We flew to Blenheim airport on Sounds Air, who operate a fleet of Cessna 13-seater aircraft. The flight was therefore a lot more personal than a your usual commercial flight – the pilot checks you’re wearing your seat belt by turning round and asking. We were late away from Wellington because they’d encountered a problem on the way in, so a mechanic with a spanner came and tinkered with it a bit before saying “she’ll be right”.
We picked up our hire car at the airport, and drove into Blenheim to the Chateau Marlborough. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend is not good, and it was raining as we found our way to the i-site in town, so we cut our exploration of the town short – although as the rain slacked off we took a look around Seymour Park.
Weather the next day was also for rain from about midday, so we set out in the morning with a plan to explore some wineries in the morning, followed by the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in the afternoon. Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out that way, and in fact it was rainy all morning whilst it cleared up in the afternoon. Oh well.
First port of call was Spy Valley winery. It was closed. Damn. We drove down the road to find the “golf ball” communications installations used by the GCSB which give the winery its name.
Next up we went to Fromm, where we were greeted by a chap who apologised that the usual cellar door staff weren’t available, but on the plus side, he was the winemaker. He took us through the usual tasting, and then, as he was so enthusiastic about his product (and we were his only customers) kept bringing us other wines to try – a Riesling that he was about to start bottling (very apple-y) and a Malbec, also from the barrel. We left with a couple of bottles, including a dessert wine. We are somewhat hampered in our buying because we’re flying back, so can’t carry very much.
After that we visited a couple of larger vineyards: Brancott Estate, who invented Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, where we were subjected to a film showing the history of the vineyard before tasting their product. The sauvignon blanc tastes exactly as a Marlborough savvy should, and a gewurtztraminer with a powerful hit of Turkish delight. We liked their dessert wine a lot so took a bottle of that as well. (Dessert wines come in 375 ml bottles so are easier to transport!) We followed that with a trip to Villa Maria, which although a large vineyard was a lot friendlier than the corporatism of Brancott Estate, and also provided their tasting for free even though we didn’t buy any wine.
Our final vineyard was Wither Hills, where we’d booked for lunch. We had a chat with the cellar door manager about which wines to taste, as she had some “specials” available for us which they didn’t normally have, so I tried some of those whilst Nicola did a comparative tasting of 3 different sauvignon blancs.
After lunch, we drove to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, and looked around the exhibits there. These are replicas of First World War aircraft, and a lot of their history and relative performance is expounded in the helpful descriptions. The tableaux are all built by Weta Workshops (Peter Jackson is a benefactor of the museum). There are plans to expand the museum to Second World War aircraft once they’ve raised the funds for more display space.
In the evening we went to dinner at the restaurant at the D’Urville Hotel, which was excellent. We were able to identify a lot more of the wines on the list than previously, although unfortunately they didn’t have any Fromm by the glass. We did alright, though. It’s nice to be able to look through a wine list and say “been there”.