Jun 152016
 

The summer tour season has flown by, and what a busy one it was! Overall, tourism in New Zealand is on the rise, and we definitely felt it here in Nelson.  Our Wheel & Wine Tour turned out to be our most popular this season, and it’s actually the tour Glenn & I enjoy doing the most. It allows both of us to really get involved in the day – He starts the day guiding a good 2 (+) -hour cycle, we stop for a hardy lunch and then I taste and describe the wines alongside our guests at a few winery cellar doors.
As usual, we had friendly and engaging guests from all over the world, though mostly from the US and UK.  I guess it’s not surprising that they’re in a chill mood- they are on holiday after all!  They asked us a lot of questions about the region, the fauna & flora and just living in New Zealand in general. The day goes by fast, yet we never want the tour to feel rushed at any time. Such is the joy of creating bespoke tours – we truly cater to what the guest wants to do and see. Flexibility is key for us, and that means that no tour is ever exactly the same.
As we work towards the coming season, I’m looking forward to what new sights we’ll see and what wonderful people we’ll meet.

 

Great cycling tour

Cycling tour along the Great taste trail

Wheel & Wine tour couple

Wheel & Wine tour stop on Rabbit Island

Wine tour picnic

Lovely day out for a wine tour

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 022015
 

I never need an excuse to drink a good Pinot Noir, but when we recently had wine-interested friends visiting from San Diego, it was a great excuse to have some other wino’s over for dinner and a tasting to showcase New Zealand’s 6 Pinot Noir regions. We knew the regions~ Marlborough, Nelson, Martinborough, Waipara, Hawke’s Bay and Otago, and the vintage (2011) we wanted to have, but the trick was finding just the right wines.  This was actually the fun part for me, and I searched high and low, internet and no for just what I wanted.

So that we would ALL be surprised by what we were tasting, I would buy a wine and immediately brown bag it and put it away. Over the course of weeks it took to locate the wines, I would forget what wine was in what brown bag ~ perfect. It really helped that 5 out of 6 of the wines were under screwcap, so I didn’t have to worry about ‘seeing’ what wine it was.  The format was to pour 2 wines at a time ( just didn’t have enough glasses to pour them all at once for everyone!) make some notes and take a guess at what region it was from, and then move on to the next two, and so on.   I found it intriguing that while New Zealand is such a small country, the diversity of its wine regions is quite large.

Here are my quick notes (and I do want to pat myself on the back as I guessed all six regions correctly:)

-Seresin “Leah” (Marlborough) – high acid, sour cherry, zest, dry tannins
-Kina Cliffs Reserve (Nelson) – bacon fat on the nose, pomegranate, cherry, vanilla palate
-Escarpment (Martinborough) – Violet, pea, wild strawberry, blueberry – big yum!
-Mountford Estate (Waipara) – black pepper, spice, earth, good texture
-Osawa (Hawke’s Bay) – This was under cork and slightly corked (:
-Felton Road Bannockburn (Otago) – Black fruit, dry tannins

Mystery pinot noirs

Mystery pinot noirs

All is revealed

All is revealed

 

 

Oct 182015
 
start of our trip ~ Cycling in Loire Valley

start of our trip ~ Cycling in Loire Valley

After a busy tourist season, Glenn & I decided to take our cycling adventures overseas for the winter. After many, many months in the planning (flights, bring bikes or no?, where to visit, etc…) we solidified our plans ~ 5 weeks of cycling through France.

We decided to combine our love of cycling and wine (hence, VeloVino) and planned on visiting the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Alsace.  I had never really cycled in Europe, and Glenn did some (30?) years ago, so we were excited to check out the trails and also taste some amazing wines. Initially, the excitement quickly changed to frustration, as we had to maneuver our oversized bike bags (yes, we decided to bring our own bikes) through airports. Not the easiest to do in the best of times, but add North American summer vacation crowds into the mix, and you have a full-blown bottleneck at every turn. After working through 24 hours of brain fog traveling and a map-filled lost iPad, we finally landed at our starting point ~ Nantes, in the Loire Valley.  The Loire valley trail is a total of about 800km long, and we ended doing about 650km of that. While not the easiest first week of our cycling (flat tires & signage frustration abounded), the trail is mainly flat and meanders through quaint small villages that are surrounded by poppy and abundant wheat fields. We enjoyed some amazing wines (Reuilly sauvignon blanc, Chinon reds) and cheeses (chavignol goat is a fave)along the way and really loved the region.

