Virgin Olive Oil.
After all that tasting were now becoming a little hungry so we stopped at Wairu River Wines for a great lunch with paired wines. Aware that I was driving I was only tasting the wines I was interested in and would soon be reaching my quota so I decided to leave the rest of the tastings to Debi. We passed many of the big names (Cloudy Bay, Giesen, Brancott Estate, Matura and Vilia Maria) when we decided to stop at Hans Herzog who touted the finest restaurant in the district. Although we had had a very nice lunch we thought we would try their wines until they asked NZ $10.00 for the privilege so we did a quick exit. Any winery asking a fee to sample their wines has lost both Debi and I and probably most people I would expect.
Last stop for the day was Bouldevines who promised us a free bubbly if NZ won tomorrow’s final race and the Americas Cup. We were not counting on that one as Oracle has just won the last 5 in a row and were on fire. There was a gourmet shop across from Bouldevines where we bought some bread, cheese and pate which we would have for dinner tonight with some of the spoils of the day.