February 28, 2016
In Blenheim yesterday, Peggy and I took a guided wine tour through the Marlborough Wine District along with 4 Brits, 4 French Canadians and a German. The Kiwi driver gave us the run down on the wineries and local countryside. Essentially, this is white wine country. New Zealand is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc with its unique citrus and passion fruit flavor. Today we were exposed to more of these Sauvignon Blancs and other whites like Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling. The wines were mostly from this area but we were exposed to some wines from other New Zealand regions including some Pinot Noir and Cabernets. I would say that I now know where to look for something beside our old stand by Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford. As for the Reds, many were drinkable but there is a reason why NZ exports consist of 85% Sauvignon Blanc.
About 95% of their grapes are mechanically harvested so the fields are uniformly trimmed and standardized. It was disturbing coming from a California region where Zinfandel appears almost wild and most grapes are harvested by hand. The roads were still pleasant. More important, the wineries were not overly opulent. I associate winery architectural extravagance with mediocre wine. Actually, the most important part of the day was our kibitzing with our fellow tourists. We compared notes on a number of topics common to travelers like food and accommodations and what we find expensive. They were somewhat surprised to find that we felt that NZ was a bargain.
At lunch we finally got into politics since the English were confused about our system of caucuses and primaries. I assured them that Americans also found it confusing but that was an American reality. They felt more comfortable dining with us when we assured them that were not fans of Donald Trump. There is an almost universal degree of disbelief that Trump could be appealing to so many Americans. One British couple agreed with our choice of Napier as a wonderful place to live as an ex-patriot. Later in the day, one attendant at a winery said that Trump’s name comes up several times a day. I guess he manages to dominate political discussions around the world. I am not sure that this a good thing.
Bobbie was on her own and explored the small city of Blenheim. She explored many shops and the local museum scene. Peggy was uneasy leaving her on her own. Bobbie was amused at her concern. We got home around 5 with plenty of chocolate factory loot. Bobbie was compensated. We had also thought ahead the previous day and had purchased our steaks for the barbecue. We enjoyed the steaks and the Montepulciano that one winery offered. Gianelli’s has little to be concerned about with NZ competition.
Today we slept in a bit and headed down the east coast. The wind was howling through the hills and along the coast. We arrived at a seal colony a couple dozen kilometers north of our destination in Kaikoura. There were hundreds of fur seals and their pups frolicking on the rocks and in the surf. The mama seals were not interested in nursing so the pups were hopping around and tussling with each other. It was not only entertaining but a wonderful experience. The baby seals acted just like a pile of puppies.
In Kaikoura we finished making arrangements for our whale flight and Peggy’s chance to swim with seals in a couple days. The drizzle continued so we went shopping. Peggy found a pattern for a Kiwi quilt and some other essentials. We made one more visit to another seal colony. There were more tourists than seals and seals just wanted to sleep. The visitors were more entertaining than the seals. I kept waiting for one of the seals to bark at the Indian ladies in their flowing robes while they balanced on the rocks and did selfies. It was the only disappointing part of the day.