Marlborough Wine Tour

Misty Cove vineyards in Marlborough

On my visit to the Marlborough region I wanted to safely visit multiple wineries. Fortunately I found Marlborough Wine Tours and it was perfect. I was worried because my lodging was a little out-of-the-way but it was no problem for them to come pick me up. Phil was our driver and very knowledgeable about wines in the region. We were lucky to have him as our host. The wineries chosen were well thought out and I am grateful that they didn’t pick the larger wineries in favor of visiting the small and some up-and-coming wineries. We visit 6 wineries in total and didn’t feel rushed in any of our visits. This is a great option if you are lacking a designated driver and really want to enjoy the region.

Winery 1 : Allan Scott Family Winemakers

Notable from this winery is their special ginger wine; it has a sweet and strong ginger flavor. Nice for a seasonal drink.

The Pinot Noir Rose is light and drinkable. Also liked the Pinot Noir.

The gardens are pretty with lots of plants to look at and a large chess game.

Winery 2: Rock Ferry

Rock Ferry is a boutique winery with some of my favorite choices of the day.

The Corner’s Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc of the day and contains flavors of gooseberry, peppers (capsicum) and asparagus.

They have a Pinot blanc that is from an “egg ferment” case, a special wine experiment of theirs.

Their Pinot Noir isn’t bad as well. I am loving the pinot noirs today.

Winery 3: Wairau River

We head to Wairau River Wines at lunchtime. I didn’t write down tasting notes about the wine or food so I am assuming it was very satisfactory.

I enjoyed sitting outdoors on this beautiful day.

Winery 4: Misty Cove

The next winery is pretty small. I left with some of their bottles because they sells styles not as common. I loved the Waihopai (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris and Gewürztraminer) and the Gruner Vetliner. Gruner wines are especially a target of mine since they serve them frequently at the few restaurants to liked to visit when I lived in Brooklyn but they are hard to find anywhere else. Whenever I see Gruner on the menu it always catches my eye now.

Misty Cove also has a fun pool onsite for their lodging guests.

Winery 5: Spy Valley Wines

The second to the last winery of the day is Spy Valley. Just to note I am pretty intoxicated at this point so I can’t really rely on my taste buds to say what I think of these wines. Right now, everything is good.

Spy Valley is named so because it is located very close to a super secret US and UK satellite communications monitoring facility.

Wood walls are actually morse code.

Naturally the tasting room decorated in spy stuff.

Pinot noir was my favorite out of the ones we tasted today.

Bottle decorated in morse code.

Some of these are actually imported in the USA. I am able to purchase the Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine.

All the Bonds

Winery 6: Jackson Estate

The last of the day is Jackson Estate. We almost don’t make it in time because the entire group is pretty intoxicated by the last winery. The driver had to get a little firm with us to keep time. I don’t blame him, he wants to get us to all our locations so we get our money’s worth.

From my tasting notes (whatever they are worth) I find the Pinot Rose and Vintage Window Pinot Noir are not bad and the Bortrytis Riesling is pretty good (and reflected so in the price!).

The winery seemed to be closing soon but they still took the time to show us the cellar. This is the only winery of our tour that let us see their cellar.

The driver took us back to our respective lodgings at the end. I am thoroughly grateful for the safe transportation today.

I am back at my wine cabin and being intoxicated I am unable to drive to dinner but I fortunately prepared enough cheese and snacks so driving would be unnecessary.

Cheese and Snacks are an acceptable dinner for an adult right?

Marlborough Wine Barrel

In planning my sabbatical I concentrated on traveling to places that are pretty far from my home while also trying unique experiences (within my budget). I love wine so it wasn’t hard to include the Marlborough region of New Zealand on the list. We import a number of New Zealand wines in the USA and the majority seem to be Sauvignon Blanc – one of my warm weather sipping wines. Unlike Australian wines we get in the USA, I have a much easier time consuming the wines from New Zealand. I am very excited to visit this region while I am traveling the south island of New Zealand.

While searching Airbnb I found Marlborough Wine Barrel Cabins; cabins shaped like a wine barrel.

The hosts have two of these cabins to rent and there is a good amount of spacing between them so you have privacy.

