Island hopping – over Cook Straits

We left Ata Rangi on Friday afternoon keen to catch a glimpse of Wellington (about which everyone spoke so positively) but more intent on returning the car and making the 17.00 flight to Blenheim on time. The roads were busy but traffic flowed, right through the city and along the waterfront and round the far side of the bay to the airport. The mental effort of keeping the traffic flowing (some people will know what I mean) was a useful distraction from the much vaunted ‘windy’ crossing.

Despite the size of the city the planes were definitely getting smaller…. This one had single rows of seats and only 18 passengers, and the nice man who gave us all the encouraging instructions virtually sat on the knee of the person flying the plane.

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The open cock pit was so close I could have reached in… the photo below was taken from the seat behind mine…

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I was in seat 01 – pole position for playing my part in lining up the plane on the runway and on the descent. (It reminded me how hard I had to work keeping small boats afloat on ornithological expeditions to islands when the children were small).   The pilot and my psyche did an excellent job.   We landed safely.  I quite enjoyed it.

On to Villa Maria, Marlborough branch, where we we looked after by kind and efficient Vince Edwards, who with his delightful wife Kerry, took us for dinner at Arbour, a local restaurant which offered an excellent ‘let us choose for you’ menu as well as conventional a la carte. It was delicious.

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This view from the Winemaker’s flat regularly includes planes landing and leaving. Those meeting members of the Villa Maria family or staff can watch the planes coming into land before heading off to the little airport in time to greet them.

Thanks to the generosity of the Fistonich family, we are spending six nights here, able to excavate strata of the suitcases that had remained untouched during the previous fourteen nights, but more importantly for David to take part in the first ever Sauvignon Blanc conference, to be held on 1 – 3 February in Blenheim.

Helen Morrison, who has been winemaker at Marlborough’s Villa Maria since January 2014, showed us around the winery – with hard hats for all – as we tasted from the tanks and the barrels. She also hosted a tasting for us and for Britney and Paul from Boston, (who work in one of a chain of steak houses with a wine list of 1500 bottles which changes everyday), and oversaw the barbecuing of NZ green mussels and a delicious piece of beef for our suppers.

It’s true – winemakers have to be able to cook! Helen has worked as a chef – and it showed…

The next evening she kindly drove half a dozen of us to a garden party at Lake Timara Lodge, one of the conference’s evening events; and patiently rounded us all up in the dusk to bring us home. Not as easy as it sounds!

A special thank you too, to Karen Fistonich who spent the days of the conference networking and catching up with her colleagues and friends in the wine community, and the evenings making sure David and I were always comfortable and enjoying all that was going on.

In the coming days, we’ll be visiting the other Marlborough wineries which are part of the Southern island branch of the Family of XII: Fromm, Lawson’s Dry Hills and Nautilus, to meet their winemakers, and taste their wines. More to follow in later posts.

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Another relief map! Indispensible tools for making sense of wine regions. Tap to enlarge it and see all those names that some think belong to bottles, not places:

Wither Hills, Cloudy Bay, Gibson’s Creek, Wairau valley, Awatere, Seddon….

 

 

 

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