Next, we made our way to Burgundy. At this point the weather was really heating up (35-38*C) and we wanted to make the most of our time on the bikes, so we took the train from Nevers to our destination village, Beaune. Known as the ‘Cote d’Or’ (gold hills ~ the colour of the vineyards at harvest), we decided to place ourselves in the Cote de Beaune (Beaune) for 5 nights and then the Cote de Nuits (Nuits St George) for 4 nights so that we could really DO the ‘VeloVino thing’ in each sub-region: spend a day cycling around the tiny villages and stop for tons of photo/go-pro video ops, and another day just relax around the towns and taste the amazing Burgundies I’ve been missing!  The region is as beautiful as I remember from so many years ago, except that it has grown and expanded.  It was quite a decadent treat to drink the luscious Chassagnes-Montrachets, Pommards and Vosne-Romanees and eat the stinky cheeses again (can you sense a pattern here?…..) It was hard to leave Burgundy (although my wallet and cholesterol-laden heart were more than ready!) but Alsace awaited us, and as an ‘Alsatian newbie’ I was ready for the next adventure.

Alsace is about 140km long, and we started in the southern city of Colmar and worked our way up to Strasbourg. Unlike the Loire and Burgundy, Alsace is very germanic in design and also hilly. We had plenty of time in the area, so while we enjoyed the many challenging hill rides and were pretty strong by this point, around every bend were flower-filled quaint villages and wineries to visit, and we took full advantage of them! The food is hearty (think choucroute, sausages and sauerkraut), and the (mostly) white wines are fruit-driven, rich and refreshing. I personally loved the pretzel stands and took full advantage of them anytime I could!

Loire cycle and wine trail map

Loire cycle and wine trail map

Great sushi meal in Nantes with Mas de Gaumas

Sushi & Mas de Gaumas ~ yum

Chavignol goat cheese in the village of Chavignol

Chavignol goat cheese

Cycling in France ~ Burgundy to be exact!

Cycling in France ~ Burgundy to be exact!

Gorgeous ride through burgundian vineyards

Gorgeous ride through burgundian vineyards

Alsace vineyards

Alsace vineyards

pretzels galore

pretzels galore

Jan 092015
 

The Sweet Summertime of the Nelson region is starting now and there’s a lot to look forward to!  Some of my favorite activities are rising with the birds (ok, not THAT early) and heading out for a bike ride before the city is up, picking my own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and black currants – Wow! and taking the boat over to Abel Tasman National Park and going for a long hike or a kayak ride. I can’t believe it’s only early summer, and I’ve done those things already! No worries, I’ve got lots more activities to come…

PYO berries!

Summertime PYO berries ~ Sweet!

Christmas ride

Pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas Tree) at its best!

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park in the sweet summertime!

Nov 052014
 

It seems after the hibernation of Winter, everyone is itching to get out and enjoy the first warmth and blossoms of Spring. I know I certainly was, and what better place than the Nelson New Release Wine tasting. It’s kind of the ‘kick off’ of Spring where  the wineries bring out their finest wines ~ especially the first roses. It was a beautiful, sunny day out by the waterfront, perfect for lingering around, chatting with winemakers and nibbling on some tasty local Wangapeka cheeses…  Following that event was the grand re-opening of Woollaston Winery out in the Upper Moutere a few weeks later.  After being closed all winter, I wanted to see what new and exciting changes have been secretly underway at the winery.  Again, it was a gorgeous day to sit outside and catch up with friends and enjoy a glass (or two) of Woollaston wine.  They have a stellar location surrounded by vineyards, and now with plenty of room to relax outside or if the weather doesn’t cooperate, move inside to the new, chic interior space. They have also added a full kitchen, where one can now enjoy chef-created vinous fare. This is going to be a great season!

nelson tastingspring in NelsonWoollaston2

Sep 072014
 

To be fair, winter in Nelson is quite mild ~ but coming from San Diego, I still get quite chilled in late August/early September. :)  When the winter sun is shining and the temperature does get close to 15 C though, it’s the perfect time to head over to Abel Tasman National Park for a long hike. The park is quiet (the tourists haven’t descended on it yet) and the water has a crystal-blue quality that is breathtaking.  We picked one of those perfect days and got an early start to our drive to the park. It’s great that the boats out of Marahau run all year round so that we can jump on one and take it to whatever point we want to walk back from ~ this day it was Anchorage, a 14 km hike back to the car.
We were prepared for any weather, as it can change quickly. Getting outside and breathing in all that fresh air is such a relaxing yet energizing way to spend the day, and only about  1 1/2 hours from our house. We will definitely make more of an effort to get over to the park in the winters to come.

Jul 292014
 

As the tour season has slowed down for the winter, the wine tasting season has picked up!  Over the last couple of months I’ve tasted some great American, Spanish, and French wines.  As much as I love tasting the wines from New Zealand, it’s always good to keep up on what is happening in other wine areas around the world.

