February 25, 2014
Marlborough, known worldwide for its aromatic, crisp sauvignon blancs, retains a rustic, undiscovered charm. There are plenty of great wine tasting opportunities and other services to satisfy the causal tourist, but not so much that the area feels like a Disneyland version of a wine region. Blenheim, Marlborough’s largest “city” with a population of just over 30,000, has a working town feel. Except for a few a well-stock liquor stores you would hardly know you were in New Zealand’s largest wine region.
The two and half hour drive from Kaiteriteri – outside of Abel Tasman Natl Park – and Blenheim passes through picturesque mountains. These are not the dramatic peaks of the south island’s southern end, but a pretty drive nonetheless, especially at that magical time of day when the late afternoon sun strikes the golden hills.
Our casual day of wine tasting started with Spy Valley Winery in the morning, followed by a leisurely lunch at Rock Ferry and finished at Seresin in the afternoon. Feeling lazy on this particular day three was perfect for us, but you could certainly do much more.
Named for the joint US and New Zealand satellite communications monitoring station just down the road, Spy Valley has become one of New Zealand’s most prominent labels.
The contemporary facility set in a picturesque valley would be simply stunning in fine weather. In late summer the green vineyards contrast against a backdrop of golden hills.
Despite the rather gray day the wines were tasty and hostess charming. When we arrived no one was in the sizable tasting room, called a “cellar door” in NZ, so we had the opportunity to engage in a lengthy discussion with our knowledgeable hostess about the wines and winery.
In answering one of question about how the vines were pruned she took us out to the vineyard, just outside the door, to show us. “Easier to visualize on an actual vine”, she explained.
The wines themselves, with a bold, fruit forward style are some our favorites of the region.
Lunch at Rock Ferry
The wine door / bistro is a fun way to taste wine before a causal lunch in their shaded garden or sun lit dining room. We tasted several of their offerings, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir and tempranillo before selecting a glass of an oaked sauvignon blanc and a pinot to enjoy with our meal.
The casual eatery has shaded dining in their informal garden for warm afternoons and evenings. On a cooler and somewhat cloudy day in late February we opted for a table in one of their small casual dining rooms. The room, simply decorated with white walls and dark woods, has large window that fills the space with summer light.
Tea smoked salmon on a bed of potatoes and peas served with summer greens and a mustard horseradish.
Chicken salad with grilled halloumi ( a type of hard cheese) summer greens, tomatoes and green beans – dressed with an herbed dressing.
And the best for last, a plum upside down cake. A generous portion of a dense moist cake, topped with poached Doris plums and served with a side of ice cream. A yummy and indulgent treat that is more than enough to share.
The intimate contemporary cellar door was quite busy on a Tuesday afternoon. Seresin’s biodynamic wines are refined and nuanced. They also have a selection of olive oils available for tasting and other regional products for sale.