The cabins are very cute inside. It gets warm inside during the day but a breeze comes through with the doors and windows open. There were some mosquitos/black flies but they weren’t as bad as I experienced prior.

I love the gardens and fruit trees on site. My cabin only had views of the gardens but the other cabin has a magnificent view of the hillsides

There is a shared bathroom with a toilet that is a little bit of a walk if you tend to get up in the middle of the night. I woke up once in the middle of night to go to the bathroom and noticed once again so many stars in the sky. It is amazing what you can see without light pollution.

As for the shower I used the outdoor shower. I am obsessed with outdoor showers. I hope to have one of my own someday if I ever own a home again. I love showering outdoors for some reason.

There is also a shared mini-fridge outside the main house that holds milk for guests and I also used it to store some of my perishables during my stay (also keeping my cheese and wine cold).

My first evening at the cabins I drove into town for dinner. It is about a 20 minute drive to the town of Blenheim from the cabins. There seem to be wineries nearby but I have booked a wine tour tomorrow. Even though I am located out of town the tour van will pick me up anyway. What good luck! I am excited to do a group tour tomorrow.

Coonawarra Wine Region

When visiting the south coast of Australia I thought it would be a good idea to visit one of the wine regions in the area to challenge my poor opinion of Australian wines.

Two popular wine regions I read about are the McLaren Vale and the Coonawarra region. I decided to choose the Coonawarra region due to its proximity to caves.

Working title: “Australia is closed for the holidays/fire/whatever”

I misread my check-out time of the Airbnb in Port Fairy and rush to put all my crap into the car when the owner arrives to clean for the next guest. Thank goodness I didn’t have to carefully pack my backpack -> one great advantage to having a car for a week.

Before I leave Port Fairy I do a stop at the beach there, beautiful as is the rest of the coast.

I continue my drive watching as the temperature gage slowly rises in Celsius. Watching temperature rising seems to be the theme of the next two days, as well as watching news of the Australian fires. Although the fires are getting worse, they are not yet affecting the regions I am at.

Temps go up to 99 F (37 C) during my commute to the next location.

I am staying in a bubble tent for two nights at Coonawarra Bush Holiday Park.

Due to popularity the holiday park has purchased some new tents. Some of the older tents are in need of repair and are not in use this evening. The campsite is installing a new one for me and it isn’t ready yet.

My package deal includes wine and chocolate. I throw them both in the camp refrigerator for later so they don’t go bad.

While they are setting up my bubble tent I head into the nearby town (Penola) thinking I can find a restaurant but nothing seems to be open. Either everything closes early in this sleepy town or I am here off season. Even the grocery closes early (7 pm!). I need to pick up some food for the night before I lose that opportunity as well. I find out later that if I want a better selection of restaurants and stores I need to drive 30 minutes further to Naracoorte.

The disappointment I feel of things being closed seems to be a common theme in this area. Many good wineries exist in Coonawarra but the region is insufficiently able to handle tourism (local or foreign). Some of my bad luck is caused by traveling in the slow period before Christmas where everything comes to a halt. I wish I would have known but I am not sure more research would have told me this information ahead of time. I do stop at one winery cellar door for a quick tasting before grocery shopping – Patrick’s of Coonawarra – and I am the only one in the tasting room during my time there.

I head back to the campsite with my groceries and try to find room in one of the two refrigerators for my groceries in the camp kitchen (side note – finding room in shared refrigerators becomes a frequent activity I participate in while van camping in NZ but more about that later).

My tent is now ready and the air conditioner works on cooling the tent. In time I find it is way too hot to lounge inside the tent with the sun during the day; there is an air condition unit and wine chiller but they are no match for the heat. The bubble tents are really more appropriate during cooler months, not in the middle of an Australian heat wave.

There are vineyards next to me and I have a nice view of the sunset. The top of the bubble gives me an semi-obstructed view of the stars and moon.

On the right is camping bathroom. I use to pee once or twice but really I preferred walking the distance to the bathrooms in the campsite.
wine fridge, filter water, and air conditioning

There are privacy curtains but they don’t seem to work well. I use my hairclips to try to hold them together.

