Monday, October 26, 2015


It's long weekend time again - Labour Day - so we decided to take a mini-break to Nelson. We visited Nelson 3 years ago and figured it was about time we went back. Last time we did (some of) the Abel Tasman track, so decided to go in the other direction this time.

We flew out on Sounds Air on Saturday morning, picked up our rental car and drove out to have a look at Havelock, a small town between Nelson and Blenheim. We stopped along the way at Pelorus Bridge - site of a famous barrel scene in The Hobbit:

Looks awful
We drove on to Havelock and stayed there for lunch at the Slip Inn... a pub by the slipway (do you see what they did there?) into the lake, where all the boats are.

Then we headed back to Nelson and checked in to our motel. This turned out to be the same place as we stayed in last time...chosen not at random, exactly, but by careful evaluation of the place. The owner told us that it was cheaper to book with him direct, so I didn't let on that I was actually using points to pay for the room!

We went out for cocktails at Harrys, (they don't believe in apostrophes) followed by dinner in Hopgood's. I rang the changes with the twice-baked cheese soufflé to start, then headed for tradition with the beef fillet. Nicola had the cured salmon, and the vegetable cannelloni.

A word about twice-baked cheese soufflé: it’s an easy thing to get wrong, and I am used to the master, Jacob Brown, doing his version at The Larder. In this case, the actual cheese soufflé was pretty good; but there was so much else going on on the plate (apple, beetroot, walnuts, vinaigrette, salad) that it detracted from the dish. Less is more, man, less is more. 

The next day, we drove out to the wine districts of Nelson. After some toing and froing due to some of the cellar doors opening at ten and others at eleven, we eventually tasted wines at Kahurangi Estate, Neudorf (which is pronounced "Newdorf" in New Zealand) and Seifried (pronounced "Sighfreed"). 

Now, Nelson is noted for its aromatic wines - think riesling and gewurtztraminer, as well as good chardonnays and also some sauvignon blancs. I left the sauvignons alone, and concentrated on riesling and chardonnay. At Kahurangi, we tasted a pretty outstanding riesling...but on trying to buy some of it, we were regrettably informed that they had actually sold out. "Oh well", said the cellar door manager, "no point offering the rest of the bottle here for tasting. Would you like it?" So we ended up with a free bottle of rather good riesling as well as our purchases! As we all know, the best wine in the world is free wine, just as we know what the fastest car in the world is (answer below). 

Neudorf is a small vineyard with a great reputation. We tasted some of their wines and were duly impressed. At this point, the question of weight came up...everything we bought would have to be carried back on the plane, so we had to somewhat curtail our buying to two bottles, as we still wanted to get to Seifried.

Neudorf vineyard. What a hellhole.

At Seifried, we got hold of some of their trademark Sweet Agnes dessert wine, which I had sampled at Hopgood's the previous night. It really is a top drop. They also make wines from some unlikely grape varietals, some uniquely so in New Zealand...with mixed results, in my opinion. Interesting to taste, but I'm not buying any. Their chardonnay, however, is award-winning and rightly so, and I availed myself of some. I've stuck it in the cupboard under the stairs and will look it up again in about 3 years' time. 

After a hard morning's wine tasting (don't worry, I spat it all), we drove down to Nelson Lakes national park for some lunch, a walk, and general exploration. As we came out of our lunch venue (one of two available in the small town of St. Arnaud, which is on Lake Rotoiti) we bumped into one of my fellow students from EIT, Eva, who I'd met when I did my wine tasting week in September. New Zealand is a small place!   

We went for a walk around the lake, which was very picture-skew:

We took a different route back, via a shortcut which I'd previously spurned as being "not a state highway" (such roads can turn out to be gravel tracks without any warning) but turned out to be a paved road and probably knocked half an hour off our journey home.

In the evening we had a bad Indian (all the good restaurants in Nelson are closed on a Sunday), followed by the rest of that good bottle of riesling from Kahurangi.

The fastest car in the world is, of course, a rental car. Thank you, Jeremy Clarkson.

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