A wee slice of New Zealand – Part 1

Over the last few days I have had the chance to travel down the east coast of the South Island from Picton to Christchurch. Along the way I called into Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine region and Kaikoura the home of whale watching in New Zealand.

The weather went from bad to good and back again as I was travelling, but no matter what the conditions the coast always looked great.

For my non New Zealand readers, the trip started in the small town of Picton in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Sadly the weather was less than ideal but even under cloud the view from Picton looking up the sounds was impressive. From there it was a short drive south to Blenheim.

If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc then there’s a good chance it has come from the Marlborough region which surrounds Blenheim. As far as the eye can see the land is planted in grapes and well known wineries from the region include Cloudy Bay, Wither Hills, Oyster Bay and new but very impressive Yealands Estate.

Almost all vineyards are open for tastings and cellar door sales so a day spent vineyard hopping can be both intoxicating (a good thing) and expensive (a less good thing). But if you’re a visitor to New Zealand and have even a passing interest in wine you cannot pass through Blenheim without taking a day out and sampling some of the local vintages.

One pilgrimage I had to make was to Cloudy Bay Winery for a bottle of Jean’s favourite chardonnay. I arrived just before the tasting room closed and because I had to drive to Kaikoura – about 120 kms further south  – couldn’t have a taste. I did manage to photograph the distant hills that can be seen from the winery that inspired the Cloudy Bay label – both the name and the design.

As the weather started to clear I headed south to Kaikoura. Towards whales and seals and dolphins and all manner of local wildlife.