Things get fun when the sun sets. There are mood lights in the tent. Luckily it cools down without the sun. Between the darkness and air conditioning it becomes comfortable to sleep. The previous generation of tents were held up by pressure inside but these are held up by inflation of the pentagon shapes into a sphere. The AC combined with the outside air did still cause some pressurization and some of the Velcro sections would frequently come detached as a result (like the door on the “privacy room”). Despite the inconveniences it is a fun and unique experience and I would do it again sans heat.

The next morning I cook breakfast on the camp grill. the food I cook is included in the package deal I had booked.

The rational for staying in this region is for the Coonawarra Wine Trail. The wine trail is group of wineries that are all in walking distance of each other. The camp site I am staying at is supposed to have a van that will drop me off at parking at one of the wineries and pick me up later in the day. I organize a ride in advance but when it is time for me to leave the driver is no where to be found. I wait for a while for the driver who seems to be off doing errands but I am getting very hungry so I head out to get lunch. The first restaurant I stop at is closed. I am not sure if I missed opening hours or it is closed for the day since there is no sign stating the status, just a person inside who motions for me to leave because they are closed. I am disappointed because it is one of only couple choices in the area. I additionally try the nearby general store which advertises to-go lunches. The gentleman working looks at me like I have two heads when I ask for a take away lunch since they have nothing appropriate for that.

My last hope is buying a fancy lunch at a winery ten minutes away. I am crossing my fingers it is available.

And it is.

Hollick Estates

From there I move onto the wine tastings at the wine walk but I have to be super careful and discriminatory about what I taste since I will have to drive myself back eventually. I know there are wine tours because I see wine vans it’s just they are not heavily advertised like one would expect in a wine region. I have no idea how I could have booked one of them.

Finally I get to the wine walk and the first winery I try to visit Brand’s Laira is unexpectedly closed for the day and it’s not even 2 PM – This is the second time I get hit with “it is the slow season so we’ll just close when we want”. They do have a small wine history path on site where I get a little history lesson of the area.


But I am here to sample wines so I move on to the next winery in the wine walk

It is hot by the way. It isn’t a cool comfortable stroll.

Wynns

I head to Wynns where I get to try some Pedro Ximenez. I spend some time chatting with the very friendly lady providing the wine samples. I am a fan of this winery, too bad I already have too many bottles to travel with or I would buy more.

They have a nice exhibit on the history of the winemaker, the area, and winemaking in the area. I learn about local soil conditions.

Finally I make quick stops at both the DiGiorgio and Rymill wineries. I try a limited amount of those since it is getting late in the afternoon and I want to make it back to my campsite.

DiGiorgio

Rymill

Rymill has a chardonnay I don’t mind the taste of.

It is almost Christmas here in Coonawarra

I head back to the campsite where I find the air conditioning unit in my tent does nothing to fight the sun. I feel my body cooking in the tent. I’m pretty much stuck outside waiting for the sun to disappear which isn’t until close to 8:00 PM or later. I’m hanging out out in the covered lounge area at the campsite drinking some wine, planning future travels, and catching up on family and friends back home. It was a dumb decision to book a bubble tent during the hottest time of year. By the way yesterday was the hottest day on record for Australia so I have impeccable timing.

I think that if I come back to South Australia it won’t be during their summer and I’ll probably give McLaren Vale a chance instead.

More Great Ocean Road Australia

I have just left my wildlife retreat. Currently (December 2019) Australia is experiencing an outbreak of fires. I start actively watching for news updates because the fires escalate day by day. I may need to alter travel plans or even leave the country.

Today I am heading to an airbnb in Port Fairy Victoria. I am staying in an adorable cottage for the night and stopping at some sights along the way.

Gibson’s steps

My first stop of the day is Gibson’s steps.

The steps provide a pathway down to a beautiful beach. Today the Gibson steps are closed due to storm damage and erosion. I just soak up the view up top instead.

Great Ocean walk

From the parking lot I notice a trail marker for the Great Ocean Walk. I read later that that it is an 100k scenic walk along the coast. Today I only walk a little bit of the trail since I hadn’t prepared for a long hike.

12 Apostles

I head back to my car for the short drive to the twelve apostles, a collection of limestone rocks off the coast.

I plan to head to the next rock formation down the road, Loch Ard Gorge, but I see a sign for a cheese and food trail and suddenly decide it is more important to follow that trail then to stop at any other roadside wonders.