The season started tasting the great 2010 vintage wines from Bordeaux. The price points ranged from $20- $200NZD. Really interesting and solid wines across the board. Definitely worth buying and putting away some of those pricier (and heavier-style) wines.

bordeaux part 1Bordeaux part 2

Nearer to the US celebration ~ 4th of July, an American wine tasting was next. It was an interesting mix of more obscure varietals (viognier, petite sirah and zinfandel) and regions. California was the dominate area of production, with a touch of Oregon thrown in.  Same could be said for the group that attended ~ mostly expat-Californians with a couple of  expat-Washingtonians (?) in the mix!   Overall, well-made, delicious wines. So different than the Bordeaux tasting the month before.

US winesLastly this month, it was back to old world and Spain.  Lately it seems that we’re seeing a lot of inexpensive (but tasty) wines coming from Spain, and I am frankly really happy to see them. I find these wines offer good value for the money, and as a fan of the “old school” style of wines from there, they really deliver.  In saying that, there were some truly new world-tasting wines on offer ~ for example, the Cab. Sauv-Syrah-Merlot wine from Cadiz.  While very fresh, fruity and rich, I personally felt that the wine could have been from any country.  It just didn’t say “Spain” to me at all.  I was clearly in the minority, as it was the best selling wine of the evening!     We did end the evening with two wines that absolutely, positively screamed ” Spain, Spain, Spain!!” ~ The  Marques de Riscal Riserva and Gran Riserva. ~ Wow!.  Produced from one of the oldest wine houses in Rioja, these wines were classic Tempranillo – dark, deep an dusty. I was truly in my element.                              riscal

 

 

 

May 022014
 

Autumn has always been my favorite season as far back as I can remember.. as a child, I loved rolling in the leaves and hearing the crunching noise beneath me, and as a young adult the first chill in the year meant football games (American), hot (spiked :) apple cider, and the changing of the leaves to vibrant gold, rust and red.  I think back on those times now when autumn arrives here in Nelson.  We live close to a huge line of trees, and the hues
of the leaves are so rich that the view looks like a painting. I love it!

It’s also my favorite time to get out on the bike and just ride,ride, ride!  The mornings are a bit fresh, but it quickly warms up, and if the sun is shining ~ it’s magical.  The apple trees are bursting with red fruit, and the vineyards, who have done their job for the year, take on a golden sheen.

The one thing I didn’t have growing up that I have here in autumn, is the amazing sunsets.  Where the leaves take on vibrant hues, the sunsets are an ever-
changing light show of pastel pink, blue and violet.  I’m going to grab a hot cider, sit back and watch the show.

liquid maple treeNelson sunset

Apr 082014
 

With all the new cycling trails being created around the country, it’s really a joy to travel around and try out what the other regions have to offer. Recently we took a trip down to Queenstown and I spent an afternoon on the Queenstown cycle trails.

I left right from our accommodation in town and skirted along Lake Wakatipu ~ stunning views and all flat (a great warm up).  At the end of the lake I headed inland along the Kawarau river, and while it seems that following the river would be flat, the trail heads uphill towards the Old Shotover Bridge.  There were definitely a couple of serious uphills, but the views overlooking the lake were breathtaking and it was fun to cross the pedestrian-only bridge .   There are trails for all levels, and as I stayed on the Beginner/Intermediate trails I had a chance to get a good workout but also take in the scenery ~ no worry of  steep drop-offs or rock-jumping on this trail.

The trail continued to weave its way through a lush tussock field, and with nobody else around, just the birds singing away, I really felt like I was far away from town. I continued a ways ~ as the trail heads into Arrowtown, but I knew how far my ride was back home and I was already thinking about that glass of Otago Pinot Noir waiting for me… so….. back I went ~ lungs full of fresh air, a smile on my face and a real sense of joy thinking THIS is what cycling is all about.

views along the Kawarau river                                                          Old shotover bridgealong lake WapatikuKawarau river

Feb 062014
 

It’s amazing how as soon as the New Year is upon us, the sunny skies and warm breezes signal the start of the wine tour season.  The cellar doors welcome us with open arms (or doors, as it would be) and our phone starts ringing with those words I love to hear: “We’re interested in taking a wine tour in Nelson.”  Yippee, let’s go.

We are truly lucky in this area to have  such high-quality and diversity amongst our 24 wineries.  For me the best part is that every winery is family owned, with a unique and interesting background story as to how they started here in little Nelson, New Zealand.  For such a small wine growing area – about 3% of the country’s vineyard area, and 7th out of 10 in the number of hectares- there are such stunning wines, both white and red.   Many of my wine tour clients comment on how high the quality level is of the wines, and how beautiful the settings are at the wineries ~ I definitely agree.Rimu GroveRimu vineyards

kina beachkina wines