While we were in Hawkes bay visiting Beermonster and Soffi, we went on a wine tour with Vince's Wine tours. Except it was not Vince, but a bloke called Ian. Never-the-less Ian knew his wines, where to find them and best of all the ability to get us home no matter how many wines we sample. It soon became apparent that no matter where you looked there was a winery, at every junction it was impossible to go wrong, no many how many bottles you have drunk...
This is one junction where you can't go wrong, no many how many bottles you have drunk this Christmas...
Hakwes Bay has become famous because of the wines produced on the Gimblett Gravels. This is an old riverbed which has lots in the way of gravels and not much in the way of fertile soil. Apparently this is great for making good red wines as the vine is starved, panics and figures it better reproduce quickly to ensure survival of the species. This means it produces lots of juicy berries aka grapes. Apparently within twenty years, an acre of land on the Gimblett Gravels has shot up from $800 a acre to around $400,000 an acre. It must have some pretty good wines going for it then. We visited five wineries and tasted around 30 something different wines. The wines seemed to get better as the afternoon wore on. Strange that. We bought several bottles for Christmas and New Year, at rather discounted prices and let Ian deposit us back at Beermonsters house. A rather fine afternoon out.
Speaking of the Christmas festivites, while in Golden Bay we came accross the most excellent Mussel Inn in Onekaka. This is pub with micro brewery attached, one of only a few in New Zealand. I got rather addicted to Manuka Beer which is brewed with the leaves of the Manuka Tree, at tree native to New Zealand. Rather different and I quite like it.
Flowering Manuka Tree's in Abel Tasman National Park
What really impressed me though, was finding Manuka Beer from the Mussel Inn in the local 'First Choice' supermarket. This is one of New Zealand's equivalents to Tesco's. What more, other than a selection of the Mussel Inn's finest you'll find local apple juice, local fruit, local cheeses, local milk and much more. And 'local' does not means Devon's finest cream stocked in a London branch of Tesco's. No, its really local produce ... kind of like wild Blackberries (growing along the A4) being stocked in the Ealing's Tesco's (which overlooks the A4).
It was good to visit Beermonster and Soffi. We had the chance to get off the tourist trail and do some proper Kiwi stuff like 4x4'ing down the beach and tramping (hiking) in places where you won't find many tourists (myself excepted). Thanks to tide times we had a rather swift trip along the beach, putting the 4 wheel drive to good use and then spending a few hours combing the beach to see what we could find. The best action was saved for the end of the day when Beerys truck had to deal with a fallen tree blocking the road. Beery whipped out his tow rope, dragged the tree to one side of the road and we all travelled on our merry way, along with a few motorists that has joined the 'waiting for the tree to be moved' queue. This is New Zealand, a no-nonsense, get things done kinda of place.
On the Beach with Beery and Soffi
We also visited the largest mainland Gannet colony in the world, at Cape Kidnappers. Cape Kidnappers takes its name after Captain Cook landed here. The local Maoris kidnapped Captain Cook's Tahitian translators as they thought they were Maoris who Cook himself had kidnapped. This like many bays in New Zealand bears the name given by Captain Cook who charted most of New Zealand on his first voyage here. The Gannets at Cape Kidnappers are another of evolutions 'we are not scared of you' creations. They had no natural predators while breeding on the New Zealand mainland. That is before man introduced the Stoat, Feral Cat and Ferret. Thankfully the family who own the farm surrounding the colony have turned the area into a nature reserve, eradicated all the predators and erected a predator free fence. To fund this they have built a world class golf course and charge punters like me to go and visit the Gannets. As the birds are oblivious to the fact that man (or Mammals) might pose a threat, you can get rather close. We were lucky enough to see the first chick that had hatched for the season.
Gannet on the take off
This year we having Christmas in the sun. New Zealand is also some 13 hours in ahead of 'home' and a nearly a whole day ahead of the US. I've just spawned jealousy in my nice's eyes as she grasped the concept that its Christmas day here, Christmas eve in London and I've opened my presents before she has. She has to wait and I'll be tucking into some late night cheese and biscuits just has she is opening her presents. Merry Christmas Kiah.
And a final note to you all; Merry Christmas. I'll leave you all with a picture of the Pohutukawa Tree aka "The New Zealand Christmas tree".
Pohutukawa ... Merry Christmas all!