12 Apostles Food Artisans

I follow the road with the food trail signs until I get to the first stop Apostle Whey Cheese. I skip the chocolate stop (Gorge Chocolates). I know you must be thinking there something wrong with me but I prefer a block of cheese over a chocolate bar 99% of the time.

I partake in a cheese sampler, tour the grounds and purchase to cheese to go.

I also pick up an official copy of the food map.

I head off to the next location but stop to look at some cows on the way.

I am heading to a brewery nearby, Sow and Piglets Production Brewery. From the website it appears that they sell sausages and such to eat. Beer samples and sausages sound good to me. When I arrive I find the brewery is closed for tastings. I must have arrived off season. If I want to try the beers I have to go to their microbrewery location in town.

Instead I head to the town of Timboon. My first stop is Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. It is a whisky distillery and restaurant. I try a couple whisky samples and then sit down for a late lunch.

Slow cooked beef over potato cake

I finally try a sow & piglet beer.

Right around the corner is an ice cream shop. I head over to Timboon Fine Ice Cream where they have some unique and fun flavors (at least to this American).

I order one scoop of Orange & Cardamon and one scoop of Rhubarb & raspberry. I really love the flavors.

After my ice cream I head back on the road. I plan to go straight to my Airbnb but I drive by Cheese World and I cannot help stopping.

They have Meredith Dairy in stock. I first learned about Meredith Dairy in central Florida where a local cheese monger sells the marinated goat cheese feta. It probably is one of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. Meredith Dairy cheese is produced in Victoria; in fact I emailed the farm to see if they gave tours before my trip and sadly they do not. In the USA we import the feta but some of their other products are new to me. I pick up some cheese to take back to my cottage tonight.

I check out the cheese store’s wine collection which is unfortunately heavy on the not so great wines we can already try in the USA. Luckily I already have some bottles I purchased a couple days prior.

I head to my cottage in Port Fairy to rest for the evening. It is an adorable cottage named Elizabeth Margaret Brady Cottage built in 1860.

There is charming bedroom and a cozy living room with a working gas fireplace that I use that evening.

The cottage can hold a small family. There is an attached area with another bedroom and bathroom. It is a pretty large place all to myself. There is also a washer on sight. I am happy to be able to do laundry.

additional bedroom and mini kitchen

There is complementary wine. I can add it to my wine and cheese tasting for the evening.

I prepare some snacks and a cheese plate and relax by the fire for a evening. Today has been a great day.

Şirince

Şirince is a little town near Selcuk known for its wine tastings. The idea is to visit for the day. Maybe do some shopping, maybe try some wine.

Şirince is where I was almost kidnapped. I joke but I was once again in an uncomfortable situation. I agree to a wine tasting at an outdoor bar. I try to be nice and smile. I am told the building is old and there is some old decor upstairs. I agree to go see it. Then it gets uncomfortable. There is no one else up there. The guy wants to sit up there with me and drink wine together. Because I am uncomfortable and don’t want to give him the wrong idea I tell him I want to go back down. I drink my glass of wine on the lovely patio downstairs but quickly because I don’t want to stick around any longer.

Downstairs at the wine Lair

I do not have the knack for tasting. I walk into a tasting room and are given many to taste. I guess I am supposed to walk out at that point because what am I going to do with bottles of wine; I leave for Cappadoccia the next day. But I feel guilty. Even though there is no markings of expectation of purchase for the tasting (that I can read) I feel quilty and awkward. I am talked into buying two bottles after the insurance that the airline will allow them (note: it is a lie). I drink as much as I can while I am still in town…is my first travel hangover coming? The other bottle I secure in my backpack to bring to Cappadoccia. I needed more weight in that backpack like I needed a hole in my head.

Actually loving a Chardonnay and a Merlot, go figure

I meet a Turkish girl and her Swedish Fiancé. They are marvelous. They notice I am alone and converse with me. I end up spending the afternoon chatting with them instead of wandering to more tasting rooms. It is just what I needed when the only interaction I have had in days is the unwanted advances of Turkish waiters. Truth be told I am mostly ok with being alone but I have been lonely. These are what another traveler friend refers to as backgetters (visit her website, it is inspiring). I soak up her knowledge on everything related to Istanbul (I plan to return) and then we wish each other well. I hope I meet more people like this during my travels.